BHP Billiton Approved $990m Copper Project in Chile

BHP Billiton today announced the approval of the US$990 million Spence Copper Project in northern Chile. The project will have a designed capacity to produce 200,000 tonnes of copper cathode per annum and will have a mine life of 19 years. First cathode production is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2006.

Project development will consist of the construction of a new open-cut mine with associated infrastructure, a 50k tonne per day crushing circuit, two separate leach pads, two parallel solvent extraction (SX) plants and an electrowinning (EW) circuit to produce copper cathode.

BHP Billiton President Base Metals Diego Hernandez said, “Spence is the best undeveloped copper orebody known in the world today. Its large reserves, low operating cost structure and high return potential will enable it to operate as one of the world’s top tier mines. Its proximity to critical infrastructure such as power, water and road and rail transportation will facilitate development and improve the associated economic returns. We are excited about its prospects and its future contribution to BHP Billiton.”

The Spence orebody consists of both copper sulphide and oxide ores that will be mined from one open-cut mine but processed separately in order to achieve higher recovery rates. The chemical leaching of oxide ores and bacterial leaching of sulphide ores will be conducted on separate leach pads, with the resulting solutions sent to separate oxide and sulphide SX plants. The resulting solutions from the SX plants will then be treated in a single EW plant to produce copper cathode.

Mr Hernandez said, “This project, which enjoys investment protection under the DL 600 Foreign Investment Statute in Chile, continues to demonstrate our commitment to develop our world class projects and operations in Chile, where we have a long-established track record as a responsible corporate citizen.”

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