Global Business Reports (GBR) Copper Development and Production in Chile 2022 newsletter outlines how investment and streamlined development are crucial to capitalize on generational opportunity. Following is an exclusive GBR interview with Don Lindsay, president and CEO, Teck Resources.
What is the current status of the Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) construction and ramp up, and once in full production, what will this project mean for Teck Resources?
We are laser focused on the successful execution of our QB2 project in Chile, as the first step in Teck’s copper growth strategy which will be transformational for our company. Construction of QB2 is on track and the project is set to start production in the second half of 2022.
Once in production, QB2 will double our consolidated copper production by 2023 and significantly reweight our portfolio more towards copper at a time when we see significant rising demand fueled by the transition to the low-carbon economy.
How has the company dealt with cost increases at QB2 related to Covid-19 and rising inflation?
We are continuing to actively manage costs and we have put in place a variety of mitigation measures and incentives, many of which are aimed at attracting talent, employee retention and minimizing absenteeism. In addition, our focus continues to be on managing COVID-19 and the extensive protocols we have in place to protect the health and safety of our employees, partners and communities.
Can you explain how Teck intends to use desalinated seawater in place of freshwater for its mining processes at QB2?
We are switching entirely to desalinated water for QB2 in order to protect local freshwater. It is important to mention that Teck voluntary committed to return fresh water rights to the State of Chile, as part of the QB2 environmental evaluation process. QB2 will have the first large-scale use of desalinated seawater for mining in Chile’s Tarapacá Region. Seawater will be pumped to the desalination plant, purified, then pumped by five booster stations up 4,400 metres of altitude to QB2’s concentrator plant, where it will be used for mining processes. The leftover concentrated saltwater will be pumped back into the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 40 metres (750 metres from the coast) to ensure there is enough dilution to be compatible with the ocean’s ecosystem.
Can you provide details of the Quebrada Blanca Mill Expansion (QBME) prefeasibility study (PFS) and the potential for Phase 3 expansion?
Our Quebrada Blanca Mill Expansion project, or QBME, would add another 150,000-plus tonnes per year of copper equivalent production as early as 2026—increasing our throughput by at least 50%. This mill expansion would leverage existing QB2 project infrastructure to the fullest and be a key piece of our copper growth strategy. The pre-feasibility study is expected to be complete by end of this year and we will assess sanctioning following that.
QB2 only uses around 18% of the 2021 reserve and resource tonnage and the vast, long-life deposit is large enough to support multiple expansions which we will be looking at moving forward.
What are your views on Chile as a mining jurisdiction in the context of constitutional reform, and what could changes to the royalty bill mean for Teck’s investments in the country?
Teck has operated in Chile for many years, it is a great mining jurisdiction. We are committed to working closely with the new Chilean government to ensure we continue to benefit communities while operating responsibly. We support the efforts of the mining industry associations in the country that have publicly indicated that mining activities provide much more wealth than taxes paid, including jobs, and social investments programs among other positive impacts. We are monitoring the royalty bill closely, and we believe that the discourse in Chile will reach a reasonable outcome that will allow for continued sustainable resource development.
How important is copper to Teck’s future as a diversified mining company focused on the energy transition?
Copper is absolutely central to Teck’s growth strategy. Copper is a crucial component in renewable energy systems and green technologies—from solar panels to wind turbines, electric cars and much more. It’s a critical metal that will increasingly be in demand worldwide, with projections showing demand will double by 2030. And that makes it key to our growth strategy because not only will it be in strong demand in the years ahead, but it is also a key part of our commitment to responsible mining and providing the resources needed for the low-carbon future.