On December 2, 2010, Brazil’s Vale officially inaugurated operations at its Tres Valles copper project in Chile. Located 316 km north of Santiago at Salamanca in Chile’s Region IV, Tres Valles is Vale’s first mining project in Chile. The project will have capacity to produce 18,500 mt/y of electro-won copper cathodes when it reaches full production in 2012. Mine life is currently estimated at 11 years.

Pre-production capital to develop the project totaled $140 million. Vale intends to invest all operating revenue from the project in new mineral exploration in the Andean region of Chile.

Vale began its activities at Tres Valles in 2005 with exploration that led to the discovery of the Papomono and Don Gabriel mineral deposits. Papomono has been developed as an underground mine and is supplying initial ore to the plant. Don Gabriel will be an open-pit mine, with pre-stripping scheduled to begin in 2011. The plant includes a bioleaching system in its hydrometallurgical process.