August 7, 2008 / 7:47 PM / 10 years ago

Chile Antofagasta preps Pakistan copper play study

SANTIAGO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Chile’s Antofagasta Minerals, a London-listed copper miner, expects to complete a feasibility study of its Reko Diq copper property in Pakistan by May next year, company President Marcelo Awad said on Thursday.

Awad said on the sidelines of a business conference in Santiago that the study contemplated mine output of 72,000 tonnes of mineral per day.

He said the figure could be raised to as much as three times that, but there was no plan to do so at the moment.

The Reko Diq property is jointly owned by Antofagasta (ANTO.L) with 37.5 percent, Canadian miner Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) also with 37.5 percent, and the government of Pakistan.

The partners could develop enough capacity to process up to 220,000 tonnes of mineral per day, at a cost of some $5 billion, but that option has been discarded for the moment.

Under the smaller mine plan, Reko Diq would enter production in 2012, with output of some 150,000 tonnes of copper per year.

“We are analyzing the 72,000,” Awad told journalists. “There could be a rise but that will depend on what infrastructure is required.”

He did not say how much the project would cost.

The Reko Diq project has a resource of some 4.5 billion tonnes of mineral, with the equivalent of 0.85 percent copper including a gold credit.

Awad also commented on the El Mauro tailings dam under construction in central Chile to serve its Los Pelambres copper mine high in the Andes mountains.

The dam is being opposed in the courts by farmers and environmentalists, but Awad said the company is working through the legal problems.

He said construction of the dam, part of a $1 billion expansion of the Los Pelambres copper mine, continued and that it would be ready for use by the first quarter next year.

Antofagasta plans to boost output at Los Pelambres to some 400,000 tonnes of copper per year by early 2010, from 330,000 tonnes currently. (Reporting by Manuel Farias; writing by Pav Jordan; editing by Jim Marshall)

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