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Codelco to halt Chuquicamata copper smelter to complete upgrade works

Codelco will have to place its Chuquicamata copper smelter on hold amid struggles to finish an ongoing overhaul at the operation prior to the enactment of stringent emission standards in Chile, Bloomberg News reported Oct. 11.

In an emailed statement to the newswire, the Chilean state miner said it is facing difficulties in installing equipment while the smelter is operating, resulting in some processes potentially facing delays of about 80 days.

Initially scheduled for later this year, maintenance and upgrading works for the aging smelter will be brought forward, the report added. The mine's Union No. 3 president and smelter coordinator Rolando Milla said that the operation's disruption for 60 days will begin Dec. 13, when the new standards would be imposed.

The Chuquicamata smelter had been operating at a reduced capacity since mid-September, when the air blower in the thermal-electric sulfur plant broke down, Milla noted.

Earlier in the week, Chairman Juan Benavides flagged "a little delay" of 30 to 60 days in the smelter upgrade and that the miner is asking its customers for "flexibility" to be able to deliver concentrate in lieu of processed copper.

Codelco started the almost US$1 billion upgrade to the Chuquicamata smelter three years ago, amid the introduction of policy that compelled plants to capture 95% of emissions.