* Caserones may face fund shortage if losses continue
* Mitsui’s April-June net profit falls 37 pct
* Expects iron ore prices to remain under pressure (Adds more quotes and background)
TOKYO, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Japan’s Mitsui & Co Ltd said the Caserones copper mine in Chile was currently running at around 80 percent utilisation, a company executive said on Wednesday.
That’s the same level that Caserones was running at in March, Mitsui’s partner in the mine JX Holdings Inc said in May. JX also said at the time that it aims to reach near full utilisation at Caserones by the end of September.
Output at Caserones has been behind schedule since it started producing in May 2014. The mine booked a 28 billion yen ($277 million) loss for the year ending in March and may post a 17 billion yen loss for this financial year, JX said in May.
Asked whether the mine may face a funding shortfall, Mitsui’s Chief Financial Officer Keigo Matsubara said it would be possible if the losses continue.
“We may need to take measures with our partners,” he said at Mitsui’s earnings press conference on Wednesday, without elaborating.
Caserones is 77.37 percent-owned by Japan’s Pan Pacific Copper, a joint venture between JX and Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co Ltd. Mitsui holds the remainder.
Mitsui booked an impairment loss of 25.5 billion yen ($253 million) on Caserones in the January to March quarter due to slumping metal prices and the slow ramp up.
JX has said it aims to more than double the mine’s output to 137,000 tonnes in the year to March 2017.
For the April to June quarter, Mitsui reported a 37 percent drop in net profit to 61 billion yen as a prolonged slump in commodities prices hurt its earnings from its energy and metals assets.
Mitsui expects the global copper market will start to see a supply shortage from around 2019, Matsubara said.
Mitsui, which has a large exposure of iron ore assets, predicts iron ore prices, which have recovered more than it had expected in recent months, will likely remain under pressure as oversupply will continue through 2019, Matsubara said.
$1 = 100.9500 yen Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Christian Schmollinger