(New throughout, adds comment from CEO, additional context on profit windfall)
SANTIAGO, April 30 (Reuters) - The world’s top copper producer Codelco said on Friday profits skyrocketed in the first quarter, boosted by a dramatic spike in the global price of the red metal, though the state-run miner said it would remain focused on its long-term goals despite the windfall.
Pre-tax pofits jumped to $1.627 billion between January and March from $54 million during the same period the previous year. The company said $1.371 billion of the total could be attributed directly to the sky-rocketing price of copper in recent months.
Copper prices hit decade-long highs in the first quarter of 2021, boosted by optimism around prospects for a quick global economic recovery as well as tightening supply.
Codelco CEO Octavio Araneda said the company would nonetheless proceed with caution, remaining focused on its 10-year, $40 billion initiative to upgrade its aging mines, which have suffered in recent years from falling ore grades.
“While the price of copper had a positive impact and contributes to our goals, we must not forget the lessons of the last supercycle: the price is highly volatile and what a serious company should do is focus on long-term plans,” Araneda said in a statement.
Beside the profit windfall, Codelco also increased production over the same period the previous year by 7%, to 386,000 tonnes, even as health authorities in Chile ratcheted up restrictions on movement and commerce to slow a rise in coronavirus infections.
Sales of its own copper, processed in the company’s plants, jumped 10.2% compared to the January-March 2020 period, the company added.
Codelco has successfully navigated the coronavirus crisis, implementing strict sanitary precautions at its mines and largely maintaining output and sales throughout the pandemic.
The state miner reported production costs had fallen 0.2% to $1.324 per pound of copper. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio)