BHP Billiton puts Cerro Colorado copper mine in Chile on the block

BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) (LON:BLT) confirmed Wednesday it had begun a sale process for its Cerro Colorado mine, one of its smaller Chilean copper operations, though it said it’s just evaluating the options and that no decision have been made.

Workers at the operation, in the northern Tarapacá Region, temporarily blocked access roads to the site in protest for the decision, which they say will inevitably bring a massive wave of layoffs, local paper El Mercurio reports (in Spanish).

Markets rumours point at Chile's Empresas Copec, an oil major trying to diversify into copper, and Canada’s Lundin Mining (TSX:LUN) as possible buyers.

From the 5.5 million tonnes of copper top producer Chile generated last year, Cerro Colorado contributed 74,000 tonnes. The operation, part of BHP’s Pampa Norte division, is estimated to run out of ore by 2023.