Chile Congress gives green light to Codelco capitalization
SANTIAGO Oct 23 (Reuters) - Chile's Congress approved late Wednesday the government's capitalization plan for Codelco, which will see the state copper firm receive $4 billion over the next five years to help fund an ambitious investment program.
The Chilean government announced in August that it planned to give Codelco, the world's biggest copper producer, around $3 billion via treasury-issued debt and around $1 billion from returned profits.
"We have seen cross-party support for a bill that modernizes our main mining company," said Finance Minister Alberto Arenas after the approval.
"We hope that this investment plan in our mining also stimulates the development of new investments in the private sector."
The measure received overwhelming approval in the lower house on Wednesday after having been amended in the senate, which had added a clause saying that Codelco must report back to Congress annually on the progress of its investment plan.
Codelco, which also issues its own debt, plans to spend around $23 billion through 2018 to upgrade its aging deposits to counteract falling ore grades.
Planned projects include a $6.8 billion expansion of its Andina mine near Santiago, which faces strong community opposition, and a $4.2 billion conversion of open-pit Chuquicamata to an underground mine.
In an interview this week, the company's chairman said the company promised to reveal soon the results of a project review and whether there would be any delays to plans.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien and Fabian Cambero; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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