Commodities, Copper, Exploration/Development, News

BHP flexes its copper muscle


BHP has followed through with its commitment of continued investment and growth in Chile after unveiling a new copper concentrator at its Spence operation.

More than 12,000 workers were employed in the construction of the plant, which required an investment of $US2.46 billion ($3.54 billion) and has a potential throughput of 95,000 tonnes per day.

The concentrator extends Spence’s mine life by 50 years and will play an important role in serving the increasing global demand for copper.

“This is a significant moment for BHP in Chile, where we have been for more than 30 years and we want to continue on this path of joint development and collaboration,” BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry said.

“Chile has great opportunities to provide the commodities that the world needs to de-carbonise and improve living standards. But we cannot do it on our own. We need to continue working with industry, government, and communities to continue development in a safe, sustainable manner, and to create value for everyone along this way.”

BHP has not been shy about its devotion to copper. In late March, BHP Minerals Americas president Ragnar Udd said the company was looking to commit more than $10 billion of further investment in Chile.

Udd suggested that while Chile was an undoubted copper success story, the region was facing numerous obstacles which require further attention.

“There are several headwinds,” Udd said at the time. “Copper productivity has declined in recent years, and there are challenges with declining grades and rising costs. Other countries are also competitive and are vying for capital in a market that is internationally mobile.”

At the Australian Financial Review Business Summit in early March, Henry didn’t mince his words about future base metal demand.

“To frame it up, the world’s going to need probably about two times as much copper over the next 30 years, 34 times as much nickel, even two times as much steel to support the energy transition,” he said.

Henry said that “for two times more copper, you’re actually going to need more than two times as much mining”.

Alongside Spence, which is one of two mines at the Pampa Norte operation, BHP operates and owns 57.5 per cent of the world’s largest copper mine, the Escondida operation in Chile.

This complements BHP’s copper assets in Australia (Olympic Dam) and the United States (Resolution), the latter of which it shares with Rio Tinto.

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