Teck seeking partner for $4.8bn Quebrada Blanca mine expansion

Quebrada Blanca open pit mine is nearing the end of its life, but an expansion would keep it producing for at least another 25 years. (Image courtesy of Teck Resources.)

Canada’s largest diversified miner Teck Resources (TSX:TECK.A | TECK.B)(NYSE:TCK) is looking for a business partner before moving ahead with its Phase 2 at Quebrada Blanca copper mine in northern Chile.

The Vancouver-based company, which earlier this month received regulatory approval for a $4.8-billion mine extension, said that before kicking off work, it would have to secure a development partner able to invest $2billion for up to 30% to 40% stake in the project.

Earlier this year, Teck had said it was exploring various potential financing alternatives for the project.

The copper mine is nearing the end of its life, but the expansion will keep it producing for at least another 25 years.

Chile’s Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica had said that Teck would begin the mine extension, aimed at extending Quebrada Blanca’s life by 25 years, in November, local paper El Mercurio reports.

Asked about it, the company told MINING.com “it continued to progress engineering work and execution readiness on the Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project in anticipation of a development decision in the fourth quarter.” It also said that a decision on whether to proceed or not would depend on market conditions, among “other considerations.”

The upgrade, which will boost mine production to 300,000 tons of copper a year, includes building a new 140,000-tonne-per-day concentrator and the first large-scale use of desalinated seawater for mining in Chile’s arid Tarapacá region.

Last year, Quebrada Blanca produced 23,400 tonnes of copper, generating a $182 million-revenue.

Teck owns 90% of the mine and Chile’s national mining company ENAMI holds a 10% preference share interest in it, which does not require the state agency to fund capital spending.

Copper, one of four business units at Teck besides steelmaking coal, oil and zinc, is considered a company’s priority.

Smelting back on track

On separate development, Teck announced Tuesday the resumption of lead smelting operations at its Trail, British Columbia, facility after a seven-day suspension because of wildfires in the province.

Last week, Teck shut down the smelter, which provides oxygen to Teck Trail Operations,  due to poor air quality in the area.

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