The value of Ecuador’s mining exports could hit $1.6 billion in 2021, a 74% jump from 2020, due to plans by its two largest miners to boost copper and gold processing, the Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources Ministry said on Thursday.
The optimistic outlook comes as copper prices hover near a record high hit last month, welcome news for the South American country as newly-installed President Guillermo Lasso seeks to boost the economy after a 7.8% contraction in 2020 and diversify its struggling economy away from crude oil exports.
Ecuador has plentiful mineral reserves, but has lagged far behind other Andean countries like Peru and Chile in developing large-scale mining.
Its mining exports last year totaled $921 million. That included copper sales from the Mirador mine owned by Ecuacorriente, a unit of Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan, and gold sales from Canadian miner Lundin Gold Inc’s Fruta del Norte mine.
In the second half of the year, Fruta del Norte is expected to boost daily processing to 4,200 tonnes per day, from 3,500 currently, while Mirador’s volume will rise to 60,000 tonnes per day, the ministry said in a statement.
Between January and April, Ecuador exported some $421 million worth of minerals, up from $185 million in the same period of 2020. That made up 5.4% of total exports, lagging behind oil, bananas and shrimp shipments, the ministry said, citing central bank data.
There are several other mining projects in the exploration stage in Ecuador, including Australian miner SolGold Plc’s Cascabel concession and the Llurimagua project, owned jointly by Ecuadorean state mining company Enami and Chile’s state-owned Codelco.
(By Alexandra Valencia and Luc Cohen; Editing by Bill Berkrot)