Southern Copper Delays Tia Maria Project Startup to 2016

Southern Copper Corp., the largest producer of the metal in Peru and Mexico, delayed the projected startup of its $900 million Tia Maria mine by a year to 2016 after taking longer than expected to complete a new environmental impact study.

Southern Copper has finished the study and expects government approval in the second half, said Raul Jacob, chief financial officer of the company’s Peruvian unit. The company will then seek to invest $250 million per year in the mine.

Peru’s government ordered Phoenix-based Southern Copper to redo an environmental study for Tia Maria after deadly environmental protests suspended the project in 2011. The study was originally due to be completed in November, Chief Executive Officer Oscar Gonzalez Rocha said in an Oct. 1 interview.

“For 2013 we’re considering spending $46 million, contingent to getting the approval of the environmental impact assessment through the year,” Jacob said today on a conference call. “Certainly a condition for that will be having the goodwill from the local communities.”

Southern Copper aims to produce 640,000 metric tons of copper this year, little changed from 2012, Jacob said. The company will cut third-party concentrate purchases by 29 percent to 10,000 tons and invest $1.8 billion in expansion projects in 2013, he said.

Southern Copper late yesterday announced fourth-quarter net income of $531.8 million, or 63 cents a share, beating analysts’ estimates. The shares gained 1.1 percent to $39.84 at the close in New York.