The Chilean environmental authority has approved the expansion of the Spence copper mine, which would amount to an investment of about $2.5 billion. The execution decision, however, will have to wait until August, according to El Mercurio. The new expansion includes the construction of a concentrator plant to increase production and extend the life of the deposit about 20 years. The Committee on Environmental Assessment (CEA) of Antofagasta decided unanimously to approve the BHP initiative. Environmental approval of Spence’s expansion could pave the way for its execution.
Spence is part of BHP Billiton’s Pampa Norte division in the Atacama Desert, which also includes Cerro Colorado. During 2016, Spence and Cerro Colorado produced 174,000 metric tons (mt) and 77,000 mt, respectively, of high-quality copper cathode, using oxide and sulphide ore treatment through leaching, solvent extraction and electrowinning processes. Spence is BHP’s second largest mine in Chile after Escondida