Antofagasta sees lower copper production in 2022 due to water scarcity


LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Chilean miner Antofagasta on Wednesday estimated annual copper production below 2021 levels as operations continue to be affected by the driest weather Chile has seen in years.

The London-listed miner, majority-owned by the Chilean Luksic family, said 2021 copper output fell 1.7% to 721,500 tonnes, which was within the range of the company’s outlook.

For 2022, it forecasts between 660,000 and 690,000 tons, due to lower grades in some operations and an expected water shortage.

Water is essential in the production of copper, as it is used extensively to separate the metal from the ore and in subsequent steps.

To counteract water scarcity, many mining companies desalinate seawater and use it in their processes.

Antofagasta is redesigning a desalination plant at its flagship Los Pelambres mine, the costs of which are being reviewed. It expects to finish the expansion works of the concentrator plant in early 2023.

For 2022, it forecasts capex of between $1.7bn and $1.9bn, up from $1.6bn in 2021, due to higher development costs at Los Pelambres.

Copper prices broke records in 2021 and Chile, which extracts nearly 30% of global production, largely maintained output even during the worst of the pandemic. Copper is essential in the construction and manufacture of electric vehicles. (Reporting by Clara Denina in London and Priyanshi Mandhan in Bengaluru; Editing in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)

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