Chile’s main copper mines report mixed results, revenue drop

Radomiro Tomic mine’s upgrade doesn’t have an estimated capital expenditure yet. (Image courtesy of Gonzalo Cerda | Flickr.)

Chile’s Codelco, the world’s top copper producer, saw output fall once again in January to 118,600 tonnes, a 6.8% drop when compared to the same month in 2019, amid a perfect storm of falling ore grades at the largest deposits, water scarcity and social unrest.

The country had reported a drop in overall production last year, with the state-owned miner churning out 1.7 million tonnes of the red metal, the lowest level since 2008, when it generated only 1.55 million tonnes.

Output at state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper miner, fell by 6.8% in January over the same month in 2019, to 118,600 tonnes 

At that time, the giant Ministro Hales mine, which contributes between 180,000 and 200,000 tonnes of copper a year, had not yet begun operations.

According to the country’s copper agency Cochilco, private mines fare better. BHP’s Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine, produced 10% more last month (100,900 tonnes) than in the same month last year.

Collahuasi, another massive mine owned jointly by Anglo American and Glencore, also registered a jump in production — 20.2%, to 53,500 tonnes, Cochilco said.

In terms of revenue coming from copper exports, Chile saw them decline 2.3% in February due to weak demand from its main buyer China and violent protests over inequality and social injustices.

Social unrest started in October and has resulted in billions in losses to private businesses and public infrastructure, as well as damage to Chile’s long-held image as the most stable and prosperous country in Latin America.

The nation’s copper exports were valued at $2.5 billion in February, Chile’s central bank said on Monday.

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