Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, and partner Rio Tinto Group approved a $4.5 billion expansion of Chile’s Escondida copper mine.
BHP’s share of the cost of a new concentrator and oxide leach project will be $2.6 billion, the Melbourne-based company said today in a statement. Rio’s share will be $1.4 billion, the London-based company said in a separate statement.
The mine accounts for about a fifth of all copper produced in Chile, the world’s top supplier of the metal. BHP owns 57.5 percent of Escondida and Rio owns 30 percent, with the balance held by Japan’s JECO Corp. and JECO 2 Ltd. BHP also announced a 17 percent increase in mineral resources and a 25 percent rise in ore reserves at the mine.
“The success of our brownfield exploration program suggests there are sufficient resources at Escondida to sustain production at current levels for more than a century,” Peter Beaven, BHP’s base metals president, said in the statement.
The concentrator is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2015 and the leach project in the middle of 2014, BHP said.
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