Quarterly Production Report – Q3 2023
QUARTERLY COPPER OUTPUT INCREASES 16%
Antofagasta plc CEO, Iván Arriagada said: “We are pleased to report a 16% increase in copper production in the quarter. This reflects strong performance at our two largest operations – Los Pelambres and Centinela, with the former underpinned by greater water availability from our recently constructed desalination plant.
“In the first nine months of 2023, we registered a 4% increase in copper production, a 19% increase in gold production and 23% increase in molybdenum production, reducing our net cash costs by 6% to $1.65/lb.
“Full year production and cost guidance remains unchanged.
“We continue to invest in our assets to deliver growth, and we are benefitting from the continuing ramp up of our Phase 1 expansion at Los Pelambres, where our desalination plant is improving our water availability. As a result, ore throughput rates increased by 14% in Q3 2023, compared to the previous quarter, increasing both copper and by-product output. Furthermore, commissioning work at the Company’s fourth concentrator line at Los Pelambres continues, with this project expected to deliver additional copper in 2024.
“Following the progress with the Phase 1 Expansion at Los Pelambres, Group copper production in 2024 is estimated at between 670,000 and 710,000 tonnes.
“Antofagasta represents a pure-play copper producer that understands the world’s requirement for responsibly sourced copper to facilitate the energy transition. We are well-positioned to make our contribution, delivering our growth projects for the global decarbonisation journey that lies ahead. Sustainability is at the core of what we do and through prioritising safe production, emissions reduction, efficient water use, biodiversity conservation and community engagement we will continue to generate value for all our stakeholders.”
- Copper production in Q3 2023 of 173,600 tonnes, 16.0% higher on a quarter-on-quarter basis (Q2 2023: 149,600 tonnes), principally reflecting higher output at both Los Pelambres and Centinela.
- Copper production in the first nine months of 2023 of 469,100 tonnes, 4.1% higher on a year-on-year basis (9M 2022: 450,600 tonnes), because of higher copper in concentrate production at both Los Pelambres and Centinela.
- Gold production in Q3 2023 was 57,400 ounces, 30.5% higher than the prior quarter (Q2 2023: 44,000 ounces) primarily due to increased production at Centinela. For the first nine months of the year, gold production increased by 19.0% to 143,600 ounces (9M 2022: 120,700 ounces).
- Molybdenum production in Q3 2023 was 3,200 tonnes, 33.3% higher than the prior quarter (Q2 2023: 2,400 tonnes), with both Los Pelambres and Centinela contributing greater output. Year to date, production was 8,100 tonnes, 22.7% higher than in the same period last year (9M 2022: 6,600 tonnes), with higher output from both Los Pelambres and Centinela.
- Cash costs before by-product credits in Q3 2023 were $2.27/lb, 8.1% lower than the prior quarter (Q2 2023: $2.47/lb), following higher copper production and lower input prices, principally electricity costs. Cash costs before by-product credits in the first nine months of 2023 were $2.40/lb, a year-on-year increase of 5.7% due to inflation, higher labour costs following the conclusion of labour agreements during the period and the stronger Chilean peso, partially offset by lower input prices.
- By-products credits in Q3 2023 were 80c/lb, compared to51c/lb in Q2 2023, reflecting higher by-product output. By-product credits on a year to date basis followed a similar trend, rising to 75c/lb in the first nine months of 2023, compared to 51c/lb in the comparable period last year.
- Net cash costs in Q3 2023 were $1.47/lb, 25.0% lower than Q2 2023, due to both lower cash costs and higher by-product credits. Net cash costs were $1.65/lb for the first nine months of 2023, in line with the Company’s guidance for the full year.
GROWTH PROJECTS UPDATE
- Following the commissioning of the Phase 1 desalination plant for Los Pelambres, ramp up towards its design capacity of 400 litres per second is on track, with an average output of 248 litres per second during Q3 2023 and with exiting run rates which exceed 380 litres per second.
- Following completion of the fourth concentrator line at Los Pelambres, commissioning is underway.
- Following the commissioning of the Phase 1 Expansion at Los Pelambres, the company expects to double the capacity of the desalination plant to 800 litres per second, as well as replacing the concentrate pipeline and the construction of certain planned enclosures at the El Mauro tailings storage facility. The Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”), for this combined phase of work is expected to be approved in Q4 2023.
