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Antofagasta Quarterly Copper Output Rises 13% on Esperanza

Antofagasta Plc, the copper producer controlled by Chile’s Luksic family, said first-quarter output of the metal rose 13 percent on gains at its Esperanza mine.

Production grew to 183,800 metric tons from 162,900 a year before, it said today in a statement. Volumes slid 5.2 percent from the prior quarter after maintenance at its Los Pelambres mine in March. Antofagasta expects to meet a 2013 goal of about 700,000 tons, after last year’s 11 percent gain to 709,600 tons. Gold output rose 36 percent to 86,200 ounces in the quarter.

Total production and costs were “better than expected,” Patrick Jones, an analyst at Nomura International Plc., said in a note. “However, the major production beat was in gold.”

Antofagasta declined 0.3 percent to 895 pence at the close in London, while the FTSE 350 Mining index fell 0.4 percent.

The company resumed work on its $1.9 billion Antucoya project in northern Chile in March, while delaying the planned start date by six months until the second quarter of 2015. It expects to maintain annual production at 700,000 ton to 2015.

Output at Esperanza surged to 47,900 tons of copper from 30,500 tons a year earlier, the London-based mine operator said, while declining from 49,400 tons in the previous three months.

Antofagasta, which began shipments from Esperanza two years ago, is ramping up production at the mine as it pursues a target of processing 97,000 tons of ore a day. It processed an average of 91,400 tons a day in the first quarter, compared with 89,200 tons in the previous quarter, according to the statement.

Cash costs including contributions from byproducts such as molybdenum rose 18 percent to 115.5 cents a pound from a year earlier, Antofagasta said. Output of molybdenum, used to harden steel, declined 16 percent to 2,600 tons from a year earlier.

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