Collahuasi copper mine sees output rise this year, mine CEO says

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - The Collahuasi copper mine in Chile, which is among the world’s biggest, expects 2017 output to beat last year’s, and could ramp up production that was frozen in 2015 if the price of copper keeps rising, the mine’s chief executive told Reuters Tuesday.

The mine, a joint venture between Anglo American and Glencore, is also expecting to begin maintenance on a milling plant in April that should last around two months, said Jorge Gomez, on the sidelines of the CRU World Copper Conference in Santiago. This type of work tends to have an impact on production.

“We’re on the verge of a scheduled stoppage for...some milling lines, which should leave us in optimal conditions for the rest of the year,” Gomez said, adding that the process would take 55 to 60 days.

“(Production) should be slightly higher than what we produced last year,” he added, when asked about 2017 output.

If copper prices continued to rise, he said, Collahuasi would consider restarting cathode production at the mine, a process which was stopped in 2015.

Many eyes in the copper industry are on Collahuasi, which produced 506,000 tonnes of the red metal in 2016, as the mine’s main union is due for contract renegotiations this year. Gomez, however, declined to discuss the topic.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien and Gram Slattery; Editing by Andrew Hay