Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, expects its output of the red metal to fall further next year amid project delays, local newspaper El Mercurio reported on Wednesday, citing the chairman of the state-owned miner’s board.
Codelco lowered its copper production outlook for 2022 to about 1.5 million tonnes last week, blaming lower recovery levels at some of its mines and ore grades at the Chuquicamata site.
The company previously had expected to produce 1.61 million tonnes of copper this year.
“The production outlook for 2023 is 1.45 million tonnes. For the five-year period between 2023 and 2027, the best forecast we have is 1.5 million tonnes on average,” Codelco Chairman Maximo Pacheco told El Mercurio.
Pacheco, who has been the miner’s chairman since March, said it was necessary to increase investments in “structural projects” that could offset the natural reduction in the mineral grades.
“To sustain future output, we have to develop projects that maintain that level of production and we’re facing difficulties in doing that,” he said.
“Structural projects are effectively behind schedule and over budget,” said Pacheco, describing discussions over the projects as a priority for Codelco’s board of directors. He did not provide further details.
Pacheco also said lithium exploration in the Salar de Maricunga has been slower than expected due to adverse weather conditions this year, but better results are expected during the first quarter of 2023.
Codelco started exploring for the ultra-light metal, which is key for the production of electric vehicle batteries, in Maricunga earlier this year. That location features high-grade deposits, though it is less than 5% the size of Chile’s vast Salar de Atacama, one of the world’s top regions for lithium production.
(By Fabian Andres Cambero; Editing by Paul Simao)