SANTIAGO - Chile's State-run Codelco, the world's largest copper producer, produced 172 000 fewer tonnes of copper in 2022, chairman Maximo Pacheco said on Tuesday, marking a roughly 10% drop from output in 2021.
Speaking to an association of engineers in Santiago, Pacheco said 77% of the reduction was due to problems with operations while 23% was due to project delays.
"We've had an extraordinarily eventful year," Pacheco said, noting a collapse in the company's Chuquicamata mine and a landslide at its Ministro Hales mine.
There were a number of high-profile accidents at several Codelco mines in 2022, with some resulting in fatalities, forcing the company to suspend operations. Pacheco said Codelco was working to improve safety, but he did not provide details.
Codelco produced an estimated 1.446-million tonnes of copper in 2022, compared to 1.618-million tonnes in 2021. Other copper giants in Chile, like Antofagasta, also reported drops in production in 2022, blaming lower ore grades and a drought.
Pachecho also said the investment plan for the El Teniente mine was $5.6-billion, which is 75% over budget compared to initial estimates. The Traspaso Andina project was also 21% over budget, reaching $1.7-billion.
He also said the $1.4-billion Rajo Inca project is being revised and is 16 months behind schedule, with an expected production start in the first half of 2024.
In regards to a planned state-run lithium company, Pacheco said that drill samples from the Maricunga salt flats, the country's second-richest area for lithium, had "very positive" results in terms of depth and concentration, but he did not provide more specifics.
"It's a salt flat that has to be developed by one or very few (companies)," Pacheco told reporters. "We're very optimistic about Codelco's position in the salt flat."