Top Copper Producer Chile Forecasts Record Output as BHP Expands

Chile, the world’s biggest copper-producing nation, said output probably will reach a record high this year as BHP Billiton Ltd. ramps up supply and state-owned Codelco starts a new mine in the Atacama Desert.

Production from mines rose 3.2 percent last year to 5.43 million metric tons from 5.26 million tons in 2011, Mining Minister Hernan de Solminihac said in a presentation in Santiago today. Output will rise 3 percent to 5.6 million tons this year, exceeding a record 5.56 million tons set in 2007, and total 5.75 million tons in 2014, according to estimates released by the government’s copper commission Cochilco.

The commission left its average price estimate for this year unchanged at $3.57 a pound, de Solminihac said. World copper supply will exceed demand by 56,000 tons this year and 68,000 tons in 2014, he said.

Melbourne-based BHP will increase output by 20 percent this fiscal year at its Escondida mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the company said Jan. 23. Anglo American Plc also boosted output at its Los Bronces mine last year.

Codelco probably will boost supplies to 1.7 million tons this year as it begins output at the Ministro Hales mine, Chief Executive Officer Thomas Keller said Jan. 23 in an interview.

World copper supply will increase 3.3 percent this year, while demand is set to grow 0.6 percent, according to the government estimate.

Copper futures for delivery in March added less than 0.1 percent to $3.654 a pound at 10:39 a.m. on the Comex in New York. Cochilco also predicted copper prices between 2002 and 2020 will average $2.65 a pound.

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