February 2010

Construction starts at the Antamina mine expansion

Andean operation to elevate production

By M. Eisner


The Antamina mine, high in the Andes of north-central Peru, began commercial production in 2001. 

Teck Resources Limited reported that work has begun on the US$1.3 billion expansion project at Antamina’s Peruvian open pit copper and zinc mine. When the project is completed, the mine, already one of the world’s largest, will produce 130,000 tonnes of metal ore per day, up from the current 94,000 tonnes.

“Benefits will start to roll in by late 2011, with construction continuing into 2012,” says Greg Waller, the vice-president of Investor Relations and Strategic Analysis at Teck. The company owns a 22.5 per cent interest in Compañía Minera Antamina, the Peruvian joint venture it shares with BHP Billiton, Xstrata and Mitsubishi.

At the front end, construction includes a new SAG mill for a two-line operation and a fourth ball mill to allow for the handling of more ore. Improvements along the processing chain include a new power line installed to accommodate additional flotation cells and upgrades for water usage and tailings management.

“The concentrate flows to the port by a pipeline, so we’ll have to put some upgrades at the port,” explains Waller. Three shovels and 64 new haul trucks in the 250-tonne class will be brought in to handle the increased ore load. The existing truck shop will be expanded to handle the extra maintenance requirements.

“This is a big expansion,” he adds. “It is a good time for the extra purchases since capital spending in the industry has turned down. There is some flexibility on the supply side that allows us to acquire the equipment we need in the time frame we require.”

During the construction phase of the project, 8.5 million employment hours will be created, says Waller. At its peak, there will be 2,700 additional people in the construction workforce. The mine already employs 1,860 people directly and 1,600 contractors. When the expansion is finished, there will be approximately 500 new, permanent positions. “All these numbers just emphasize what a large mine this is to begin with,” says Waller.

The expansion will be funded from Compañía Minera cash flow and borrowings. Teck expects its share of Compañía Minera distributions to be reduced by no more than C$100 million.

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