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Antofagasta’s copper production rises in 2012

Keywords: Tags  Antofagasta, results, Ebitda, Chile, copper, production, Claire Hack

LONDON — Copper miner Antofagasta Plc’s revenues were up 10.9 percent year on year in 2012 to $6.74 billion despite lower commodity prices, higher on-site costs and increased exploration expenditures.

The London-based company achieved copper production of 709,600 tonnes in the year ended Dec. 31, up 10.8 percent compared with 2011 volumes. The production boost was partially attributed to higher output at its Esperanza operation in Chile, which produced 163,200 tonnes of copper, up 81.1 percent year over year, the company said in a statement released with full-year 2012 earnings.

The company’s copper production in 2013 is expected to remain at about 700,000 tonnes, broadly in line with 2012.

The company spent $300.8 million on exploration and evaluation activities in 2012, compared with $215.4 million in 2011. Total forecast expenditures on exploration and evaluation activities are expected to be about $280 million in 2013, Antofagasta said.

"Our immediate focus is on ensuring that we optimize production from our existing assets, through debottlenecking or incremental plant expansions," the company said. "In a capital-intensive industry, especially during periods of particular pressure on capital costs, this provides the best opportunities for relatively rapid, lower-cost and lower-risk growth."

At Esperanza, plant-throughput levels reached more than 89,000 tonnes per day in the fourth quarter, compared with 70,000 tonnes per day in the first quarter of 2012. The company is still working to hit the plant’s designed capacity of 97,000 tonnes per day.

Capital expenditures in 2013 are expected to rise to about $300 million for Esperanza, which includes $55 million for the Centinela mining district feasibility study. The Centinela district is the main area of focus for the company’s medium- and longer-term growth plans.

A review at the in-development Antucoya copper project intended to provide a more detailed cost analysis is also continuing. Development of the project has been temporarily suspended as the review takes place, and it is now mostly complete. The review appears to indicate the project provides an "overall reasonable economic return," the company said.

The review at Antucoya resulted in an impairment charge of $500 million. A final decision as to whether to resume development of the project will be made when the review is fully complete.

At the 60 percent-owned Los Pelambres operation, production came to 403,700 tonnes of copper in 2012, down from production of 411,800 tonnes in 2011, on the back of falling ore grades. This was partly offset by a rise in average plant throughput. Molybdenum production at Los Pelambres was up 23.2 percent to 12,200 tonnes in 2012.

Total capital expenditures in 2012 at Los Pelambres were $178.8 million, which is expected to rise to about $330 million for 2013.

The initial forecast for 2013 production at Los Pelambres is about 390,000 tonnes of payable copper, compared with production of 403,700 tonnes in 2012, on a minor decrease in the expected average ore grade.

At El Tesoro, copper production hit 105,000 tonnes in 2012, reflecting a full-year of output from the Mirador pit. Michilla, meanwhile, is maintaining production of about 40,000 tonnes of copper per year, and studies are continuing on a possible extension of its mine life, which currently ends in 2015. 

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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