World’s No. 1 copper miner gets $300m from Canada

The new mine level being built will extend the El Teniente mine’s life by 50 years. (Image courtesy of Codelco | MINING.com)

Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, has signed a 10-year loan agreement with Export Development Canada, the country’s export credit agency, which will allow the state-owned miner to access $300 million to finance an ambitious overhaul of its aging mines.

The copper giant, which produces nearly one-tenth of the world’s supply, is in the midst of a $39 billion,10-year plan to expand and upgrade its mines.

Last year, the company began a $5.6 billion conversion of its century-old Chuquicamata open pit mine into an underground operation.

After expanding the century-old Chuquicamata underground, the next major overhaul is a new level at El Teniente, Codelco’s largest mine

The next major overhaul is a new level at El Teniente underground mine, the company’s largest.

Those and other projects are expected to help Codelco keep production rates, despite falling ore grades and increasing costs at its assets.

The company, which hands over all of its profits to the state, holds vast deposits of the red metal, accounting for over 10% of the world’s known proven and probable reserves.

Production decline, together with lower copper prices and higher costs, saw the company’s annual profits drop by a third last year to $2 billion, not counting paper losses worth almost $400 million, as it wrote down the value of its assets, including its Ventanas smelter and the open pit at its Salvador division.

In July, Codelco  named company insider Octavio Araneda as its new chief executive officer, following the departure of Nelson Pizarro.

Together with carrying forward the revamping of the company’s mines, Araneda is expected to deal with major corporate modifications Sebastian Piñera’s administration has promised, including legal changes to prevent the nation’s armed forces from using Codelco as a cash cow to finance weapons purchases.

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