Located in Chile’s Atacama Region, Region III, at an elevation of approximately 650 m above sea level and 20 km south of the city of Copiapó, the Candelaria Copper Mining Complex is easily accessed using the public road system. Copiapó is a modern city with all regular services and a population of approximately 170,000. Employees come primarily from Copiapó and the Atacama region. The regional Atacama airport is serviced by daily commercial flights from Santiago and other destinations.
Candelaria is an open pit and underground mining operation providing copper ore to an on-site processing plant with a capacity of approximately 75,000 tonnes per day (tpd). Ojos del Salado comprises two underground mines, Santos and Alcaparrosa. The approximate 3,800 tpd capacity PAC processing facility receives ore from the Santos mine, while ore from the Alcaparrosa mine is treated at the Candelaria processing plant.
The Candelaria Copper Mining Complex operates with an overall mining rate of approximately 205,000 tpd over the next 23 years including an average of 76,800 tpd of ore sent to the processing plants together with substantial quantities of ore recovered from stockpiles. Four phases of development remain in the Candelaria open pit life-of-mine plan (Phases 10 to 13) as of December 2022. The overall strip ratio of the remaining life-of-mine is expected to be 2.1:1 including ore that is initially delivered to stockpiles.
The Candelaria Underground mines produce approximately 14,000 tpd of ore, roughly 10,000 tpd and 4,000 tpd from the North and South sectors, respectively. The combined production from both sectors allow the mine to maintain this peak permit-limited production up until 2046. The Santos mine is to continue to produce at its current rate of production of 5,500 tpd of ore to 2026 before decreasing to 3,800 tpd from 2027-2033. The mining method used in the underground mines is sublevel open stoping.
Copper concentrates containing precious metals are sold on contract to local smelters or trucked to the Punta Padrones port, near Caldera, for export to overseas smelters.
Geologic and Exploration Overview
The copper-gold sulphide mineralization found at the Candelaria Copper Mining Complex is generally referred to as iron oxide copper gold (IOCG) mineralization. Depending on lithology and the structural setting, the polymetallic sulphide mineralization can occur as veins, hydrothermal breccias, replacement mantos, and calcic skarns within andesite and tuff units. Candelaria has become an exploration model for Andean-type IOCG deposits that display close relationships to the plutonic complexes and broadly coeval fault systems.
The complex has been a significant producer of copper since the mid-1990s and ongoing exploration is conducted with the primary purpose of supporting mining and increasing estimated Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves. Over $265 million has been invested between 2010 and mid-2022 in exploration primarily in the proximity of the Candelaria open pit, the Española project area and at the three underground mines. Exploration is currently focused on the known mantos, veins, and breccia masses in proximity to existing underground infrastructure. This strategy has proven very effective and has resulted in significant expansion of the Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimates of the underground mines under the ownership of Lundin Mining and has contributed to the extension of their mine lives. Regional exploration is also undertaken on the large properties surrounding the mines to identify targets and define new areas with Mineral Resource estimates.