Chilean state giant Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, submitted Wednesday an environmental permit request to go ahead with its $12.8 million project to maximize the benefit from ore extracted from El Teniente copper mine, the company’s most profitable division, reports local newspaper La Tercera,
The $12.8 million project, part of the $550 million overall extension plan for El Teniente, aims to optimize the benefit from copper and, occasionally, other low-grade mineral resources extracted in the area at a processing rate of 167,000 tonnes per day (167 kt / d), as annual average. Additionally, the company will improve existing infrastructure and control dust systems from the crushing plant Sewell, extending its life to 25 years.
Once finished, the total expansion plan for El Teniente will ensure the mine another 50 years of operation, maintaining current fine copper output levels and also generating important long-term growth. With this project, Codelco will mine 2.5 billion tonnes in reserves located at a deeper level in El Teniente mine (1,880 metres above sea level), with an average copper grade of 0.4%.
The structural project will process about 137,000 tonnes of ore per day, equivalent to an output rate of 430,000 metrics tonnes of fine copper per year, and there would still be the option to start the expansion work that will be required to process 180,000 tonnes of ore per day by 2020.
Additionally, there will be minor improvements to existing infrastructure and dust control systems at the Sewell crushing plant, which will extend its life for a period of 25 years.
Located about 80 km. south of the capital, Santiago, El Teniente is the world's largest underground copper mine and it is been mined since 1904.
Image of El Teniente mine, courtesy of Centro Estudios.