The Escondida mine is owned by Minera Escondida Limitada (MEL), a joint venture of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, JECO Corporation and JECO 2. The mine is located in the northern Atacama desert about 160km south-east of the port of Antofagasta, at an elevation of 3,050m above sea level.
BHP holds a 57.5% stake in the mine, Rio Tinto owns 30%, while JECO Corporation holds 10% and JECO 2 has the remaining 2.5% interest.
EFIC’s loan will help finance Escondida’s organic growth project one, which includes the construction of a new 152,000t a day concentrator.
EFIC executive director of origination and portfolio management Peter Field said the development underlines the agency’s commitment to support Australian companies involved in export-related contracts.
“We are very pleased to be supporting a large number of Australian companies by providing finance to the project linked to Australian exports,” Field said.
The mine came on-stream in late 1990 and its capacity has since been increased by phased expansions to its current level of 230,000t a day ore throughput.
In February 2012, BHP Billiton approved an investment of $2.6bn to replace the Los Colorados concentrator with a new 152,000t a day plant and allow access to higher grade ore located underneath the existing facilities.
Construction started in February 2012 and is anticipated to be completed in 2015.
Image: Escondida copper mine is located 3,100m above sea level. Photo: courtesy of BHP Billiton.