Anglo American receives OK for El Soldado’s $40m project

El Soldado copper mine in Chile. (Image courtesy of Anglo American | Flickr.)

Chile’s environmental agency has approved Anglo American’s (LON: AAL) environmental impact statement (EIS) for its $40 million operational continuity plan at its El Soldado copper mine, 125 km north of the capital Santiago.

The permit will allow Anglo American to extend the productive life of the mine by ten years — from 2027 to 2037.

The initiative seeks adapting the operation to climate change by reducing the use of water and emissions, Anglo said in the statement.

It includes the construction of a bulk ore sorting pilot plant to classify minerals according to their copper grade, which will also cut the use of energy and waste generation.

“We received the approval responsibly and with the conviction that it will be a contribution to the area and its inhabitants. El Soldado has a key role for Anglo American globally,” Paulina Jaramillo, the mine general manager, said in the statement.

An EIS is a sworn statement made by the project owner with regards to its plans, which allows the relevant authority to assess whether its environmental impact is in accordance with Chile’s environmental regulations. 

Construction of the project would take about 18 months and will begin once the company obtains all the specific sector permits, the company said.

Anglo American has been testing new technologies at El Soldado, which has driven output increase and allowed access to better grades this year. In the second quarter of this year, the mine produced 13,700 tonnes of copper, an 83% increase from the same period last year.

Anglo has been the majority-owner of El Soldado since 2002. The mine started operations in 1980 and produced 40,200 tonnes of copper concentrate in 2022, a 5% drop when compared to 2021’s totals. The numbers make it the company’s smallest operation in Chile.

Copper deposits are among the hottest assets in mining right now, mainly due to the metal’s use in electric vehicles and the global green energy revolution.

Experts estimate the copper industry needs to spend more than $100 billion to build mines able to close what could be an annual supply deficit of 4.7 million tonnes by 2030.