Antofagasta secures $1.3 bln for Los Pelambres expansion

Antofagasta Minerals, a subsidiary of London-headquartered Antofagasta plc, has secured $1.3 billion in financing for the expansion of its Los Pelambres refined copper unit, 300km north of Santiago in Chile.

Antofagasta Minerals aims to increase its annual copper concentrate production at the unit by 40,000 tonnes during the first year of operations, ramping up to an extra 70,000 tonnes per year near the end of the first 15 years of the mine’s lifecycle, the miner said on Thursday April 4.

Los Pelambres produced 357,800 tonnes of copper in 2018 due to higher throughput during the year, up from 343,800 tonnes in 2017, according to Antofagasta’s production report.

Ore processing capacity will rise to 190,000 tonnes per day from the current 175,000 tonnes per day.

The funding for the expansion consists of one tranche of $425 million from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, with another $875 million coming from a consortium formed by Mizuho Bank, Export Development Canada, Scotiabank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and the Bank of China.

Antofagasta plc is one of the five largest global copper producers, operating solely in the central Chilean region of the same name.

Total output reached a record 725,300 tonnes in 2018, up from 704,300 tonnes in 2017. Antofagasta also produces gold and molybdenum.

Fastmarkets’ Asia-Pacific index for copper concentrate treatment & refining charges (TC/RCs) fell to its lowest level in a year at $66.70 per tonne/6.67 cents per lb on March 29, down from $69 per tonne/6.90 cents per lb on March 15.

The TC/RC downtrend continues to persist while copper concentrate supplies are restricted and Chinese smelters are willing to accept lower charges.

“I am pleased the expansion of Los Pelambres has been financed on favorable terms with the support of a strong group of lenders,” Antofagasta’s chief executive officer Ivan Arriagada said. “[This] will enhance the already strong returns [from] the project”.

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