Codelco reported on Novovember 19, 2010 it has approved construction of its new $2.2-billion Ministro Hales open-pit copper mine in the Antofagasta region of northern Chile. The project represents the largest single investment in the history of the company. Project development is expected to take 36 months, and at full production the mine will produce 163,000 mt/y of copper.

A new division within Codelco, the Ministro Hales Division, has been formed to take responsibility for the mine, and Codelco has authorized spending of $133.4 million for development of the project before the end of 2010.

Juan Medel, general manager of the new division, said the Ministro Hales deposit hosts 1.3 billion mt of resources at an average grade of 0.96% copper. The initial stage of development is based on mining of 289 million mt from an open-pit mine over a period of 14 years. Subsequent underground mining could extend the life of the mine to more than 50 years.