The Los Pelambres copper mine, which is located in Coquimbo region, 240km north-east of Santiago, produces copper concentrate and molybdenum concentrate by a milling and flotation process.

The sulphide deposit is owned 60% by Antofagasta with the remaining 40% stake held by consortiums led by JX Nippon and Mitsubishi.

Construction of the Los Pelambres copper mine expansion is slated to start in early 2019 with a targeted first production in the second half of 2021.

According to Antofagasta, the expansion project will help boost copper production from 40,000 tonnes in the first year to 70,000 tonnes towards the end of a 15-year period.

Over the full period production, the Chilean copper mine will average around 60,000 tonnes over the first 15 years of operation.

Antofagasta CEO Ivan Arriagada said: “The expansion of our world-class Los Pelambres mine is an important step forward in the advancement of the Group’s organic growth pipeline.

“The expansion project will add 60,000 tonnes a year of low cost copper production at this long-life operation and will ensure that it remains a first quartile producer for many years to come.”

As part of the Los Pelambres copper mine expansion, Antofagasta and its partners will be investing $500m on a desalination plant and water pipeline. The copper miner said that the desalination plant will supply the project and a potential further growth phase apart from acting as a back-up for the existing operation during extreme dry conditions.

Antofagasta said that the throughput at the plant will be ramped up from the present capacity of 175,000 tonnes of ore per day to an average of 190,000 tonnes of ore per day. The plant expansion will also see an additional SAG mill, ball mill and the corresponding flotation circuit with 24 more cells.

Antofagasta revealed that a subsequent expansion phase of expansion for the Los Pelambres copper mine could be taken up based on the receipt of the required environmental and regulatory approvals.

The additional expansion phase is expected to further boost production and also extend the mine life of the Los Pelambres copper mine to a significant extent by accessing the deposit’s substantial undeveloped mineral resources, said Antofagasta.