Aluminum and Copper

Codelco sees slow recovery after years of copper output declines

Codelco sees slow recovery after years of copper output declines
Codelco is starting to turn the corner after a production slump and project overruns eroded the state-owned copper behemoth’s finances, according to a top Chilean official.

“In 2024, the production of Codelco is going to increase for the first time in several years,” Finance Minister Mario Marcel said in an interview from his Santiago office on Thursday. Hours after he spoke, Codelco delivered its annual results, including guidance for a slight increase in output this year.

Codelco is navigating one of the most challenging periods in its almost 50-year history after a series of setbacks at projects and mines. The company has been juggling four large investments at its aging operations after decades of underinvestment. New chief executive officer Ruben Alvarado has shaken up management in a bid to bring late and over-budget projects onstream.

After production dropped 8.4% last year, the Santiago-based company is starting a gradual recovery as underground operations at its Chuquicamata mine ramp up. Still, production guidance of between 1.325 million tons and 1.39 million tons for 2024 would only be a very slight increase on last year’s levels, with capital expenditure set to come in at $4 billion to $5 billion.

Under the current arrangement with the government, Codelco can reinvest 30% of its annual profits, with remaining funding having to come from bond issuance. Unlike private sector miners in Chile, it also hands over 10% of sales to the state.

There are no plans to add new funding mechanisms, given the 30% profit retention has only been in force for two years and Codelco’s prospects are improving, Marcel said.

“Any additional decisions would depend on new projects that the company develops,” he said.

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