FCX’s South America mining operations include open-pit mining, sulfide ore concentrating, leaching and solution extraction/electrowinning. Production from these mines is sold as concentrate or cathode under long-term contracts. Our South America mines also ship a portion of their copper concentrate to Atlantic Copper, our wholly owned smelting and refining unit in Spain.
FCX operates two copper mines in South America ― Cerro Verde in Peru and El Abra in Chile. In addition to copper, the Cerro Verde mine also produces molybdenum concentrate and silver.
Cerro Verde’s expanded operations benefit from its large-scale, long-lived reserves and cost efficiencies and have continued to perform well. Debottlenecking projects and additional initiatives to enhance operating rates continue to be advanced. During 2021, milling rates at Cerro Verde’s concentrator facilities averaged 380,300 metric tons of ore per day. Subject to ongoing monitoring of COVID-19 protocols, Cerro Verde is targeting milling rates to increase to approximately 400,000 metric tons of ore per day in 2022.
FCX continues to evaluate a large-scale expansion at El Abra to process additional sulfide material and to achieve higher recoveries. El Abra’s large sulfide resource could potentially support a major mill project similar to facilities constructed at Cerro Verde. Technical and economic studies continue to be advanced to determine the optimal scope and timing of the project in parallel with extending the life of the current leaching operation.