Chile E-CL pushing back 750 MW project on lack of miner demand

SANTIAGO, July 5 Fri Jul 5, 2013 9:23am EDT

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SANTIAGO, July 5 (Reuters) - Chilean energy company E-CL is postponing a 750 megawatt coal-fired thermoelectric plant in the world No.1 copper producer's mineral-rich north due to lack of demand from troubled mines, a local newspaper reported on Friday.

E-CL, which is majority owned by utility GDF Suez, said it has been unable to clinch a supply contract because miners are pushing back investments due to falling copper prices and higher costs.

The Chilean power company said it has been fruitlessly seeking a client for its $1.5 billion Infraestructura Energetica project in Mejillones for over a year.

"Most clients aren't in a position where they can make an investment decision," chief executive officer Lodewijk Verdeyen told daily El Mercurio. "If clients don't make an investment decision, they're not in any condition to sign a long-term energy contract either."

Mining projects in Chile, home to roughly a third of the world's red metal, have been delayed due to regulatory setbacks or more cautious investment decisions.

Steep power prices and delays to big, controversial energy projects have also frazzled miners in copper powerhouse Chile.

Verdeyen didn't name any of the projects or give a new timeframe estimate for the Infraestructura Energetica project, which consists of two 375 megawatt generation units.

Copper prices tumbled to three-year lows in late June, pushed down by worries over economic growth prospects in top metals consumer China and in Europe.

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