Freeport-McMoRan is resuming some project development activity that was placed on hold in late 2008 due to collapsing copper prices. Possible restart of curtailed production at its existing operations is under review; however, Freeport President and CEO Richard Adkerson said during a conference call announcing the company’s third-quarter 2009 financial results, a return to full-scale production would require evidence of recovery in copper demand in the United States and Europe, and that evidence has not yet been seen.
At its El Abra Sulfolix project in Chile, Freeport is resuming construction activities associated with the development with the large sulphide ore deposit that underlies the current oxide open-pit. A new leach pad and modifications to the existing crushing plant are included among these activities. Production of about 300 million lb/y of copper from sulphide ore is expected to replace current oxide copper production, which will decline over the next several years. Capital investment for the project is expected to total $600 million through 2015, including $450 million for the initial phase, which is expected to be completed in 2012. The project will extend El Abra mine life by more than 10 years.
At Cerro Verde in Peru, Freeport has commenced a project to optimize concentrator operations that is expected to increase plant throughput from 108,000 mt/d to 120,000 mt/d, resulting in an incremental production increase of about 30 million lb/y of copper. Capital investment for this project is expected to total approximately $50 million. Freeport is also continuing to study the potential for a major expansion at Cerro Verde.
In Arizona, USA, Freeport is initiating activities to restart production at the historic Miami mine. Among other benefits, these activities will improve efficiencies of the ongoing reclamation projects associated with past mining at the site. Over about five years of renewed mining operations, Freeport expects to ramp up production to about 100 million lb/y of copper. This project was initially expected to require a $100 million investment; however, Freeport intends to transfer existing mining equipment from other North American sites to reduce the investment in the project to about $40 million.