Codelco to spend $720 million on Chuquicamata copper mine

Chuquicamata is the world’s largest open pit copper mine in terms of excavated volume. (Image courtesy of Codelco | Flickr.)

Chile’s Codelco, the world’s top copper producer, plans to invest an additional $720 million revamping its century-old Chuquicamata copper mine, in an effort to stop the company’s overall production decline.

The state-owned miner already spent $5.7 billion to convert the open pit into an underground mine, as part of a 10-year, $39 billion-overhaul of its core assets currently in execution. 

Codelco, which is also in the process of spending $1.3 billion in related infrastructure, is now seeking environmental approval for design adjustments and complementary works, according to a document posted on the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) website. 

The proposed operational changes, both underground and at the surface level, “will not alter the extraction and processing speeds originally authorized for the project”, according to the submission.

Codelco, which hands over all of its profits to the state, holds vast copper deposits, accounting for 10% of the world’s known proven and probable reserves. 

The miner’s new chief executive officer, Ruben Alvarado, has been tasked with boosting production levels.

Last year, the company produced 1.45 million tonnes of copper, a decline from the 1.618 million tonnes it churned out in 2021. It is expected to produce this year nearly 1.315 million tonnes of copper, which would be the lowest level in 25 years.

Alvarado has said that fresh plans, already in motion, will boost output in 2024 to around 1.34 million tonnes.

Codelco to spend $720 million in Chuquicamata copper mine
Satellite image of Chuquicamata’s division. (Image courtesy of Codelco.| Click to view full size)