Spence Growth Option project, Chile – update

Image of the Spence copper/molybdenum project

Image by BHP

20th May 2022

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
Spence Growth Option (SGO) project.

Spence copper mine, in the Atacama desert, northern Chile.

Project Owner/s
Multinational mining company BHP.

Project Description
The SGO project will extend the mine life of the Spence opencut copper mine by more than 50 years. The project will convert 1.3-billion tonnes of measured and indicated mineral resources to hypogene sulphide ore reserves.

The project comprises a conventional large-scale sulphide concentrator for copper and molybdenum, with a nominal ore throughput capacity of 95 000 t/d.

SGO includes a new 1 000 ℓ/sec desalination plant, located at Mejillones Bay, and a 154 km water pipeline from the plant to the Spence mine site. These will be operated by a third party under a build, own, operate and transfer contract.

In the first ten years of operation, incremental production from SGO will be about 185 000 t/y of payable copper in concentrate and 4 000 t/y of payable molybdenum.

Potential Job Creation
During the construction process, which lasted 1 180 days, more than 12 000 workers were employed and it was the only mining project in Chile that did not stop construction during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The project has an expected internal rate of return of 16% and an expected payback period of 4.5 years from first production.

Capital Expenditure

Planned Start/End Date
The project achieved first production on schedule and on budget in December 2020.

Latest Developments
BHP has cut the ribbon at the new copper concentrator at its Spence operations.

The inauguration of the concentrator is part of a global plan by BHP that aims to reinforce its copper portfolio, strengthening the company's operations in Chile to respond to a global demand for the metal that will double in the coming decades.

Water for the new concentrator is supplied by a desalination plant in Mejillones, which enables Spence to operate exclusively using desalinated seawater; power for the concentrator is supplied exclusively from renewable sources.

Further, new flotation technology uses 60% less energy and occupies 50% less space than conventional plants, resulting in lower energy consumption and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Innovations at Spence include the implementation of a fleet of five drills and 33 autonomous trucks, which will advance the electrification of material handling processes.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
None stated.

Contact Details for Project Information
BHP investor relations James Wear, tel +1 713 993 3737, email:

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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