Codelco, a Chilean copper giant, has approved US$1.38 billion construction costs for its Rajo Inca structural project. According to Roskill, this project forms part of Coldelco’s Salvador division which comprises copper mines and processing facilities in the Atacama region of Chile.
The Rajo Inca project will extend the life of the division by at least 40 years, otherwise operations at Salvador were predicted to end in 2021.
At the outset, the Rajo Inca project will mean the transformation of existing underground operations at the Indio Muerto deposit to an open pit. This is necessary in order to exploit the remaining 796Mt of reserves (at 0.59% Cu).
In 2019, copper production from Salvador totalled 50,561t with similar figures expected for 2020. Production at Rajo Inca will commence in the second half of 2022 with 90,000t of copper produced from the first half of 2023.
State-run Codelco operates seven mines and four smelters and was responsible for almost 30% of Chilean copper production in 2019.
Additional projects in progress at Chuquicamata and El Teniente will extend production life of these mines by over 40 years each and add over 2bn tons of reserves at El Teniente. Work on the El Teniente new mine level and the Chuquicamata underground project was temporarily suspended earlier in 2020 due to lower prices and COVID-19 operational issues.
Salvador contributed less than 3% of Codelco’s total copper output and will remain the smallest of its operations even with the Rajo Inca development. However, the extended life of the Salvador division to 2065, together with the existing projects at Chuquicamata, El Teniente and Andina, will secure more than half of Codelco’s current production rates until at least 2055.
In December 2020, Roskill published its Copper Demand to 2030, 2nd Edition report.