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Freeport Considers 'Major' Chile Investment After Copper Find
Apr 8,2010 08:47CST
industry news

April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. is considering a "major" investment after finding more copper near its El Abra mine in Chile, Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson said.

Freeport and Codelco, its partner in the El Abra venture, are doing early exploration work on a new resource next to the mine, Adkerson said in an interview.

"There is a significant resource there," Adkerson said yesterday in Santiago. "It would be a major investment."

Phoenix-based Freeport will spend $100 million this year to explore for copper and gold after cutting back on investments in 2009 amid concern over the world economy, Adkerson said. Freeport is still cautious about the recoveries in the U.S. and Europe, he said.

"We're not just throwing on the on switch and going full blast," he said. "There's no assurance yet about the timing and extent of recovery in the developed world economies."

El Abra in Chile's Atacama Desert produces 500 million pounds (226,800 metric tons) of copper a year now, according to the company's Web site. Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, holds 49 percent of the mine project and Freeport, the No. 2 copper miner, owns the rest.

There is also a "potential" to discover another copper deposit near the company's Grasberg copper and gold mine in Indonesia, Adkerson said. Grasberg is the world's largest gold mine and the second-largest in copper after BHP Billiton Ltd.'s Escondida mine in Chile.

Separately, Adkerson said he's "confident" that Freeport can reach an accord with the Democratic Republic of Congo to develop its Tenke project. Tenke will have the capacity to produce as much as 500,000 tons of copper a year, he said.

"We have very positive discussions ongoing and we're confident we can reach an agreement," he said.

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