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CRU/CESCO-Antofagasta sees Reko Diq up in 2015 despite tensions
* Antofagasta says Pakistan gov keen on Reko Diq project
* Company CEO sees mine producing in 2015
SANTIAGO, April 7 (Reuters) - Antofagasta Minerals is confident to start producing copper at its Reko Diq mine in Pakistan by 2015 despite some friction with local authorities who oppose development of the mine, the company's CEO Marcelo Awad said on Wednesday.
Despite some opposition by the regional government of the southwestern province of Baluchistan, the national Pakistani government is keen to see the project through, Awad told Reuters Insider on the sidelines of the Cesco/CRU copper conference in Santiago. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>
"There were a lot of rumors and a lot of negative press earlier this year, but that was a misunderstanding of a cabinet resolution of the Baluchistan province ... we've met the chief minister and he's still very supportive to see the project up and running," Awad said.
A provincial government official told Reuters in January the project may be canceled, but Awad later said that view was held by a small minority pressing for independence of the southwestern province of Baluchistan. [ID:nSGE60B07R]
He said that regardless of the friction with Baluchistan officials Antofagasta hopes to bring the Reko Diq mine on stream in 2015.
Antofagasta (ANTO.L) and Canada's Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) each have a 37.5 percent stake in the project, with the provincial government holding the remaining 25 percent.
"We're at this moment finalizing the feasibility study and the impact environmental assessment. We plan to apply for a mining license to the Paluchistan Province government during the middle of this year," he said.
London-listed Antofagasta expects Reko Diq to produce by itself roughly as much as the whole group churns out currently.
Antofagasta produced 442,500 tonnes of copper last year and expected production of 540,000 tonnes in 2010 due to the expansion of its flagship Los Pelambres mine in Chile.
Based on 2008 production figures, a move to 1 million tonnes would make Antofagasta the world's fourth-biggest copper producer. (Reporting by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by David Gregorio)
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