Antofagasta shares hit by copper and gold production falls

Shares of Chilean miner Antofagasta PLC (LON:ANTO) were down over 4% at 11:20 ET after the company announced yesterday that its first-quarter copper production fell almost 13% amid rising development and maintenance costs.

Esperanza, the leading project that hit troubles in its production build-up last year, experimented damage in a conveyor belt in the quarter,  which harmed outputs in February and March.

The London-listed firm, one of the world’s leading copper miners, raised the capital expenditure estimate for Antucoya to $1.7 billion from $1.3 billion after having previously flagged the fact that a tight labour market is making contract work more expensive. The 80,000 ton-a-year copper cathode project is still slated to start production in the second half of 2014.

The company also has gold mining operations, but there, too, production dropped from the preceding quarter, falling from 71,800 ounces in the final quarter of 2011 to 63,500 ounces in the first quarter of 2012.

But according to some analysts, such as firm FoxDavies, this was an acceptable quarter for Antofagasta:

The better grades and by-product credits at Los Pelambres more than compensated for the problems at Esperanza. Despite the problems at Esperanza, production guidance for the mine is unchanged although it is now expected to be at the bottom end of the range. More importantly, the removal of throughput limitations at Los Pelambres will allow more flexibility.

Antofagasta also announced it has entered into a strategic alliance with Magnus Minerals Limited relating to exploration opportunities in Finland, a strategic relationship with Manica Minerals ltd for exploration in Zambia and an agreement with Chalcophile Resources Pty. Ltd with the purpose of evaluating geological information on certain exploration properties in Queensland, Australia.