Antofagasta outlines progress on $4.4bn Centinela expansion

New Centinela is 14% completed. (Image courtesy of Centinela mine.)

Chilean miner Antofagasta (LON: ANTO) has kicked off this week work to install a second concentrator at its Centinela copper mine in the country’s north, which will add 144,000 tonnes a year to the company’s overall production. 

The $4.4 billion project is already 14% advanced, the company said, adding that this week they have begun blasting in the sector where the new facility and support infrastructure will be built.

“Nueva Centinela represents the group’s confidence in copper as a fundamental material for the global energy transition, where Chile is called to be a leading country,” Antofagasta’s chief executive officer, Iván Arriagada, said in the statement. 

“The project is already promoting regional employment and the development of local suppliers, which is essential for this investment to be a relevant contribution to the region and its inhabitants,” Arriagada said.

First movements of material have also begun in the area where the new thickened tailings will be located. According to Antofagasta, this technology minimizes the requirement for fresh water and maximizes its recovery. 

The Centinela mine has been using this kind of waste storage since the beginning of its operation and it will be replicated in Nueva Centinela, the company said.

The expansion project, approved in December, also includes increasing the current molybdenum plant’s capacity and a new development of the Esperanza Sur pit, with the introduction of new autonomous trucks

Antofagasta said that Nueva Centinela will incorporate other advanced technologies, such as high pressure grinding rolls, crushers that operate with large rollers and a system that will optimize the grinding process and reduce energy consumption, especially when treating harder ore. It also includes a low-friction belt of more than six km, in length to connect the crushing area and the concentration plant.

The Centinela mining complex, located in Chile’s Antofagasta region, was created in 2014 from the merger of the Esperanza and El Tesoro mines. It produces copper concentrates containing gold and silver, using a milling and flotation process, among other innovative processes.

Centinela’s second concentrator is expected to start operations in 2027 and more than 13,000 people will work at the peak of the project’s construction, which will extend the mine’s useful life for 30 more years.