Codelco has awarded an $83-million contract to Hatch for a feasibility study and basic engineering work for its Chuquicamata Underground project in northern Chile. The underground mine is currently envisioned to produce about 140,000 mt/d. Codelco estimates total costs to develop the project at about $2 billion.
The Hatch contract represents Codelco’s largest-ever feasibility engineering project. The feasibility and basic engineering work are expected to take about 36 months to complete, with project construction to begin in late 2012. A production start is currently planned for 2018. Copper production is expected to total 340,000 mt/y.
Hatch will focus on basic engineering for the development of access works, environmental studies, human resources, management models, mineral handling, permanent infrastructure, processes, services and supplies, shafts, tunnels, and ventilation works. The mining method has not yet been selected. Both block caving and panel caving are receiving consideration. Among other objectives, Codelco expects Chuquicamata underground production costs to come in between the lowest and second-lowest quartiles among world copper producers.
With its decision to advance Chuquicamata Underground to the feasibility and basic engineering stage, Codelco now has four major development projects progressing toward construction starts: Chuquicamata Underground; phase two development at Andina; the new Ministro Hales mine; and a new block cave production level at El Teniente. When the four projects are in simultaneous construction beginning in late 2012, Codelco expects to be spending $7 million per day for development costs. When the four projects are complete, Codelco will have assured on-going copper production from its mines for decades to come.
At Andina, Codelco is investing $4.6 billion to expand production by 350,000 mt/y. Project completion is scheduled for 2015. At Ministro Hales, Codelco is investing $1.6 billion to bring in a new mine that will produce 170,000 mt/y of copper, with startup estimated for 2013. At El Teniente, Codelco is investing $1.5 billion to develop a new block cave production level that will produce about 430,000 mt/y of copper, with startup estimated for mid-2017.
During its operating history, El Teniente has been mined by block caving ore to two production levels: first to the Sewell level at an elevation of 2,280 m beginning in 1920 and currently to the Colon Alto level at an elevation of 1,980 m beginning in 1968. The new “Confluencia” level will be at an elevation of 1,500 m and will access about 2.5 billion mt of reserves, grading 0.84% copper and containing about 20 million mt of copper. Development of the new level will require driving 65 km of tunnels. Two parallel tunnels, each 9.4 km long, will be driven to service the mine, one for buses to carry workers to and from the mine and the other for ore haulage.