Ecuador sends first export of copper concentrate from Chinese-owned Mirador mine

QUITO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Ecuador made its first export of 22,000 tons of copper concentrate from the Chinese-owned Mirador mining project, marking a new milestone in market-friendly President Lenin Moreno’s effort to develop the country’s large-scale mining industry, the energy ministry said on Wednesday.

Ecuador, an Andean country neighboring No. 2 copper producer Peru, has large mineral reserves but is only beginning to establish industrial-scale mining projects.

Mirador is run by Ecuacorriente, a subsidiary of the Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan, which has a 30-year concession. It started production in July 2019 with a projection of some 94,000 tons of copper concentrate annually.

The shipment of copper concentrate has a value of about 25 million dollars, according to the ministry, and was transported to the Port of Guayaquil and then by sea to the Chinese city of Tongling.

Mirador, located in the Zamora Chinchipe province in Ecuador’s Amazon, foresees a total investment of more than 2 billion dollars during the concession period. The Chinese company has paid some 100 million dollars in early royalties to the Ecuadoran government.

The CRCC-Tongguan consortium bought the company with the concession for the open-pit mine under former leftist President Rafael Correa, who deepened Ecuador’s economic ties with China.

Environmental groups and local authorities have opposed mining activity in the country and are promoting popular consultation in some mineral-rich areas to prohibit their development and reverse concessions already granted to foreign companies.

Ecuador has other projects in the advanced exploration phase such as Cascabel, awarded to Australia’s SolGold, and the Llurimagua project, which will be operated by Ecuadoran state mining company Enami and Chile’s Codelco. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Sarah Kinosian Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)