- As previously announced, an updated study into the development of the Centinela Second Concentrator project is expected to be submitted to the Board for consideration by the end of the year.
- Copper production guidance for 2023 is unchanged at 640-670,000 tonnes. The Company’s reiterates full year guidance for cash costs ($2.30/lb) and net costs ($1.65/lb). Full year capex is expected to be $2.0 billion (previously $1.9 billion) following the advancement of certain development projects within the Company’s portfolio, as referenced in the Q2 2023 quarterly report.
- In 2024 copper production is expected to be between 670,000 and 710,000 tonnes, with the increase in production principally reflecting the progress with the Phase 1 Expansion at Los Pelambres.
SAFETY AND SUSTAINABILITY
- The Group’s safety metrics have continued to record positive results in 2023, with no fatalities, a lost time injury frequency rate for the first nine months of 2023 of 0.60 (9M 2022: 0.88) and a 33% reduction in high potential incidents.
- In August 2023, the Company announced full and unqualified compliance with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (“GISTM”) at two of its tailings facilities. The Company met the required timeline for compliance for one facility at Los Pelambres and reported two years ahead of schedule for another facility at Centinela. The GISTM is the first global standard on tailings facility management, which integrates social, environmental and technical considerations into its compliance framework. The Company has a further two tailings facilities, which are required to report compliance under GISTM before August 2025.
- In June 2023, Zaldívar submitted an EIA application to extend its mining and water environmental permits through to 2051. This includes a proposal to develop the primary sulphide ore deposit and extend the current life of mine at an estimated investment over the mine life of $1.2 billion. It also includes a plan to change the mine’s water source from the local aquifer to either seawater or water provided by third parties. This will follow a transition period during which the current continental water extraction permit is extended from 2025 to 2028. In parallel, the Company has submitted a Declaration of Environmental Impact (“DIA”) to align the expiry date of Zaldivar’s current mining permit (2024) to the current water permit (2025).
- The Company released a Social Value Report and a Tax Report in July 2023, with disclosures on the economic contribution and the community engagement as a result of the Company’s activities.
- Considering the continuing drought in central Chile and the recent changes in the Water Code, discussions have been held during the year with stakeholders in the Choapa Valley about water distribution arrangements in the area and an agreement has been reached with local communities. The relevant water authority has continued in the process of reviewing this proposal. This ongoing process involves no material change to the availability of continental water at Los Pelambres.
- The process to develop a proposal for a new constitution in Chile is progressing on schedule. The members of the Constitutional Council that will draft the revised constitution were elected in May 2023 and the Council is expected to deliver a proposed new constitutional text in Q4 2023. This will then be submitted to a vote in a national referendum on 17 December 2023.
- The Company has concluded three-year labour agreements with the workers unions in both the mine and plant at Los Pelambres, and with the employee union at Zaldívar. During Q4 2023 negotiations are scheduled with two workers unions at Centinela.
- In September 2023, a court in the United States dismissed the claims filed by Twin Metals Minnesota (“TMM”) to challenge the administrative actions that resulted in the rejection of its preference right lease applications, the cancellation of its federal leases 1352 and 1353 and the rejection of its Mine Plan of Operations for the Maturi Deposit in Minnesota. Twin Metals is reviewing the filing issued by the court and is considering next steps, including whether to exercise its right to appeal.
|GROUP PRODUCTION AND CASH COSTS||Year to Date||Q3||Q2|
|Copper production kt||469.1||450.6||4.1||173.6||149.6||16.0|
|Copper sales kt||453.8||441.0||2.9||158.4||146.4||8.2|
|Gold production koz||143.6||120.7||19.0||57.4||44.0||30.5|
|Molybdenum production kt||8.1||6.6||22.7||3.2||2.4||33.3|
|Cash costs before by-product credits (1) $/lb||2.40||2.27||5.7||2.27||2.47||(8.1)|
|Net cash costs (1) $/lb||1.65||1.76||(6.3)||1.47||1.96||(25.0)|
(1) Cash cost is a non-GAAP measure used by the mining industry to express the cost of production in US dollars per pound of copper produced.
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