The London-based company will file for environmental approval of the $3 billion (R42.2bn) project to increase production at its Los Bronces mine during the third quarter, Henni Faul, who heads the miner's copper business, said in an interview. The project is sensitive because of its proximity to Andean glaciers and the Chilean capital.
“All of our data proves that we can mine that resource without doing any damage to the glaciers and without affecting the ground water,” he said at the company’s offices in Santiago ahead of the Cesco Week mining conference. “We will not mine it if there are any other indications; we will not take the project forward.”
The Los Bronces project is part of Anglo American’s plan to expand its portfolio of copper assets organically, Faul said. Last year, the company started construction of the $5bn Quellaveco mine in Peru, one of the few large copper mines being built at the moment.
Production at Los Bronces - the largest copper mine operated by the globe-straddling company - will decline in five years as ore grades decrease. The output expansion at the site, which has been mined for more than 150 years, could take annual production from 369500 tons last year to about 400000 tons. The company plans to use new technology to increase efficiency and to dig underground tunnels to avoid impact on the nearby glaciers.
“We've been working on this for six years and we trust we have the best scientific input,” Faul said of the Los Bronces plans.
About 80percent of South America’s glaciers are in Chile, and they cover about 3 percent of the country's land area.