Operators scan plant control screens during the early stages of production at KGHM’s new Sierra Gorda mine in Chile. (Photo:KGHM) Operators scan plant control screens during the early stages of production at KGHM’s new Sierra Gorda mine in Chile. (Photo:KGHM)

KGHM announced on July 1 that phase one of the Sierra Gorda open-pit copper-molybdenum mine in the Antofagasta region of northern Chile has been operating for more than 60 days at 65% of its designed capacity. The project had been fully handed over to the operating personnel, and all major expenditures had been incurred to bring the mine to the condition necessary for a declaration of commercial production.

Simultaneously with reaching commercial production of copper concentrates, Sierra Gorda’s molybdenum plant began delivering molybdenum concentrates to Chilean concentrates processor Molymet to be converted into standard molybdenum oxide, briquettes and ferromolybdenum.

Sierra Gorda SCM is a joint venture between KGHM (55%), Sumitomo Metal Mining (31.5%) and Sumitomo Corp. (13.5%). Concentrator operations started in July 2014, and the project has been ramping up since that time. At designed capacity, phase one of the project will produce 120,000 metric tons per year (mt/y) of copper, 50 million lb/y of molybdenum and 60,000 oz/y of gold in concentrates. Copper concentrates are transported by rail to a newly opened facility at the port of Antofagasta for shipping to smelters around the world.

A second phase of Sierra Gorda project development is being planned, with production expected to average 220,000 mt/y of copper, 25 million lb/y of molybdenum, and 64,000 oz/y of gold in concentrates over a mine life of 20 years.

Sierra Gorda operates using sea water from the cooling systems of a power plant in the town of Mejillones. Instead of being recycled to the sea, the water is pumped to the mine through a 142.6-km pipeline, ensuring an exceptionally efficient and ecological water procurement system.

 

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