Xstrata Copper has received approval from the company’s board to proceed with a $293-million investment to increase the life of its Lomas Bayas mine in Chile by eight years through the development of the Fortuna del Cobre satellite ore deposit, 3 km from the existing operation. The project, known as Lomas Bayas II, will extend the Lomas Bayas mine life to 2020 and sustain production capacity at the recently expanded rate of 75,000 mt/y of copper cathode.

Construction of the Lomas Bayas II project is planned to start in the first quarter of 2010 and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2012.

Xstrata acquired Lomas Bayas in August 2006 when it acquired Falconbridge. The mine is located in the Atacama Desert, 120 km east of the Port of Antofagasta. The mine’s oxide copper ores are low-grade, fast-leaching, and require low acid consumption. Higher-grade ore is crushed and leached in heaps. The lowest-grade ore is sent directly from the mine to dump leach. Copper is recovered by solvent extraction and electrowinning to produce high-quality cathodes. Cathodes are transported by truck to Antofagasta for shipment to overseas customers.