Chile’s copper production drops 0.8% in September on Escondida shortfall

Chilean copper production was 0.8% lower year on year in September due to lower output from Escondida, the country’s copper commission, Cochilco, said on Tuesday November 3.

Mined copper content output totaled 479,900 tonnes in September, against 483,800 tonnes a year before, according to Cochilco’s data. The country produced 4.26 million tonnes of copper in the January-September period, slightly up by 0.4% from 4.25 million tonnes in the corresponding months of 2019.

September was the fourth consecutive month of lower production in Chile on an annual basis. But the 0.8% year-on-year drop was less pronounced than the 6% and 5% decreases in August and July respectively.

Lower copper output in South America drove spot treatment and refining charges (TC/RC) from smelters down this year, but numbers started to recover after closures and disruptions related to action taken to combat Covid-19 started to fade.

Fastmarkets’ copper concentrates TC/RC index, cif Asia Pacific hit $44.90 per tonne / 4.49 cents per lb on October 30, down from $45.10 per tonne / 4.51 cents per lb a week earlier. The index, however, was higher than an all-time low of $43.70 per tonne/4.37 cents per lb on September 4.

Data from Cochilco showed production at Escondida, the largest copper mine in the world, was 94,100 tonnes in September, falling by 6% from 100,100 tonnes in the same month of last year.

BHP, which owns a 57.5% stake in Escondida and operates it, has said that lower copper grades in mined ore and difficulties to maintain full throughput stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to cut output figures in the coming fiscal year ending September 2021.

Meanwhile, Codelco increased output over the reporting period, Cochilco added. The global top copper producing company reported 159,200 tonnes in production in September, up by 9.6% year on year from 145,300 tonnes.

Most of that growth was attributed to higher output from the state-run miner’s Chuquicamata, Radomiro Tomic, Mininstro Hales and Andina units. Codelco produced 79,900 tonnes at Chuquicamata, Radomiro Tomic and Ministro Hales, from 66,500 tonnes a year before, and 17,800 tonnes at Andina, from 13,200 tonnes on the same basis of comparison.

Meanwhile, output at the Collahuasi mine, jointly owned by Glencore and Anglo American, totaled 53,400 tonnes in September, a 9.4% year-on-year increase from 48,800 tonnes.

Antofagasta’s Los Pelambres produced 29,300 tonnes of copper in September, down by 3.9% from 30,500 tonnes a year before, Cochilco added. Additionally, output from Anglo American Sur was 29,000 tonnes, 0.7% higher than 28,800 tonnes in September 2019.

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