Codelco to begin $1.38bln Rajo Inca expansion project at Salvador copper mine

Chilean copper producer Codelco is to go ahead with the $1.38-billion Rajo Inca expansion project at its Salvador mine, the state-owned company said on Tuesday January 5.

The company expects commercial production to begin in the second half of 2022 and aims to achieve full production capacity of 90,000 tonnes per year in the first half of 2023. The mine’s current output is 60,000 tpy, the company said.

Codelco secured an environmental permit for the expansion project in February 2020.

Output at Salvador in January-October 2020 was 45,800 tonnes of mined copper content, up 30.9% from the 35,000 tonnes mined in the corresponding period in 2019.

Mineral reserves at the Salvador mine, which has been operational since 1959, were forecast to be fully depleted during 2021 under current conditions, but the expansion project gives Codelco access to another 796 million tonnes of mineral, with an estimated 0.59% copper grade on average, and extends the life of mine by 47 years.

The initial plan was for 22 months of mineral extraction with no commercial value until the concentration plant part of the Rajo Inca project came into operation, Codelco said.

Last December, sources told Fastmarkets that Codelco had increased its US copper premium for traders, while keeping the premium unchanged for most consumers.

Fastmarkets’ latest assessment of the copper grade 1 cathode premium, ddp Midwest US was 7-8 cents per lb on December 29, flat since December 15 when it increased from 7-7.5 cents per lb.

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