World's biggest copper mine announces $1bn first semester profits

Santiago (AFP) –


The world's biggest copper mine by output, Chile's Escondida, announced on Friday profits of $1.086 billion for the first semester, just over a month after avoiding a strike by workers.

Production increased by 45 percent between January and June, thus recuperating lost revenue over the same period last year that was provoked by a 44-day strike.

The mine's president, Mauro Neves, described the results as "positive" and said owners BHP had paid the Chilean state $524 million in taxes.

Production, boosted by a new plant, reached almost 650,000 tonnes for the period.

Following a $3.4 billion investment, Escondida also launched the biggest desalination plant in Latin America, capable of supplying 2,500 liters of water a second to the mine.

A potentially crippling shutdown was averted on August 17 following weeks of negotiations with the signing of a new collective contract between the largest trade union representing 2,500 miners and the plant's Anglo-Australian owners.

Last year's strike caused a 39 percent drop in production over the first half of the year, costing the company $740 million.

Even so, the mine earned $1.2 billion last year, an increase of 20 percent on 2016.

Almost a third of the world's copper, around 5.6 million tons, is produced in Chile, fueled largely by China's huge industrial demand.