Anglo American plc (LON: AAL) has received an environmental permit from Chilean authorities enabling the company to complete a US$3 billion extension of its Los Bronces copper project in the Andes Mountains.
The international United Kingdom-based miner announced the accomplishment on Tuesday following approval from Chile’s ministry of environment on Monday.
The news follows Chile’s Environmental Assessment Service rejecting Anglo American’s application to extend the project in May last year over public health concerns. The company expects to generate 530-580 kilotons of copper this year and 550-600 in 2024.
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The Los Bronces project has drawn criticism from environmental advocates due to the potential impact the site may have on the local water supply and a nearby glacier. However, Anglo American says the project makes use of processing facilities already present at the mine, enhances water efficiency, does not negatively impact any glaciers and does not necessitate the use of extra fresh water.
“We welcome the decision from the Committee of Ministers in support of our ongoing investment in Los Bronces – securing the long-term future of one of the world’s largest copper mines,” said Ruben Fernandes, CEO of Anglo American’s base metals business.
Anglo American now aims to further develop the existing open pit at Los Bronces and believes it will be able to access higher-grade ores from a new underground section of the mine. The company says the extension will lengthen the mine’s life until 2036.
“We have designed the Los Bronces Integrated Project as an example of the very best of modern mining, bringing not only investment and jobs but extensive protection for the environment and a considerable improvement in air quality for the broader region of Santiago,” added Fernandes.
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Chile is the world’s top copper producer
Chile is the number one producer of copper in the world, accounting for 29 per cent of the red metal generated internationally — according to the International Trade Administration.
“The degree of copper mineralization in Chile has no equal around the world. Indeed, Chile is home to some of the world’s largest, better-known copper mines,” says the Chilean Copper Commission.
The country’s Escondida Mine is the single largest copper deposit on earth, generating about 1.4 million tonnes every year.
The demand for copper and other critical minerals has only been increasing in recent days due to the growing popularity of electric vehicles.
A recent market report from the French market researcher Report Linker indicated that the global copper market would be worth about $254 billion by 2027, ascending from a value of $176.7 billion this year at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5 per cent.
Anglo American’s stock rose by 1.43 per cent Tuesday to the equivalent of $45.78 on the London Stock Exchange.