* First 22,000 tonne cargo left South America earlier this month
* Chinese smelter Tongling Nonferrous to take delivery in late Feb (Adds comment from Tongling Nonferrous in paragraphs 5 and 6)
QUITO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Ecuador made its first export of 22,000 tonnes of copper concentrate from the Chinese-owned Mirador mine, the energy ministry said on Wednesday, marking a new milestone in the country’s effort to develop a large-scale mining industry.
Ecuador, an Andean country neighboring No. 2 copper producer Peru, has large mineral reserves but is only beginning to establish industrial-scale mining projects.
Mirador is run by Ecuacorriente, a subsidiary of the Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan, which has a 30-year concession. It started production in July 2019.
The shipment of copper concentrate has a value of about 25 million dollars, according to the ministry, and was transported to the Port of Guayaquil and then by sea to the Chinese city of Tongling.
Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group, one of China’s top copper smelters and a partner in Mirador，will take delivery of the concentrate shipment in late February at the port of Tongling on the Yangtze River, an official from the Chinese firm said on Thursday，adding that the cargo left Ecuador on Jan. 6.
The project will supply Tongling Nonferrous, based in eastern China’s Anhui province, with around 96,000 tonnes annually of copper concentrate, on a metal content basis, for 30 years, he added.
Mirador, located in the Zamora Chinchipe province in Ecuador’s Amazon, foresees a total investment of more than $2 billion during the concession period. The Chinese company has paid some $100 million in early royalties to the Ecuadoran government.
The CRCC-Tongguan consortium bought the company with the concession for the open-pit mine under former leftist President Rafael Correa, who deepened Ecuador’s economic ties with China.
Environmental groups and local authorities have opposed mining activity in the country and are promoting popular consultation in some mineral-rich areas to prohibit their development and reverse concessions already granted to foreign companies.
Ecuador has other projects in the advanced exploration phase such as Cascabel, awarded to Australia’s SolGold, and the Llurimagua project, which will be operated by Ecuadoran state mining company Enami and Chile’s Codelco. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; additional reporting by Tom Daly in Beijing; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)