Antofagasta Minerals ‘scored’ with appointment of ex-Codelco CEO Hernandez: analysts

FTSE 100 miner, copper giant Antofagasta PLC (LON:ANTO) announced Tuesday it had appointed Diego Hernandez, the former head of state miner Codelco, a move qualified by insiders as “a goal” for the London-listed Chilean miner.

Antofagasta, belonging to Chile's Luksic group, hasn’t done well so far this year. Production fell almost 13% in the first quarter compared to the last three months of 2011 and costs keep surging at its flagship project, the copper and gold Esperanza mine, in northern Chile.

Hernandez, who assumes as CEO of Antofagasta Minerals, the most profitable division of the group on August 1, will have the mission of implementing strong structural adjustments to resolve the ongoing operational problems dragging Antofagasta down.

Jean-Paul Luksic, the executive chairman of Antofagasta and son of the company’s founder, billionaire Andronico Luksic, said that Hernandez’s arrival would “greatly benefit Antofagasta as it continues to enhance its overall growth profile”.

Marcelo Awad, the previous chief executive, left the company only a week before it published its results. He had been charged with overseeing an ambitious expansion of the miner’s copper production but the company last year experienced problems in the development of its Esperanza mine in northern Chile.

Gustavo Lagos, professor at the Mining Centre for Chile’s Catholic University in Santiago, told Area Minera that Antofagasta had scored big by appointing Hernandez, as well as Nelson Pizarro, a well-know 71-year-old currently with Lumina Copper, who will act as an independent, nonexecutive director for Antofagasta. 

"This is a big score for Antofagasta Minerals. They now have the two most reputed professionals in Chilean mining," Lagos said.

The Luksic family owns more than 60% of the company, which has exploration and mining ventures in Europe, Turkey, Australia, Africa and across the Americas and annual revenues of $4.5 billion.