As anticipated by MINING.com in May, Chile-owned copper giant Codelco has appointed former manager Nelson Pizarro, who has over 50 years experience in the industry, as its new leader, effective Sept. 1.
Pizarro (73) has a daunting mission ahead, as he is expected to lead a $25 billion revamp of the world’s largest copper producer, which is dealing with ageing mines and dwindling ore grades.
The mining engineer, whose most recent achievement was the development of the $4.2 billion Caserones copper mine in the Atacama Desert for Japan’s Pan Pacific Copper Co., received unanimous support from Codelco’s board.
The copper giant said in a statement (in Spanish) it sought a candidate with mine management expertise to oversee development of two of the world’s largest underground mine projects, as the company needs now to dig deeper to access profitable ore.
Pizarro, who also once worked for London-listed copper firm Antofagasta Plc (LON:ANTO), ran Codelco’s Andina and Chuquicamata mines, both more than a century old, between 1990 and 1997.
The new CEO is set to carry out the biggest investment plan in Codelco’s history, according to the company.
As a state-owned company, Codelco has often been in a tug-of-war with the government over its investment budget. Of about $100bn in profits that Codelco has transferred to the state since it was nationalized in 1971, only $4bn has been returned back to the miner.
The mining company is undergoing a massive transformation, trying to maintain profits from the world's largest open-pit copper mine, Chuquicamata, by extending operations underground. At the same time, plans call for turning the world's largest underground mine, El Teniente, into an open pit operation.
Copper accounts for 60% of Chile's exports and 15% of gross domestic product.
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