Chile's copper production to exceed 6 million tonnes for first time in 2019

Copper output in Chile, the leading producing nation, is expected to exceed 6 million tonnes for the first time this year and continue to rise by about 30% over the next 10 years, according to the country’s state copper agency, Cochilco.

Production of the red metal, the agency says, could reach a record of 7.25 million tonnes as early as 2025, thanks mainly to new projects and planned expansions to come online this decade, as Chilean miners confront falling ore grades at older mines.

Production from existing, aging mines, Cochilco notes, will decline by 19% to 4.46 million tonnes annually, but the drop will be offset by new ventures and mine expansions.

The growth in production, the agency warns, would only be possible if the recent wave of mining investments materializes.

Chile’s state miner and the world’s No. 1 copper producer Codelco recently launched a $39 billion, 10-year investment plan to boost productivity at its mines. The company is set to have more funds ready available this year as this week the Finance Commission of Chile’s Senate unanimously approved a motion to overturn a dictatorship-era law that forces Codelco to transfer 10% of its export sales to the military.

Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.A | TECK.B)(NYSE:TCK), Canada’s largest diversified miner, is going ahead with a $4.8 billion expansion of its Quebrada Blanca copper mine, in the country’s north.

Anglo American (LON:AAL), another top miner with operations in Chile, recently increased its copper production guidance from its local operations for the year to 660,000 tonnes, up from a range of 630,000 to 660,000 tonnes previously anticipated, based on planned expansions at its Los Bronces and Collahuasi mines.

Cochilco's estimates are based on registered mining projects and considers delays and production issues. The report, however, does not include the possibility of strikes or stoppages at the sites, the agency says.