SANTIAGO, June 24 (Reuters) - World No. 1 copper producer Codelco will officially open its newest mine, Ministro Hales, in the coming months, after fixes on a problematic production unit, a source close to the company told Reuters on Wednesday.
Ministro Hales in northern Chile began mining at the end of 2013 but its ramp-up to full production has been slowed by problems at a roaster, designed to reduce levels of arsenic in the copper ore to make it ready for use in traditional smelters.
Codelco first admitted the problem last July, and said in March this year that it was still having issues. The delay has affected sales to key copper buyer China.
However, the roaster, made by Finland’s Outotec, is now working at its design capacity, said the source.
“The focus of attention is to ensure operational continuity in order to reach an optimal performance of the entire roaster complex,” said the source, adding that the progress made would allow the project to be officially inaugurated “in coming months”.
Ministro Hales, which produced 141,200 tonnes of copper last year, is a key part of the state miner’s ambitious multi-year plan to revamp older projects and build new ones to keep production rising. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, Writing by Rosalba O‘Brien; Editing by David Gregorio)