Copper Veteran Has Unfinished Business at World’s Biggest Pit – by Laura Millan Lombrana (Bloomberg News – June 13, 2018)

Nelson Pizarro wants to remain at the helm of the world’s biggest copper company until he can cut the ribbon on a project to convert its flagship pit into a giant underground mine.

He’s been in mining for most of his 77 years, with the last four spent guiding state-owned Codelco through a painful downturn. With a change of government in Chile this year and a return to profitability thanks in part to Pizarro’s cost and spending cuts, speculation has been rife on how long he’ll stay.

Being there to see the first metal produced at the Chuquicamata underground project would be a “mission accomplished,” he said in an interview in Santiago. “But that depends on me, my health and my family. I have the determination to be there until that date.”

That date is mid-2019, according to the company’s latest estimate. Chuquicamata represents Codelco’s plight and its transition under Pizarro.

The century-old operation is the biggest open-pit in the world — by physical size if not by production. Chuquicamata was once Codelco’s crown jewel and a symbol of Chile’s mining might. But it’s running out of profitable ore and has to switch to a modern underground operation.

For the rest of this article: