UPDATE 2-Escalating costs weigh on copper miner Antofagasta
* Announces 31.5 percent increase in interim dividend
* H1 EBITDA down 11.5 pct to $1.13 bln vs forecast $1.22 bln
* Shares fall almost 4 percent (Adds analyst, CEO comments, detail, background)
By Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Escalating production costs and weaker copper prices took their toll on Chilean copper miner Antofagasta in the first half of this year, with its core profit sliding 11.5 percent.
Like its peers, Antofagasta is battling falling copper grades and higher output costs, and is spending billions on projects to replace ageing mines and boost capacity.
Containing costs is proving tough, however, and the miner said it was implementing moves aimed at cutting them, including merging its Esperanza and El Tesoro mines into a single operation called Centinela. It did not give a savings target.
"We expect costs to remain Antofagasta's main challenge going forward," Bernstein analysts said in a research note.
Antofagasta's first-half core profit, or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), came in at $1.13 billion, below analysts' average forecast of $1.22 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Continuación...