Unleashed: Coldeco’s $4.9 Billion Chuquicamata Switch to Underground gets Chilean Government Financial Oiling of $1 Billion.
Codelco, the world’s No. 1 copper producer, plans to kick start underground operations
at its century-old Chuquicamata mine by mid-year, its Chairman Juan Benavides was quoted last Wednesday. This $4.9 billion-switch is within the greater scheme of its $39 billion-overhaul of its core mines spanning 10 years, is expected to extend the mine’s life by close to half a century.
Recent drop in grade in its open pit operation has prompted this massive investment ending the 103 years of open pit production. This decision was as a result of the Chilean government oiling this company’s financial pockets around $1 billion “extraordinary” capitalization it promised Codelco last year. “This is a show of the confidence we have in the company and in the importance of these resources for Codelco to be able to complete its structural reform program,” said Finance Minister Felipe Larraín, according to EFE news agency.
Codelco, which hands over all of its profits to the state, holds vast copper deposits, accounting for 10% of the world’s known proven and probable reserves and about 11% of the global annual copper output with 1.8 million metric tons of production. The project will transition one of the world’s largest open-pit mines into an underground mine, one of the largest, most efficient, and advanced in the world utilizing Block cave mining method. The new mine is expected to begin operations in 2019, with a 7-year ramp-up and a nominal production of 140,000 tons per day (tpd).
Ore reserves of nearly 1760 million tons of copper and molybdenum have been quantified for the underground mine, representing more than 60% of the amount exploited from the mine in the last 100 years. Annual production from the mine after the full transition from surface to underground extraction is projected to be 320,000 tons of fine copper and 15,000 tons of molybdenum with a 97% emission reduction. The Chuquicamata underground mine has been designed with some of the highest known safety standards in the mining industry.