UPDATE 4-Top producer Chile sees copper output up 3 pct this year

Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:07pm EST

* Chile seen producing 5.596 mln tons of copper this year
    * Chuqui mine, launch of Ministro Hales mine to lift output
    * Copper prices seen at $3.57/lb this year, dropping in 2014
    * Supply growth outlook weighs on price rise on Monday
    * Cochilco sees global copper demand up 1.5 pct in 2013


    SANTIAGO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Chile is seen producing 5.596
million tonnes of copper this year, up 3 percent from 2012
levels, as heavy investment in mines in the world's No. 1
producer pays off, the country's state copper commission,
Cochilco, said on Monday. 
    Cochilco said a pick-up at state copper producer Codelco's
 century-old Chuquicamata deposit and the launch of
its Ministro Hales mine at the end of the year will help lift
output of the metal, which is used in construction and power
generation and transmission.
    But analysts have warned that several factors -
deteriorating ore grades, delays to key energy and mining
projects, and operational woes - threaten forecast production
jumps.
    Cochilco expects output in Chile, which mines roughly a
third of the world's copper, will rise to 5.754 million tonnes
in 2014 from an estimated at 5.433 million tonnes last year,
which was an 3.2 percent increase from the year before.
    "This is fairly positive news because international
estimates said Chile couldn't reach predicted output and Chile's
production rose 3.2 percent," Mining Minister Hernan de
Solminihac said. 
    Cochilco had estimated 2012 copper output at 5.45 million
tonnes in November, and de Solminihac had said in April that
production would reach a whopping 5.7 million tonnes. Many
analysts at the time had called his forecast too ambitious.
  
    If Chile meets its production forecast, the higher copper
supply could "slightly weigh on prices," said George Gero,
precious metals strategist at RBC Capital Markets Global
Futures.
    Copper edged higher on Monday after better-than-expected
U.S. economic data, but uneasiness about the growth of supply
kept prices in check. 
   
     
    The Andean country will attract $100 billion in mining
investment in the next 10 to 12 years, a slightly longer time
frame than previously forecast, as regulatory uncertainty and
energy woes loom as key risks, the Sonami mining association
said earlier this month. 
    Industry experts say Chile is failing to take a firm hand in
regulating its mining and energy industries, leaving billions of
dollars worth of projects exposed to the risk of lawsuits by
local communities. 
    
    EXPANSION OF TIRED MINES
    The forecast for climbing output from Chile comes as some
global miners are scaling back investment plans as operating
costs soar and the world's economic outlook remains volatile.
    But many miners in the Andean country have major plans to
revamp aging mines. 
    World No. 1 copper miner Codelco has an ambitious investment
plan worth roughly $27 billion to maintain and ultimately lift
production at its copper mines to more than 2 million tonnes. 
    In addition, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto 
 have approved plans for a $4.5 billion expansion of
Escondida, already the world's biggest copper mine.
 
    The world's third-biggest copper mine, Collahuasi, hopes to
have a good year and turn the corner to produce more than it did
in 2012, its CEO told Reuters on Friday. 
    Anglo American's major growth project, Los Bronces,
helped increase the company's copper production in 2012, a
relative bright spot for the global miner. 
   
    COCHILCO MARKET VIEW
    Cochilco sees copper prices averaging $3.57 per pound this
year, unchanged from its previous estimate, before dropping to
around $3.32 per pound in 2014.
    Globally, it sees copper output growing 3.3 percent this
year, outpacing demand growth, which is seen up 1.5 percent. It
expects a 56,000 tonne copper surplus in the market in 2013.
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