Antofagasta opening exploration office in Peru by year-end

Copper miner Antofagasta Plc. (LON:ANTO) plans to open a mining exploration office in Peru before the end of the year, expanding this way the presence its owner — the Luksic group — already has in the Andean country through a stake in a major spirits manufacturer acquired in June.

Antofagasta said Peru offers more favourable conditions to new projects than Chile, where it has majority stakes in four copper mines and has just opened a new one — Antucoya.

Helped by a sharp recovery in copper prices, the miner has been considering for months to grow its business beyond Chile, where it has majority stakes in four copper mines — Los Pelambres (60%), El Tesoro (70%), Michilla (74.2%) and Esperanza (74.2%).

Chief executive Ivan Arriagada told mining news outlet Dipromin (in Spanish) the firm would remain focused in the Americas, particularly in Chile, where Antofagasta — one of the oldest companies listed in London — was born.

Arriagada, however, said the group decide to expand beyond Chile and chose Peru as a first destination  because the Andean country has “more favourable conditions to new foreign investment” that its southern neighbour.

“Obtaining permits for a mining project in Chile today takes at least four years, and there are about 500 different licences you need to gain for any initiative,” Arriagada told Dipromin. In contrast, he noted, the licencing process in Peru takes about 18 months.

His comments came as the company officially opened up its Antucoya mine in northern Chile late last week, a project in the works since 2011 and in which invested $1.9 billion to bring the project on stream.

Luksic group, one of Chile’s richest families and the owner of Antofagasta, holds exploration and mining ventures in Europe, Turkey, Australia, Africa and across the Americas.

Peru has been for decades on the radar of the conglomerate, which has interests spanning metals extraction and metal processing, electric power distribution, shipping, agriculture, fishing and food processing among others.

In the 1990s, Lucchetti — who then belonged to the conglomerate through the holding Quiñenco — tried opening a factory in the Pantanos de Villa area, but the mayor of Lima opposed the project.