Miner Xstrata has approved a study which could see it invest $1.6-billion U.S. in its Lomas Bayas mine to boost annual output to 140,000 tonnes of copper and extend the life of the operation to 2039.
Xstrata, the world's fourth-largest copper producer, said on Monday the prefeasibility study would examine a copper sulphide deposit under the current pit of Lomas Bayas, an open pit mine in the Antofagasta region of northern Chile.
The study, which will involve new drilling, metallurgical and geomechanical studies, was expected to be completed at the end of next year. Subject to necessary approvals, the Lomas Bayas sulphide project could start production in 2017.
The project considers a concentrator plant with a processing capacity of 70,000 tonnes per day, using seawater, Xstrata said.
The study will also assess synergies with the Lomas Bayas II project currently under construction, which will extend the operation's life by more than 10 years at the current production rate of 75,000 tonnes a year.
Lomas Bayas was acquired by Xstrata in August 2006, when it took over Falconbridge.