BHP Billiton to expand Escondida copper mine in Chile

BHP Billiton to expand Escondida copper mine in Chile

The world’s largest mining company BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) has committed to spend just less than US$200 million to receive more copper out of its 57.5% owned Escondida operation in Chile, the world’s largest copper mine.

The expansion of the Los Colorados concentrator plant will help counterbalance declining grades and add incremental copper production to reach an average production of 1.2 million tonnes a year over the next ten years.

Los Colorados was the first concentrator plant used by Escondida when it started operations back in 1990. The current project includes the plant’s repair, which had been put on care and maintenance in the 1st quarter.

The concentrator plant will connect the other two plants, Laguna Seca and the newly opened OGP1. Operations are set to begin by mid-2017.

The decision to expand Los Colorados comes shortly after Escondida reported a significant drop in output for the first three months of 2016, causing profits to drop 47% to $265 million compared to the same period last year.

Its mine revenues also dropped to around $1.4 billion from $2 billion in the same period last year.

BHP recently decided to raise its annual exploration by spending 29%, allotting almost all its $900 million budget to finding new copper and oil deposits.