NEW YORK Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. will increase daily ore output at its Deep Ore Zone Grasberg Mine in Indonesia to 80,000 tonnes per day by the end of 2013, a 60-percent increase from the 2012 rate of around 50,000 tonnes per day, which will help bring 2013 copper sales to 1.1 billion pounds.
Phoenix-based Freeport faced "a slower than anticipated ramp up" at the mine as panel repairs were "more extensive" than initially thought due to inactivity resulting from the strike at Grasberg, president and chief executive officer Richard Adkerson told analysts during a call following the release of the companys fourth-quarter earnings results.
Unusually low ore grades from Grasberg had a "significant" impact on 2012 copper and gold production, with Adkerson calling them "the lowest grades in Grasberg in 18 years."
However, the company expects to produce higher grades later this year.
"As we go forward in late 2013 and 2014, our stripping requirements will drop dramatically, and our volumes and profitably will increase," Adkerson said. "We are looking to have higher grades in 2013, beginning near the end of the year and beyond that, our profitability at Grasberg should be extraordinary."
Freeport expects Indonesian copper sales to total 1.1 billion pounds in 2013 compared with 716 million pounds in 2012, while gold sales are expected to hit around 1.2 million ounces this year vs. 915,000 ounces in 2012.
This year, Freeport forecasts some 33 percent of Indonesias projected copper sales and 38 percent of gold sales will come in the fourth quarter.
The company is progressing on its other brownfield projects as well.
Freeports second-phase expansion at its Tenke Fungurume Mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo is "substantially complete, on time and on budget," Adkerson said.
The project, which will cost around $850 million, includes mill upgrades, additional mining equipment, a new tank house and a new sulfuric acid plant. Once the expansion is complete, the mill will produce 14,000 tonnes of ore per day and about 150 million pounds of copper per year.
Freeport also received approval on its environmental impact study at its mine in Cerro Verde, Peru, during the fourth quarter and expects to begin construction this year. The $4.4-billion project will expand ore capacity to 360,000 tonnes per day from 120,000 tonnes, and will put copper and molybdenum production at 600 million pounds and 15 million pounds per year, respectively.
Freeport also began construction on its Morenci Mine in Arizona, a $1.4-billion project that will increase annual copper production to 225 million pounds by 2014, a 40 percent increase from 2012.