BHP Billiton has approved an effective plant expansion at the giant Escondida mine in Chile that will provide an extra 150,000 tonnes of annual copper production for a development spend of just under $US200 million ($266m), in a prime example of chief Andrew Mackenzie’s push to unleash low-cost latent capacity.
The approval, which reverses a previous decision to demolish the Los Colorados concentrator at Escondida to gain access to high-grade ore, was revealed by BHP’s new head of American mining operations, Daniel Malchuk, in an interview with The Australian.
The Santiago-based Mr Malchuk said BHP remained keen on copper from a market perspective and would still be prepared to make acquisitions in the metal if the right assets came to market during the current downturn.
And, he said the company would consider buying partner Anglo American out of the Cerrejon coalmine in Colombia at the right price. Saving the Los Colorados concentrator at Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, is part of Mr Mackenzie’s plan to squeeze more from existing assets and increase BHP production by 10 per cent, by spending $US1.5 billion activating latent capacity.
By overhauling and keeping Los Colorados, BHP will capture 100,000 tonnes of daily ore processing capacity for less than $US200m.
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