Chile’s copper production is estimated to have declined by just 0.7% in 2020. While the country’s mining sector avoided a full-scale lockdown as seen in neighbouring Peru, operational restrictions and rising cases impacted the progress of various developments. For example, Codelco had to halt on-site construction activities at Chuquicamata and El Teniente, with rising cases leading to mounting pressure from workers and the temporary shutdown of Chuquicamata at the end of June 2020.
Teck Resources suspended construction activities at Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 between March and August as part of COVID-19 measures, delaying the start date by up to six months. The project is now expected to commence operations in H1 2022. COVID-19 related delays also disrupted the timelines of other projects, including Spence Growth Option (from December 2020 to H1 2021), Esperanza Sur Pit (delayed to the end of 2022), Zaldivar (by six months to H1 2022) and Los Pelambres expansion (H2 2022 instead of 2021).
Despite reporting over 3,400 active cases during July 2020, Codelco achieved 1.2% growth in its production in 2020. The company implemented a four-phase plan, as part of the COVID-19 measures, to ensure the health and safety of its employees, while also having no significant impact over its copper output.
In 2020, BHP’s copper production grew fell by 3.9% to reach 1,680kt. The restrained growth was attributed to lower production from the Escondida mine, which reported a Y-o-Y fall of 3% in Q3 2020, due to a 30% reduction in its operational workforce under a plan implemented against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Antofagasta reported a 4.7% decline in its output in 2020, due to major maintenance work carried out at the Los Pelambres mine and lower grades at its Antucoya mine. Under the pandemic restrictions, the company had been operating with two-thirds of its workforce at the mine site.
In 2021, the country’s output is expected to grow by 3.7% to 5,957.1kt. This figure is expected to reach 6,702.8kt in 2024 – posting a CAGR of 4%. Over 20 projects are expected to commence operations during this period, of which, seven are under construction and expected to add 641.3kt of copper production capacity.