The Quebrada Blanca copper mine is located at 4,400 metres elevation in
northern Chile approximately 240 kilometres southeast of the port city of
Iquique and 1,500 kilometres north of the city of Santiago, the capital of
Quebrada Blanca is an open pit operation, which leaches the ore to produce
copper cathodes via a SX-EW process. Copper cathode is trucked to Iquique for
shipment to purchasers.
Teck owns a 76.5% interest in the mine. The remaining interest is owned by
Inversiones Mineras S.A., 13.5%, and Empresa Nacional de Minera, 10%.
In 2011, the mine produced a total of 139.5 million pounds copper.
A feasibility study focused on increasing copper production to 200,000
tonnes per year copper in concentrate and 5,000 tonnes of molybdenum per year
is expected to be completed in 2012.
The Quebrada Blanca mine is located in northern Chile approximately 240
kilometres southeast of the port city of Iquique and 1,500 kilometres north of
the city of Santiago, the capital of Chile. The Quebrada Blanca property is
located approximately 4,400 metres elevation above sea level.
Chile is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow strip of land
between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The
northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper.
The Quebrada Blanca concession consists of 80 square kilometers of mining
rights and a total of 3,150 hectares of exploration rights.
The local topography is represented by rounded hills disrupted by steep
gulches. Vegetation cover consists of sparse tufts of grass and small shrubs.
Access to the mine site is via road from Iquique.
Mine personnel live in a camp facility and the majority commutes from large
population centres, including Iquique and Santiago.
Geology & Mineralization
The Quebrada Blanca orebody is a porphyry copper deposit
located in a 30-40 km wide belt of volcanic and sedimentary rocks which
contains a number of the world’s largest copper mines including Collahuasi (10
km to the east) and Chuquicamata (190 km to the south). All of these deposits
are spatially related to a major north-south fault, the West Fissure Fault, or
to splays off this fault.
The Quebrada Blanca orebody occurs within a 2 km by 5 km quartz monzonite
intrusive stock. Supergene enrichment processes have dissolved and redeposited
primary (hypogene) chalcopyrite as a blanket of supergene copper sulphides, the
most important being chalcocite and covellite, with lesser copper
oxides/silicates such as chrysocolla in the oxide zone. The supergene
mineralization averages 80 metres in thickness and is, for the most part,
overlain by a 100 metre thick, low grade or waste leached cap and unmineralized
rock and gravels. Irregular transition zones, with (locally) faulted contacts
separate the higher and lower grade supergene/dump leach ores from the leached
cap and hypogene zones.
As of December 2011, proven and probable reserves stood at 141 Mt grading
0.39% copper for 603.9 million pounds copper.
Mining & Operation
Quebrada Blanca (QB) is a conventional open pit mine that produces an
average of 22,000 tonnes per day of heap leach ore and 39,000 tonnes per
day of lower grade dump leach ore.
In 2011, the mine produced 139.5 million pounds of copper.
The supergene/oxide mineralization is expected to be mined out by 2016, and
mining is to be focused on the hypogene mineralization in a mine and processing
The Quebrada 2 expansion project is based on the processing of hypogene
sulphide resource that has been delineated by over 134,000 metres of drilling.
The deposit is open at depth and on strike.
Copper bearing solutions are collected from the heap and dump leach pads for
processing in an SX-EW plant which produces copper cathode. The SX-EW plant has
a design capacity of approximately 75,000 tonnes of copper cathode per year,
but has been producing at a rate above this nameplate capacity. Copper cathode
is trucked to the port of Iquique for shipment to purchasers.
As process water the mine uses seawater that is recycled and recirculated as
much as possible.
The copper cathode production is supposed to end in 2018 and focus would be
shifted to processing the hypogene mineralization through flotation – i.e. the
Quebrada Expansion project.
The Quebrada Expansion Project feasibility study is focused on increasing
copper production to 200,000 tonnes per year copper in concentrate and 5,000
tonnes of molybdenum per year is expected to be completed in 2012. The copper
concentrator is to be built at 4,300 m elevation and would have a nameplate
capacity of 135,000 tonnes per day. The tailings facility would be at 2,300 m
above sea level and would be able to hold 2 billion tonnes of tailings.
The study included conceptual design options for mining the hypogene
resource, a copper concentrator with a by-product molybdenum recovery circuit
and associated infrastructure necessary to support development and
transportation of copper and molybdenum concentrates to the market. Concentrate
would be delivered to the port by a 8” 165 km pipeline. A 36” water line would
carry water from port area to mine site. Another 60 km 24” line would transport
reclaim water from tailings to mine.
Quebrada Expansion Project crushing and milling equipment include a 60’X113’
primary crusher, two 40’ X 22’ SAG mills, and four 26’ X 42’ ball mills.