Chile to lease inactive licenses held by top miners to juniors

Despite an increased appetite in copper assets, the rate of new discoveries continues to be low, especially in Chile, the biggest producing country in the world and where the bulk of exploration is in the hands of major miners.

But that is about to change, as the country’s Mining Ministry is set to sign the first of many contracts next month that allows major companies to lease to juniors all or part of the assets they are not actively developing.

Mining Ministry has instructed regional authorities to draw up a register of the firms that would be willing to participate in the land transfer policy.

Authorities in four major mining regions will submit at the end of the week a list of properties where development is currently stalled, as well as a list of companies that would be willing to participate in this lease-type property transfer, Minería Chilena reports.

Even with the difficulties juniors face in Chile, the country attracted 7.6% of the $600 million companies spent on exploration in 2017.

Most of that spending came from majors, including state-owned copper miner Codelco. Juniors, in turn, accounted for 8.8% of the total exploration carried out in the country last year.

Not all discoveries are financially viable, and companies will wait years until it makes sense to start developing them, adding more tension to the copper supply crunch that experts have warned about this year. With few major projects coming online, there is growing consensus in the industry that the market could move into deficit as early as next year.