Codelco El Teniente mine expansion to take longer, cost $2bn more

Codelco El Teniente mine expansion to take longer, cost $2bn more

El Teniente is the world's biggest underground copper mine and the sixth largest copper mine by reserve size.

Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said Friday its touted expansion of El Teniente mine is two to three years behind schedule and will require $2 billion more than initially planned.

The project, originally planned for completion in 2018 with a cost of $3.4 billion, will maintain output at a rate of 434,000 metric tons a year, Chief Executive Officer Nelson Pizarro said Friday, Cooperativa.cl reports (in Spanish).

The plan is to add a new level at the mine, the world's largest underground copper operation, which already has 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) of tunnels, and contains at least another 50 years of reserves, according to the company.

Only yesterday, Codelco’s board approved $3.3 billion investment, a record-high for the company, to convert its Chuquicamata open-pit into an underground operation.

The transformation plan will extend the useful life of Chuquicamata, which is located about 1,560 kilometers (970 miles) north of Santiago and is the world's largest open-pit mine, by at least 40 years.

Apart from the two projects, Codelco's investment program for the next decade includes the new Ministro Hales division, and expansion projects at its Andina and Radomiro Tomic mines.

The State-owned company, struggling with aging mines and depressed copper prices, is receiving a $4 billion injection from the government and is also planning to sell about $8 billion of bonds over the next five years to help finance a $29bn investment program to maintain its status as the world’s biggest copper producer.

Copper accounts for 60% of Chile's exports and 15% of gross domestic product.

Image from Codelco via Flickr.