Codelco Reports 1% Drop in First-Half Copper Output at Own Mines

Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer, said output from its own mines in Chile declined 1 percent in the first half from a year ago as century-old Chuquicamata runs down its open-pit operations.

Output totaled 758,000 metric tons in the six-month period, the company said in a statement distributed in Santiago today. Including the state-owned company’s share of copper from mines operated by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX) and Anglo American Plc. (AAL), production rose to 843,000 from 803,000 tons.

The company, based in Santiago, operates some of the world’s oldest mines, including Chuquicamata, first exploited by the Guggenheim family in the 1900s, where Codelco wants to build a tunnel network to access ore underneath an open-pit mine already more than half a mile deep. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Keller is seeking funding for a record investment plan over the coming years to reach annual output of about 2.2 million tons as ore quality deteriorates.

First-half output declines at the Chuquicamata, Salvador and Andina mines were countered by increases at El Teniente and Gabriela Mistral, Codelco said. An expansion at El Teniente, now the most productive operation, is 13 percent complete.

Keller cut this year’s capital expenditure budget to $4 billion from $5 billion after the government approved less funding than the company requested. Copper prices are “still attractive” and Codelco won’t halt investments that are already under way, he told reporters today in Santiago.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Craze in Santiago at mcraze@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net

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