SANTIAGO, May 12, 2010 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) -- Chilean state copper giant Corporacion Nacional del Cobre is seeking a small open-pit operation at its El Teniente division, but it still needs approval from its board of directors to go ahead with project, the company said Wednesday.
Codelco, as the miner is known, obtained approval from environmental authorities for the $179 million project that would produce about 30,000 metric tons of copper a year.
The El Teniente division, located about 80 kilometers south of Santiago, high in the Andes mountains, houses the underground mine of the same name and copper-refining facilities. The mine has more than 2,400 kilometers of tunnels.
"For the first time in its 105-year history, the biggest underground mine in the world will exploit surface sectors like other Codelco mines such as Chuquicamata and Andina do," the company said in a statement.
The project, called Rajo Sur, will contribute to maintaining El Teniente's production as ore grades in the underground mine continue drop after over a century of producing copper.