Xstrata Commence Expansion Work on Chilean Copper Operation
SANTIAGO, Chile -- Xstrata Copper’s North Chile Division has commenced construction of the phase four expansion at its Altonorte smelter in northern Chile, having received environmental approval by the Antofagasta Region environmental authority Corema.

The operational upgrade, with an original investment estimate of $58 million, will increase production capacity by almost one-third from around 290,000 tons a year of copper in anodes to 380,000 tons a year. Sulfuric acid production will increase from 800,000 tons to 1.1 million tons a year.

In addition, as part of Xstrata Copper’s commitment to being an environmental leader in the mining industry, Altonorte will voluntarily invest a further $14 million to install double contacts in the new sulfuric acid plant, with the objective of increasing emissions capture from 93 percent to 95.5 percent. This will take the total expansion capital to $72 million.

“This approval process has demonstrated to the community and the authorities this company’s commitment to the highest environmental standards, with a range of environmental enhancements incorporated into the smelter’s expansion,” Xstrata Copper North Chile Division Chief Operating Officer Jon Evans said.

Over the next two years, Altonorte will also voluntarily implement various other projects to upgrade the smelter’s environmental performance, requiring an additional $28 million investment. These projects include further measures to capture fugitive emissions and a smelter dust treatment plant.

Construction will start immediately, providing an additional 800 jobs during the construction phase and further permanent employment opportunities for 80 people once complete. The expansion will be commissioned in the first quarter of 2009.

Once complete, the Altonorte smelter will be one of the world’s largest smelters with operating costs in the lowest quartile.