BHP Billiton has approved a $554m investment for the development of the Escondida Ore Access (EOA) project in northern Chile.
Under the EOA project, the crushing and conveying facilities currently located inside Escondida’s main pit will be relocated to improve access to higher-grade ore and increase copper production from 2013.
The firm is expecting to complete the project by mid-2012.
BHP Billiton owns 57.7% of the Escondida project, with Rio Tinto holding 30%, JECO Corporation another 10% and JECO 2 the remaining 2.5%.
BHP Billiton Base Metals president Peter Beaven said the firm is studying a number of additional opportunities to improve access to higher-grade ore and increase processing capacity over the coming years.