(Adds forecast, quotes from CEO and vice president)
By Fabian Cambero
SANTIAGO, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Chile’s state-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, reported on Friday a fall of 57% in its pre-tax earnings to September because of heavy rains, an extensive strike at its flagship Chuquicamata mine in northern Chile and lower metal prices.
Codelco, which turns over all its profits to the Chilean state, said it produced 1.12 million tonnes of copper from January to September, which represents a fall of 6.66% in relation to the same period of the previous year.
The company’s cash production cost was $1.43 per pound, up 2.9% from the same period the previous year, it said.
Codelco’s CEO Oscar Araneda told a press conference at its headquarters in Santiago that the company was looking to trim $8 billion from an ambitious, $40 billion 10-year overhaul of its ageing mines.
“We are at a crucial moment in our history: it is incumbent on us that we transform so we can continue to contribute to the progress of Chile for at least 50 more years,” said Araneda.
Alejandro Rivera, the company’s financial vice president, said an end to the U.S.-China trade war would help lift copper prices.
“We hope that once that trade crisis is resolved, the copper price should return to significantly higher prices than we’re seeing at present,” he said. “We don’t yet know when that will be but we hope next year will be better.”
Araneda said that so far, Codelco’s production had not been significantly affected by the more than six weeks of protests over inequality that have gripped the country, weakening the peso, damaged public infrastructure and leaving 26 dead and thousands more injured.
He said the most significant impact had been the build-up of inventory because of delays at ports, where workers have gone on strike several times in solidarity with the protests. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero; writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)