BHP says expanded Spence mine in Chile to hit full production within 12 months

SANTIAGO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Global miner BHP said on Monday it expected to hit full capacity production following the expansion of its Spence copper mine within 12 months and be producing 300,000 tonnes per year up until at least 2026.

BHP has built a new, $2.46 billion concentrator plant that can process 95,000 tonnes of raw material per day, extending the useful life of facility in northern Chile by more than 50 years.

“We expect the first copper sales from the new Spence concentrator during the first quarter of 2021,” the company said in a statement accompanying financial results.

BHP said production from Escondida, the world’s largest copper deposit, had fallen 5% in the second half of 2020 due to a decline in ore grades and lower cathode production.

The company said that workforce cuts necessitated by the outbreak of the coronavirus in Chile meant it had given priority to producing copper concentrate over cathodes, with an associated drop of 30,000 tonnes in cathode production. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Aislinn Laing, editing by Richard Pullin)