UPDATE 1-Antofagasta copper output up, on track for 2012 target

Wed Aug 1, 2012 3:05am EDT

LONDON Aug 1 (Reuters) - Chilean miner Antofagasta Plc posted an increase in second quarter copper output, setting it on track to hit its full-year target, as the cost of producing a pound of red metal dipped, thanks to improvements at trouble-hit mine Esperanza.

Antofagasta, which recently appointed copper heavyweight Diego Hernandez as its chief executive, said production rose 6.3 percent in the quarter compared with the previous three months to 173,200 tonnes. It expects to hit a full-year production target of 700,000 tonnes.

Gold production was 72,600 ounces in the quarter, again above the previous quarter as Esperanza got back on track, and almost 50 percent above the year ago, when the new mine was ramping up.

Esperanza, which was hit by operational trouble in the first months of the year, was back on track with 37,700 tonnes of copper, almost 24 percent above the previous three months, as throughput increased, along with ore grade and recoveries, the company said.

Group cash costs, net of by-product credits, came in at 99.3 cents per pound, marginally above the previous quarter. Over the first half, though, costs were down, as increased gold production at Esperanza and molybdenum at Los Pelambres meant more by-product credits.

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