(Repeats July 31 item for additional readers with no changes to
headline or text)
By Fabian Cambero
SANTIAGO, July 31 Nicknamed 'scissorhands' for
his agile management of difficult projects, Chilean industry
veteran Nelson Pizarro is seen by Codelco's board as the ideal
man to lead the world's top copper miner through a tricky yet
Mining engineer Pizarro, named as the new chief executive
officer of the state-run company by its board on Thursday, is
also known for an ability to manage labor relations.
That could be a crucial skill on a likely rocky path ahead,
which the company has previously said will require "sacrifices"
from "all sides".
Codelco is facing a crucial juncture
in its history. It needs to implement an ambitious investment
plan to revive its aging mines at a time of falling copper
prices and uncertain financing.
Former CEO Thomas Keller was ousted in June by the Codelco
board, which itself had been recently reshuffled by President
Michelle Bachelet. His tough stance on labor activism did not
chime with the new center-left government's more inclusive
But the short, soft-spoken Pizarro, 72, is viewed positively
by Codelco's powerful unions thanks to his mining background,
and he is widely respected in the local industry.
"The challenges of Codelco are so big and of such magnitude
that probably for those conditions Nelson Pizarro is the right
person at the moment," said Juan Carlos Guajardo, head of mining
think tank CESCO.
The acid test for Pizarro will be the $4.2 billion
transformation of the century-old Chuquicamata, known in the
industry as "Chuqui."
Codelco wants to make the giant open pit project an
underground mine, a costly and complex operation that will see
about a third of the workforce laid off.
Pizarro has prior experience at Chuqui, which he managed in
the 1990s. He also managed the company's Andina mine close to
the capital, Santiago, which Codelco now wants to expand, a
project opposed by environmental groups. He was later
vice-president for the company's northern division.
His most recent role was the development of the new
Caserones mine, owned by a Japanese-run venture, which was
officially inaugurated on Wednesday.
Built more than 13,000 feet (4,000 metres) above sea level,
with low ore grades and scarce water resources, its successful
ramp-up cemented the image of Pizarro as someone who could solve
He is also relied on by FTSE100-listed Antofagasta Minerals
, who named him to the board after operational problems
at its Esperanza mine led it to a restructuring.
In addition to other challenges at Codelco, however, Pizarro
will have to deal with the peculiarities that come with running
a state-run company - his board will have the ear of the
government, and much of Codelco's financing will rely on
Antofagasta's current Chief Executive Officer Diego
Hernandez, Keller's predecessor and also a respected industry
veteran, left the Codelco post after two years following
disagreements with the board.
(Additional reporting by Anthony Esposito, Writing by Rosalba
O'Brien; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)