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Codelco raises $800 million to face crisis

El Teniente is the world’s biggest underground copper mine and the sixth largest by reserve size. (Image courtesy of Codelco.)

Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, has raised $800 million worth of bonds boosting it cash reserves to face market uncertainty and carry a multibillion-dollar upgrade of its aging mines.

The state-owned miner said it received more than 320 orders, worth $10.6 billion, the highest ever for a Codelco bond and about 13 times the size of the offering.

“Demand was so strong that the issuer was able to tighten pricing significantly and pay zero in new issue concession,” CFO Alejandro Rivera said in a statement.

Through bond issues, Codelco is seeking to get cash to reduce debt and finance structural projects expected to be the miner’s cornerstone operations for the next 50 years

The executive noted the move would help the company reduced debt and secure financing for its sprawling 10-year, $40 billion mines overhaul.

Codelco has already finished one of its most ambitious projects — the $5.6 billion conversion of its giant Chuquicamata open pit mine into an underground operation.

Ongoing major mine overhauls include a $5.5 billion new level at the El Teniente underground mine, the company’s largest and the world’s no. 6 by reserve size, slated to begin operations in 2023.

It also involves converting the El Salvador mine to an open-pit mine from underground operations. The $1 billion project, known as Rajo Inca, is expected to extend the productive life the mine by 40 years and increase output by 30% from current levels.

Salvador is Codelco’s smallest division by production. Last year, it churned out 50,600 million tonnes of copper, down 16.8% from 2018.

Codelco planned mine upgrades
Taken from Codelco’s presentation May 2019.

In the copper giant’s pipeline of so-called structural projects there is also the $1.3 billion expansion of the Andina mine. The operation accounted for roughly 11% of Codelco’s output in 2018.

Codelco operates seven mines and four smelters, all in Chile. Its assets account for 10% of the world’s known proven and probable reserves and about 11% of the global annual copper output, with 1.8 million tonnes of production.

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