SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Codelco and other copper mining giants are set to plow billions of dollars into the revitalization of Chile’s mines, but that may not be enough to keep the country from losing ground to competitors elsewhere in the world.
Demand for copper is widely expected to take off by the mid-2020s amid a boom in electric vehicle production, but Chile is saddled with mines facing crippling declines in ore grades and a system that allows the bulk of its exploration concessions to sit idle.
“Chile is a fantastic country to work in. The question then comes, if it has all this potential, why are we not seeing growth in exploration?” said Anthony Amberg, of Los Andes Copper, a Canada-based junior with prospects in Chile.
The answer to that question could prove critical as Chilean projects increasingly compete for capital with up and coming greenfield prospects in Congo, Mongolia and even neighboring Peru.
Many of the projects approved and underway in Chile, including a 10-year, $40 billion overhaul drive by the world’s top copper producer, Codelco, focus on reinvigorating massive, but sometimes decades or even century-old mines.