Chile’s Codelco to extend El Salvador copper mine’s life by 20 years

Chile’s Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, is going ahead with its Rajo Inca Project, which transforms El Salvador underground copper mine into an open pit operation, extending its life by a minimum of 20 years.

In an interview with local newspaper El Mercurio (in Spanish) Tuesday Chief Financial Officer Ivan Arriagada said the mine, Codelco’s smallest and least profitable one, is key for the company’s future plans.

El Salvador is the main employer in Chile’s III region and, according to Arriagada, its still untapped copper reserves are worth the investment, a figure he did not disclose.

When asked about when will Codelco kick off the expansion project, Arriagada said it is still unclear. However, he added the project “has a series of advantages over other alternatives evaluated” and that it looks “promissory.”

Codelco’s first-quarter production increased 3.2% to 385,000 metric tons from 373,000 tons in the same quarter of 2012. Despite this, Arriagada said it is too early to tell whether this would mean the company would beat its 2013 production target.

Last year, Codelco produced nearly 1.7 million tons of the industrial metal and this year it expects to surpass that figure.

Image of El Salvador from Wikimedia Commons