By AJOY K. DAS

State-run Hindustan Copper Ltd. (HCL), India’s sole integrated copper producer, has upped its projection of copper ore production to 20.2 million tons over the next five years from 12.4 million tons.

HCL has earmarked capital expenditure of an estimated $797 million to achieve the higher projected copper ore production, Chairman Santosh Sharma said. He said that HCL had achieved a production of 4.12 million tons during fiscal year 2018-2019, the highest ever by the company in the last 21 years, with a growth of 12% over production in the previous fiscal year.

According to Sharma, bulk of incremental copper ore production over the next five years would come from HCL’s flagship operational mines at Malanjkhand in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.The Malanjkhand Copper Project (MCP) produced 2.54 million tons of copper ore during fiscal year 2018-2019, accounting for more than 50% of HCL’s total ore production during the year.

Given the considerable reserves available at Malanjkhand mines, HCL has already started constructing an underground mine below existing open-cast mines, which would add additional 5 million tons of copper ore to the company’s total production over the next five years.

At MCP, the company completed sinking of a service shaft up to 665.5 meters and a production shaft up to 693 meters, and development of north and south declines of the underground mines 2,648 meters and 1,695 meters, respectively, by the end of June and the mine was ready to start production through the decline route, Sharma said.

Dwelling on the domestic copper market, Sharma said India’s refined copper production during 2018-2019 had fallen to 457,000 tons against 765,000 tons during the previous fiscal year. He pegged the domestic demand for the non-ferrous metal at 700,000 tons and expected it to grow 10% annually over the next five years.