Codelco’s Chuquicamata smelter set for three-month shutdown, copper output to drop

Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper smelting line in northern Chile will be closed for at least three months next year for a major facility upgrade, sources tell Fastmarkets

From September to November 2022, the copper smelter will have its flash furnace - Chuquicamata’s major smelting line - shut for enhancement work to improve productivity, four sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Refined copper output will fall, while more copper will be produced in the form of concentrate.

The Chuquicamata copper operation is one of the world’s biggest and produced 401,000 tonnes of the red metal in 2020. The flash smelter has a processing capacity of 100,000 tonnes per month of copper concentrate.

The Chuquicamata copper mine, which produces relatively high arsenic copper concentrate, will continue to operate during the upgrade, the sources said. Some concentrate will be diverted to other Codelco operations.

Codelco’s annual negotiations with clients across Europe, China, the United States and Asia are still ongoing for 2022 copper cathode supply contracts.

Negotiations with buyers in China - who bought $7.8 billion-worth of copper from Chile last year - have been met with concerns over persistent backwardations and consumption demand.

An offer of $105 per tonne was made in October to the Chinese market, although more flexibility on the quotation period (QP) has been provided because buyers are wary of backwardation costs, sources told Fastmarkets.

Fastmarkets assessed its copper grade A cathode premium, cif Shanghai at $83-100 per tonne on Thursday November 25. Standard QPs for cathodes on a cif China basis are M or M+1.

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