MMG Ltd. reported in mid-October that construction at the Las Bambas copper project in the Apurimac region of south-central Peru was 75% complete at the end of September and that first concentrate production is now expected in the first quarter of 2016. Capital expenditure required to complete the project is now forecast to be in the range of $2.7 billion to $3.2 billion.

Las Bambas is one of the world’s largest copper projects currently under construction. MMG led a consortium owned 62.5% by MMG, 22.5% by Guoxin International Investment Corp., and 15% by Citic Metal Co. that purchased the project from Glencore Xstrata in a transaction that was announced in April and completed on August 1. The project was more than 60% complete at the end of April.

Project development during August and September focused primarily on construction of the processing plant, primary crusher, overland conveyor, and key surface infrastructure, including tailings facilities, power lines, mine access and mine maintenance facilities.

In its October project update, MMG said several factors had impacted the project schedule and estimated capital expenditure. Among these were a shortage of skilled labor in Peru to fill temporary construction roles and changes in the project scope, including the design of the tailings dam.

Also, relocation of the Fuerabamba community to the new town of Nueva Fuerabama had run somewhat behind schedule. The new town has 441 houses for the same number of families.

The community began relocating in September and as of mid-October, approximately one-third of the community had moved. Amenities in the new town include a health center, school, chapel, and community hall for meetings; market and green areas; and a home for the elderly.

Las Bambas development includes a large, open-pit mining operation and a conventional concentrator with capacity to process about 140,000 mt/d of ore. At the time of the sale agreement in April, production was forecast at more than 400,000 mt/y of copper in concentrate during the first five years of full production. However, MMG has yet to confirm that projection. Production will also include gold and silver byproducts in the copper concentrate and a separate molybdenum concentrate.