SANTIAGO, May 03, 2010 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, located in northern Chile, produced 245,562 metric tons of copper in the first quarter of the 2010, which represented a 5% increase from its output in the same period a year ago, the mining company said Monday.
The jump in copper production was the result of increased concentrate output due to higher ore grades and the ramping up to full capacity of the mine's Laguna Seca concentrator plant, which suffered a malfunction last year, Escondida said in a statement.
During the quarter, Escondida produced 182,638 tons of copper contained in concentrates and 62,924 tons of copper cathodes. Concentrate production surged 17% on the year, while that of cathodes--large sheets of 99.99% pure copper--dropped 20%.
The reduced cathode output was due to production stoppages to ensure security at the cathode plants, the company said.
In the quarter, Escondida's income from sales surged 82.5% to $2 billion on a 111% jump in average copper prices. In the first quarter of 2010, copper averaged $3.29 a pound on the London Metal Exchange, versus the $1.56 it fetched in the January-March 2009.
Escondida posted a net profit of $1.03 billion, almost three times the $394 million net profit it saw in the first quarter of 2009.
Escondida is controlled and operated by diversified global miner BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP, BHP.AU), which has a 57.5% stake. Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto PLC (RTP, RIO.LN) holds 30% of Escondida, with an additional 10% held by a Japanese consortium led by Mitsubishi Corp. (MSBHY, 8058.TO), and the remaining 2.5% by International Finance Corp., the private-sector unit of the World Bank.
The Japanese consortium recently agreed to buy the IFC's 2.5% stake and the transaction is expected to close by the end of this month.