Minera Escondida inaugurated its third copper concentrate plant, the $4.2 billion Organic Growth Project One facility, at a ceremony carried out on-site. Organic Growth Project One will add 152 kilotons per day (kt/d) to the capacity of Escondida’s two existing concentrators, giving the operation copper processing capacity more than any other mine at 422 kt/d.

“The plant that we inaugurated today follows a project that required 60 million man-hours and involved 9,200 people during its peak construction period. This project has been a huge challenge, but was completed with an excellent safety record,” said the president of Minera Escondida, Hilmar Rode.

With the operation of Organic Growth Project One, plus the completion of the second desalination plant the company is building at Puerto Coloso, Escondida has the potential to operate with three concentrators in the medium term. This will offset the natural ore grade decline and will contribute to the recovery of production in the medium term.

President of BHP Billiton Minerals Americas Daniel Malchuk recalled that throughout its 25 years of operation, Escondida has increased its processing capacity by more than 10 times and copper production has almost quadrupled.

“We have just completed the Organic Growth Project One concentrator plant and we continue to invest in the Kelar gas-fired power plant and the Puerto Coloso desalination plant,” he said. “We continue to work hard and look toward the future with optimism.”

In 2015, Minera Escondida’s copper production was 1.15 million metric tons, (mt) which consisted of 826,220 mt of copper contained in concentrate and 326,290 mt of copper cathodes. Escondida average production capacity is expected to be approximately 1.2 million metric tons per year for a decade from financial year 2016, with minimal further capital required.