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Canadian miner Teck Resources Ltd declined to fix a start date for an ambitious US$4.8-billion upgrade to its Quebrada Blanca copper mine in northern Chile on Tuesday, pending fresh investment from a development partner.

Chile’s Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica said earlier Tuesday that Teck would later this year begin work on the project, which aims to extend the life of the aging deposit by 25 years and to substantially boost production to 300,000 tonnes of copper annually.

“Quebrada Blanca will start moving in November,” Prokurica told journalists at a meeting in Santiago.

But when asked to confirm the start date, Teck reiterated that it would first seek a development partner to invest US$2-billion for a 30-per-cent to 40-per-cent share in the project.

“We continue to progress engineering work on the Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 project in anticipation of a development decision in the fourth quarter,” it said. “A decision to proceed with development will be contingent upon regulatory approvals and market conditions, among other considerations.”

Teck received environmental approval for the plan earlier this month.

It includes the first large-scale use of desalinated seawater for mining in Chile’s arid Tarapaca region as well as a 140,000-tonne-per-day concentrator.

Quebrada Blanca produced 23,400 tonnes of copper in 2017.

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