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Copper miner Collahuasi plans $3.2 billion investment to boost production

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Copper miner Collahuasi plans $3.2 billion investment to boost production

Santiago, Chile — Collahuasi, one of the world's largest copper producers, has unveiled plans to invest $3.2 billion to boost production at its open pit operation in northern Chile.

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According to an environment impact study presented to regional authorities, the project would expand throughput at the mine's concentrator plant to 210,000 mt/d from around 160,000 mt/d through the installation of a fifth ball mill, additional crushing capacity and floatation cells.

Anglo American and Glencore each own 44% of the mine, with the balance held by Japan's Mitsui & Co. Ltd.

The company also would relaunch the mine's SX-EW facility, closed in 2015, making use of bioleaching technology and expanding capacity to 60,000 mt/year of cathode.

Collahuasi also would build a desalination plant to reduce pressure on local water supplies.

At full capacity, the overhauled mine would be able to produce more than 700,000 mt/year of copper in concentrate and cathode.

Located around 4,000 meters above sea level in the Andes Mountains and just 10 km from the Bolivian border, Collahuasi produced around 524,000 mt of the metal last year.

Collahuasi CEO Jorge Gomez said that the project had undergone several revisions in recent years and had been consulted with local communities.

"We have made a huge effort to present the most robust project possible," he said.

Chilean authorities welcomed the announcement of the project, which has been almost a decade in the making.

"The presentation of an EIS for this project to extend the life of Collahuasi reflects the reactivation of mining investment in the country," said Mines Minister Baldo Prokurica.

After a three-year downturn in mining investment, the industry is on the up in Chile.

Last month, Teck confirmed a $4.7 billion investment to turn its Quebrada Blanca operation into one of the world's largest copper mines, while the Antofagasta Minerals' board has approved a $1.2 billion investment at its flagship Los Pelambres mine, designed to bolster treatment capacity over the next decade.

--Tom Azzopardi, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by Valarie Jackson, valarie.jackson@spglobal.com