Copper Production Heats Up in Chile

- May 9th, 2018

Copper powerhouse Chile saw production increase by 18.9 percent in Q1 2018 over the same time last year, according to Chilean copper commission Cochilco.

Copper powerhouse Chile saw production increase by 18.9 percent in Q1 2018 over the same time last year, according to Chilean copper commission Cochilco.

According to Cochilco, the big uptick was due to a low basis for comparison and increases in production from major mines.

In 2017, the world’s largest copper mine, BHP’s (ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT,NYSE:BHP) Escondida, was paralyzed by a 44-day strike that slashed its output by 63 percent in Q1 2017, meaning it produced only 97,103 tonnes of copper in that quarter.

Escondida is now humming along again, tripling its production in Q1 2018 and contributing 322,700 tonnes to Chile’s grand total of 1.42 million tonnes of copper exported between January and March.

State miner Codelco saw increases on 2017 as well, producing 446,300 tonnes – up 7.2 percent compared to the previous year.

Meanwhile, Anglo American (LSE:AAL) and Glencore’s (LSE:GLEN) copper asset, the Collahuasi mine in northern Chile, had a 5 percent increase to 137,600 tonnes.

Cochilco said that in March alone national copper production surged 30.8 percent year-on-year to 487,900 tonnes.

Escondida accounts for 5 percent of global copper production – enough to take its own place in the top ten copper-producing countries in the world – ahead of Australia and behind the US at more than a million tonnes a year.

Chile produces 5.33 million tonnes of the red metal a year, and, testament to its dominance, if Escondida was removed from the country’s total output, Chile would still produce almost double the amount of copper of distant second-placed Peru, which produces a respectable 2.39 million tonnes per year.

News for copper in Chile wasn’t all sunshine this week; Chilean miner Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO) reported a blockage in production on Tuesday (May 8), resulting in its shares taking a short dip to GBX 991.8 on the London Stock Exchange.

According to the company, the impact of the blockage at the Los Pelambres processing plant on half-year production was estimated to be approximately 10,000 tonnes of copper, but for the full year, the impact was estimated to be less than 5,000 tonnes, meaning the company didn’t update its guidance for 2018.

Antofagasta’s shares had more than recovered by Wednesday, closing up 2 percent in London at GBX 1013.6.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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