SANTIAGO, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The expansion of Chilean state-run copper company Codelco's El Teniente underground mine has fallen 24 to 36 months behind schedule, chief executive Nelson Pizarro said on Friday.
Pizarro, who took over the helm at the world No. 1 copper producer earlier this year, added that the El Teniente expansion will require $2 billion more than initially planned.
Regarding the copper market, Pizarro forecast improved prices for the industrial metal as of the second half of 2016.
Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange CMCU3 firmed 0.98 percent to $6,377 a tonne by 1028 GMT, but was still heading for losses of nearly 2 percent for the week.
For the year, copper is down some 13 percent on worries the market is heading towards surplus after several years of deficit, and on slowing economic growth in China, which consumes nearly half the world's copper. (Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta; Writing by Anthony Esposito)