Antofagasta Copper Output Advances 9% as Esperanza Ramps Up

Antofagasta Plc (ANTO), the copper miner controlled by Chile’s Luksic family, said third-quarter output rose 9 percent as volumes from its Esperanza mine increased.

Production climbed to 179,800 metric tons from 165,000 tons a year earlier, Antofagasta said today in a statement. Volumes of molybdenum, used to harden steel, advanced to 3,000 tons from 2,400 tons.

Antofagasta is seeking to increase annual copper output to about 700,000 tons this year from 640,500 tons amid rising demand for the metal used in cables and pipes. Esperanza is now adding volumes after delays at the Chilean project prompted the company to cut its production forecast for that year. It also had to repair a feed conveyor at the site in the first quarter.

The company raised copper output from Esperanza to 45,600 tons in the quarter, up 21 percent from the previous three months. Antofagasta achieved an average ore throughput of 85,100 tons a day at Esperanza, up 6.8 percent from the second quarter, according to the statement.

“The increase in average throughput reflects ongoing improvements in the reliability of the operation following further optimization of the plant,” Jason Fairclough, an analyst at Bank of America Corp., wrote in a note today.

Costs Drop

The company’s production in 2013 “will be similar” to this year as output stabilizes at Esperanza, Chief Executive Officer Diego Hernandez told reporters in Santiago today. Production will expand in 2015 as the company starts its Antucoya project and a decision will be taken next year to expand the company’s flagship Los Pelambres mine, he said.

Hernandez predicts copper prices in 2013 will remain at similar levels to this year as the balance between supply and demand remains “tight”. Miners may expand output in the second half of next year, he said.

Cash costs, taking into account earnings from by-products such as molybdenum and gold, declined to 99 cents a pound in the first nine months of the year from 103.7 cents a year earlier, Antofagasta said. That’s 10 percent lower than Bank of America’s estimate, Fairclough said, citing better by-product volumes.

Copper production in the nine months rose to 515,800 tons from 453,500 tons, while gold output increased by 71 percent to 213,500 ounces in the period, reflecting the contribution from Esperanza.

Antofagasta shares fell 0.7 percent to 1,257 pence at the close in London, valuing the company controlled by Chilean billionaire Jean-Paul Luksic at 12.39 billion pounds ($20 billion).

Copper for three-month delivery on the London Metal Exchange declined 14 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier to average $7,720 a ton.

To contact the reporters on this story: Firat Kayakiran in London at fkayakiran@bloomberg.net; Matt Craze in Santiago at mcraze@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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