Global mining giant BHP Group is keen to expand operations in Chile, the world’s top copper producer, under “appropriate conditions,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Henry said on Thursday.
The mining sector in the Andean nation faces uncertainty as the country drafts a new constitution, which could lead to tighter environmental regulation for key minerals including copper and battery metal lithium.
“We want to grow in Chile, and we are accelerating studies to do so. Under the right conditions, these could lead to a significant investment,” Henry said during the inauguration of a new concentrator at the Spence mine in northern Chile.
“Chile has a great opportunity to continue to provide the commodities the world needs to descarbonize and to raise living standards,” he said, adding that firms needed local communities and the government to make it happen “safely and sustainably.”
BHP operates the Escondida mine in Chile, the world’s largest copper deposit, Spence and Cerro Colorado. In late March it said that it had planned investments of more than $10 billion, subject to appropriate regulatory and fiscal conditions.
Chile’s Undersecretary of Mining, Willy Kracht, said if a new constitution is approved in a planned September referendum vote, the government would seek agreement on new mining regulations that would allow activity to continue.
“We are a mining country and we are proud to be one and we know what it implies,” he said at the event. “We are convinced that we are going to be able to provide the necessary clarity and certainty.”
(By Fabián Andrés Cambero and Carolina Pulice; Editing by Richard Chang)