Minera Escondida will invest $180 million to expand operations at the Los Colorados concentrator, which currently processes 100,000 metric tons per day (mt/d). The project, referred to as the Extension of Los Colorados, will essentially enable the mine to operate three copper concentrators simultaneously.

According to the company, this initiative is important in its long-term strategy, as it will increase the processing capacity for Escondida considerably. This will help compensate for the decline in ore grade to sustain production levels at an average of about 1.2 million mt of fine copper annually over the next 10 years.

Los Colorados was the first concentrator plant used by Escondida to begin operations back in 1990, and the current project involves the repair of this facility, which was shut down earlier this year. This concentrator will join the other two plants, Laguna Seca and the recently opened OGP1. BHP estimated that Los Colorados will begin operating in mid-2017, at about the same time as the company’s second desalination plant at Puerto Coloso comes online.

Nestled high in Chile’s arid Atacama desert, Esondida produced 1.15 million mt of copper in 2015.