Tags: bhp | rio tinto | copper | escondido

BHP, Rio Tinto Plan Big Expansion of Chile Copper Mine

Monday, 13 February 2012 06:05 PM

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have approved plans for a $4.5 billion expansion of the Escondida mine in Chile, the world's biggest copper mine, where BHP said on Tuesday the ore reserve estimate has been increased by 25 percent.

BHP, operator of the mine, plans to spend $2.6 billion on two projects to boost output at the mine, while Rio's share of the projects is $1.4 billion.

"Looking ahead, the success of our brownfield exploration program suggests there are sufficient resources at Escondida to sustain production at current levels for more than a century," BHP Billiton base metals president Peter Beaven said in a statement.

The projects are designed to give the partners access to higher ore grades, with a new 152,000 tonnes a day concentrator plant and new mineral handling system that will boost production to more than 1.3 million tonnes a year by June 2015.

The mine, 57.5 percent owned by BHP, 30 percent by Rio Tinto and 12.5 percent by Japanese consortium JECO, produced about 760,000 tonnes of copper last year.

"We expect the completion of the current Escondida Ore Access and Laguna Seca debottlenecking projects, and a strong recovery in ore grades, to support a substantial recovery in Escondida copper production to over 1.3 million tonnes per annum in the 2015 financial year," Beaven said.

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Monday, 13 February 2012 06:05 PM
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