3 Largest Copper Mines in the World


Copper can be found as a compound in ores such as chalcopyrite, bornite and malachite. It is then extracted through either mining or leaching.

Mining of the red metal is widespread throughout the world, but the three largest mines are located in Chile and Indonesia.

Escondida mine

The Escondida mine is located in Chile’s Atacama Desert. It is one of the many projects of BHP Billiton  (NYSE:BHP,ASX:BHP,LSE:BLT), a global mining and petroleum company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. BHP owns 57.5 percent of the project, and the rest is divided between Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO,ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO), JECO (TSE:7768) and JECO 2.

Escondida is the world’s largest producer of copper, according to BHP’s website. It began production in 1990 and produces both copper concentrate and copper cathodes.

In February 2012, BHP announced a 17-percent increase in the mineral resources at Escondida. BHP’s base metals president, Peter Beaven, said at the time that more project development should help copper production at Escondida grow to over 1.3 million tonnes per year by 2015.

Chuquicamata mine

Also located in Chile, the Chuquicamata copper mine is owned and operated by Codelco, a Chilean state-owned copper mining company. The mine, which Codelco claims is the largest open-pit mine in the world, has been in operation since 1910.

Chuquicamata produces electro-refined and electro-won cathodes as well as copper concentrate. As of 2010, its annual output was 528,377 tonnes of fine copper. It also supplies about 10,760 tonnes of fine molybdenum each year. At one point, it was thought that the mine was on its way out of production and would close by 2013. However, Codelco recently received approval for an expansion project at Chuquicamata, suggesting that the mine will continue to operate. Codelco is currently working on converting the open-pit mine into an underground operation, according to Business News Americas. It is estimated that underground production will begin by the end of 2019.

Grasberg mine

Located in the province of Papua in Indonesia, the Grasberg mine was discovered in 1988 by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX), a US-based natural resources production company. Open-pit mining of Grasberg began in 1990 and is expected to continue through 2016. Freeport owns about 67.3 percent of the mine, and the rest is shared by Rio Tinto, the government of Indonesia and PT Indocopper Investama.

The Grasberg mine has proven reserves of 2.8 billion tonnes of copper and also contains gold and silver. The open-pit mine typically produces about 140,000 tons of copper ore per day, and underground operations have 80,000 tons of daily output, according to Reuters.

However, on May 14, a tunnel in the Grasberg mine collapsed, killing 28 people. That was one of the worst mining disasters in Indonesia’s history, Reuters reported. As such, operations at the mine were suspended May 15 and not restarted until July 9. Although mining has now resumed, Freeport expects Grasberg’s output will drop by a fifth this year.

Source : Copper Investing News

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