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Pampa Norte

Pampa Norte consists of two wholly owned assets in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile – Spence and Cerro Colorado. Spence and Cerro Colorado produce high-quality copper cathode, using oxide and sulphide ore treatment through leaching, solvent extraction and electrowinning processes.

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Spence Growth Option: taking mining into the future 

Key developments during FY2020

Pampa Norte copper production for FY2020 decreased by 2 per cent to 243 kt, mainly due to a 14 per cent decline in stacked ore grade.

The Spence Growth Option (SGO) to construct a 95 ktpd ore concentrator and the outsourcing of a 1,000 litre per second desalination plant is 93 per cent complete. As a result of measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, first production is now expected between December 2020 and March 2021. The commissioning of the desalination plant and capitalisation of the associated US$600 million lease (approximate) will now occur in the first half of FY2021.

Looking ahead

Production for FY2021 is expected to be between 240 and 270 kt, reflecting the reduced operational workforce due to COVID-19, the start-up of the SGO project and expected grade decline of approximately 7 per cent.

SGO will produce first copper between December 2020 and March 2021 and plans are on track to redesign the approach to operations at Spence to optimally balance the requirements of the concentrate and cathodes processes. The first batch of the ultra-class truck fleet arrived at Spence in FY2020 and the remaining units are expected to arrive in the next two years. The BHP Operating System deployment at Spence started in January 2020 and is expected to continue during FY2021. Similar to Escondida, Spence will be undertaking studies on various material handling technologies, such as automated trucks, trolley assistance and in-pit crushers and conveyors to increase mine productivity and improve cost competitiveness.

On 1 July 2020, Cerro Colorado announced it had started a four-month process to adjust its mine plan to reduce throughput and costs to achieve improved cash returns and ensure viable mining operations for the remaining period of its current environmental licence, which expires at the end of CY2023.

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