Chile’s president says Codelco output to grow; touts investment climate

By Thomson Reuters Apr 22, 2024 | 3:54 PM

By Daina Beth Solomon, Alexander Villegas and Ernest Scheyder

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean President Gabriel Boric told a major copper industry conference on Wednesday he expects production at state-run miner Codelco to grow slowly this year and reach 1.7 million metric tons by 2030, and that he sees copper prices rising.

“The Codelco production will rebound,” he said, offering a vote of confidence for the country’s top copper producer whose output last year hit a quarter-century low, at 1.325 million metric tons.

Boric’s comments came in a surprise appearance at a gathering of top global copper executives and analysts at CESCO Week, which alongside the CRU World Copper Conference, makes up the biggest annual gathering of sector professionals.

At a time when global companies have raised concern about long approval times for new mines and expansions, he said Chile, the world’s biggest copper producer, is dedicated to speeding up the permitting process for mining projects.

He also stressed the need for greater economic distribution of mining industry profits to local communities.

As well, Boric said one of Chile’s strong suits was ensuring long-term security for investors.

“Long term mining projects work when there is greater certainty, when there are clear rules for all,” he said. “Investments are also based on the perception of trust. And that is something intangible.”

When Boric said he believed this attitude should underscore Chilean policy no matter who is president, the room of nearly 2,000 attendees burst into applause.

He said Canada-based Teck Resources’ CEO Jonathan Price had remarked in a recent meeting that the company might not have invested in copper mine Quebrada Blanca if it had known it would have taken 10 years to get off the ground, but he was proud of the project.

The mine’s expansion last year was among the biggest mining investments in Chile in a decade.

Boric also talked about the government’s efforts to boost lithium production, praising the benefits of public-private partnerships at a time when Codelco is tasked with spearheading such partnerships in Chile’s lithium industry.

A process meant to encourage private investment in lithium kicked off just this week, he said, adding that he expected output of the ultralight metal to double in a decade.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Alexander Villegas and Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Sonali Paul)