Codelco looks to blend copper concentrate as Chile mine woes continue -sources
By Polly Yam
HONG KONG Aug 12 (Reuters) - Chile's Codelco plans to blend high-arsenic copper concentrate from its Ministro Hales mine with third-party material for sale in China, two sources said, the world's No. 1 copper producer's latest effort to resolve problems with its newest mine.
In a deal agreed with British copper concentrate trader Ocean Partners, Codelco is taking the unusual step of buying clean, standard concentrate and mixing it with material from Ministro Hales at Ocean Partners' blending facility in Taiwan, the sources familiar with the move said.
The first blended concentrate shipment is due to arrive in China by the end of this month, they said. Chile's state-owned copper miner plans to use the mixing facilities for at least two to three years, but could extend that, one source said.
The move comes after the company was forced to cancel some sales to Chinese smelters after problems with equipment at Ministro Hales curbed output.
Codelco told Reuters last month that the roaster, which was installed to remove arsenic from the ore, was operating at 90 percent capacity following launch in December last year. It aims to get Ministro Hales operating at full capacity by September.
But the deal also suggests that the miner is looking for a long-term solution to deal with high arsenic levels in ore from the mine, an issue which has vexed management for some time.
It represents a bold shift in strategy for the company, which to date has mainly used output from its vast resources in Chile, and also underscores the complexity of modern mining as ore grades decline.
Ministro Hales has been a key part of Codelco's ambitious investment strategy, which in the next stage will plough $23 billion to overhaul older mines with depleted ore grades and launch new projects by 2018. Continuación...