July 7, LONDON (Dow Jones)--Southern Peru will become the biggest division in Xstrata Copper when a number of brownfield and greenfield projects are up and running, its chief executive told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.
Charlie Sartain said the first of these is an expansion at Antamina, slated to be completed in the first half of 2012, followed by the $1.47 billion development of the Antapaccay copper project in the second half of that year, announced earlier Wednesday.
The $4.2 billion Las Bambas project is located in neighboring Apurimac region and, provided all permits are approved, is scheduled for startup in the second half of 2014.
Las Bambas will use some of the infrastructure in place at Tintaya and Antapaccay, including the transport of concentrates by road and railroad and port facilities.
"We're capitalizing on very strong organic growth pipelines across the commodities business unit, and are looking to achieve a 50% uplift in our copper production in the next four years," Sartain said. "One of the reasons we're investing is that we have a strong belief in the fundamentals of the copper market, and see ongoing strength in the market over the next two to three years," he added.
Production at the Southern Peru operations will reach between 650,000 metric tons and 700,000 tons out of a total 1.5 million tons of copper by 2014, Sartain said, making it the largest copper-producing segment.
Xstrata Copper is a division of Swiss-based, London-listed mining company Xstrata PLC (XTA.LN).
The development program is part of a companywide strategy to take its existing exploration projects further, Sartain said. "The project development program is very much a focus for us and what you'll see in the growth story of Xstrata going forward, but that's not to say that we wouldn't look to take advantage of merger and acquisition opportunities as they arose," he added.
The go-ahead for Antapaccay, which will use existing Tintaya infrastructure, enables Xstrata to move forward to the development phase, Sartain said.
"This is an important brownfield expansion of the existing Tintaya operation which had been, post-our acquisition of it, a relatively short life operation through to about 2012. It's allowing us to significantly expand the production of the operation and extend the mine life by at least 20 years so it sets a very important platform for even further growth in the Southern Peru division," he added.
There's potential to expand in the immediate vicinity at Antapaccay itself, Sartain said, while the nearby Coroccohuayco deposit is a high grade deposit which has the potential to add further to the orefeed into the Antapaccay copper concentrator.
"What we're doing is upgrading the size of the concentrator facility at Tintaya and replacing it with a completely new concentrator processing 70,000 tons a day of ore from around 20,000 tons daily, so it's a substantial increase in scale of the business we have there," Sartain said. "That's enabling us to scale up the throughputs and the production from the area by about 60% up to an average of about 160,000 tons a year," he added.
Cash costs will fall from around $1.40 a pound at Tintaya to around 90 cents/lb, including 20 cents/lb in gold credits.