* To sign contracts with China after expansions complete
* Southern Copper’s $1 bln Tia Maria project on hold
AREQUIPA, Peru, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Southern Copper, one of the world’s largest producers of the metal, is looking to sell copper to China starting in 2013, its chief executive said.
The company will look to sign contracts with the Asian giant after expanding a key mine in Peru or getting government approval for its delayed Tia Maria project, CEO Oscar Gonzalez said late on Tuesday.
“When we have our Toquepala expansion or the Tia Maria project, we will seek to sell to China,” Gonzalez said on the sidelines of the Perumin convention in Arequipa.
Southern Copper currently sells some of its surplus metal to China, the world’s largest copper consumer, through brokers or traders. The company sells 25 percent of its output to Europe and 23 percent to the United States, the world’s second-largest consumer.
Southern Copper (SCCO.N), controlled by Grupo Mexico (GMEXICOB.MX), is on track to increase production this year by 30 percent to 600,000 tonnes now that its Buenavista mine in Mexico is producing again after a three-year strike.
Southern Copper operates the Cuajone mine in Peru as well as Toquepala, where milling capacity will be doubled by 2013.
But the previous government in Peru rejected an environmental impact study for the company’s $1 billion star project, Tia Maria, after local farmers said the mine would threaten their water supplies.
Gonzalez said the company hopes to open talks with the new government of leftist President Ollanta Humala, who was elected in July. (Reporting by Patricia Velez; Editing by Dale Hudson)