World’s No. 1 copper miner Codelco made a $2.88 billion profit in 2017

Night shift at Chuquicamata, a century-old open pit copper mine currently being expanded underground. (Image courtesy of Codelco via Flickr.)

Chile’s Codelco, the world’s top copper producer, reaped the benefit of climbing prices for the red metal last year even as production costs rose, and is ready to post a profit of $2.88 billion for 2017, the company’s chairman has revealed.

Speaking to investors and students at the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Chile, Oscar Landerretche said Thursday the preliminary results are the best ones achieved by the company since 2014, local paper La Tercera reported (in Spanish).

Despite seeing costs rise 7.8% last year, Codelco’s 2017 results are the best since 2014, chairman Oscar Landerretche said.

The state-owned copper miner saw costs rise 7.8% the past year as it has been upgrading its aging mines to deal with dwindling ore grades and so remain a major global player. The ambitious investment plan, originally pegged at $25 billion, is now sitting at about $18bn.

Codelco generates around a tenth of the global copper supply and it has been one of the main forces behind Chile’s transition from one of Latin America’s poorest countries to one of the richest over the past 40 years.

But the company faces major changes as Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera, who took office on Sunday, promised during his campaign it would give the miner more independence from political intervention to make the company more efficient.

He also talked about the need for “deep reflection” on funding and the need to appoint a new chairman, replace two existing directors and increasing the number of board members from nine to 11.

In the candidature previous to his first term (2010-2014), Piñera proposed to sell a minority stake in Codelco, which led to a public outcry and was later dropped. During that administration, the copper miner’s debt increased 84% despite higher copper prices.

Codelco’s official 2017 profit and production figures are due to be posted on Thursday, March 29.

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