- Antofagasta said Thursday it was granted approval to expand its Los Pelambres mine with first production expected in the second half of 2021.

The expansion of the Los Pelambres mine, which is 60% owned by Antofagasta and 40% owned by consortiums led by JX Nippon and Mitsubishi, would add an average of 60,000 tonnes of copper a year to the mine's production over the first 15 years of operation, Antofagasta said.

The expansion would boost annual copper production from 40,000 tonnes in the first year at the expanded throughput to 70,000 tonnes towards the end of a 15 year period, the miner said.

Construction of the $1.3bn expansion would start at the beginning of 2019 and first production was expected in the second half of 2021, it added. Throughput at the plant would be increased from the current capacity of 175,000 tonnes of ore per day to an average of 190,000 tonnes of ore per day.

The capital cost of the project also included $500m for a desalination plant and water pipeline.

'The expansion of our world-class Los Pelambres mine is an important step forward in the advancement of the Group's organic growth pipeline. The expansion project will add 60,000 tonnes a year of low cost copper production at this long-life operation and will ensure that it remains a first quartile producer for many years to come,' said Ivan Arriagada, the CEO of Antofagasta.

'The project includes the construction of a desalination plant and water pipeline which will also benefit the existing operation in cases of prolonged or severe drought, and for a potential further phase of expansion.'

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