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03-05-2012 08:22:00

Antofagasta Copper Output Up, But Suffers Esperanza Setback

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By Alex MacDonald

Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

ST. GALLEN, Switzerland -(Dow Jones)- Chilean miner Antofagasta PLC (ANTO.LN) said Thursday that first quarter copper production rose on year thanks to the ramp-up of its Esperanza mine, but fell on quarter after the mine suffered a glitch which will make it hard for miner to top the mine's previously-guided production range.

The U.K.-listed miner also raised the capital expenditure estimate for its Antucoya project to $1.4 billion from $1.3 billion after having previously flagged the fact that a tight labor market is making contract work more expensive. The 80,000 ton-a-year copper cathode project is still slated to start production in the second half of 2014.

The FTSE-100 miner said copper output rose 25.5% on year but fell 12.9% on quarter to 162,900 metric tons, mainly due to planned maintenance and expected lower grades at its Los Pelambres mine and lower ore throughput at Esperanza in February and March due to damage to the feed conveyor which was repaired by the end of March.

Antofagasta said Esperanza will still produce within the previously-guided range of 160,000 to 175,000 tons of copper and 240,000 to 260,000 ounces of gold for 2012, "albeit at the lower end of these ranges."

Expected production levels at the other three mines remains in line with its previous forecast, it added.

Antofagasta said in March that it was targeting 700,000 tons of total copper production and 280,000 ounces of gold output in 2012.

-By Alex MacDonald, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)7776 200 924 alex.macdonald@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 03, 2012 02:22 ET (06:22 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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