World's Largest Copper Producer Plans $15 Billion Expansion

Projects include the Ministro Hales mine in northern Chile which is slated to start in 2013 with production estimated at 170,000 tons per year

Chile's state-owned mining group Codelco announced plans on April 7 to invest $15 billion in new projects to expand production over the next five years.

"This amounts to around three billion dollars in investments per year in each of the next five years," Codelco executive president Jose Pablo Arellano said at the World Copper Conference in the Chilean capital.

"These are projects that Codelco is developing in all its divisions, its development for the next 30 or 40 years."

He said the projects include the Ministro Hales mine in northern Chile, a project slated to start in 2013 with production estimated at 170,000 tons per year.

Codelco also plans an underground operation at its Chuquicamata mine, which is now the world's largest open-pit copper mine, Arellano said.

A new level of operations is planned at the El Teniente mine, which is believed to be the world's biggest underground copper mine, according to Codelco, which also is eyeing expansion of its Andina mine.

Arellano said the expansion plans come after a record $2.1 billion was invested in 2009 by the company.

Chile is the world's largest producer of copper, accounting for an estimated 33% of world supply, of which one third comes from Codelco.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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