Morenci Mill Capacity Expansion Results In 225 Million Pounds Of Copper
PHOENIX, AZ – Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) reported that the Morenci mill expansion project, which commenced operations in May 2014, successfully achieved full rates 2015. The project expanded mill capacity from 50,000 metric tons of ore per day to approximately 115,000 metric tons of ore per day, which results in incremental annual production of approximately 225 million pounds of copper and an improvement in Morenci's cost structure. Morenci's copper production is expected to average approximately 900 million pounds per year over the next five years.
FCX's revised plans for its North America copper mines incorporate reductions in mining rates to reduce operating and capital costs, including the previously announced suspension of mining operations at the Miami mine (which produced 43 million pounds of copper for the year 2015), planned shutdown of the Sierrita mine (which produced 189 million pounds of copper and 21 million pounds of molybdenum for the year 2015), 50 percent reduction in mining rates at the Tyrone mine (which produced 84 million pounds of copper for the year 2015) and adjustments to mining rates at other North America mines. The revised plans at each of the operations incorporate the impacts of lower energy, acid and other consumables, reduced labor costs and a significant reduction in capital spending plans. These plans continue to be reviewed and additional adjustments may be made as market conditions warrant.
FCX operates seven open-pit copper mines in North America - Morenci, Bagdad, Safford, Sierrita and Miami in Arizona, and Chino and Tyrone in New Mexico. All of the North America mining operations are wholly owned, except for Morenci. FCX records its 85 percent joint venture interest in Morenci using the proportionate consolidation method. In addition to copper, molybdenum concentrates and silver are also produced by certain of FCX's North America copper mines.
FCX has significant undeveloped reserves and resources in North America and a portfolio of potential long-term development projects. In the near term, FCX is deferring developing new projects as a result of current market conditions.
North America's consolidated copper sales volumes of 547 million pounds in fourth-quarter 2015 were higher than fourth-quarter 2014 sales of 434 million pounds, primarily reflecting higher ore grades at Morenci and Safford and timing of shipments. North America copper sales are estimated to approximate 1.8 billion pounds for the year 2016, compared with 2.0 billion pounds in 2015.
FCX operates two copper mines in South America, the Cerro Verde in Peru (in which FCX owns a 53.56 percent interest) and El Abra in Chile (in which FCX owns a 51 percent interest). These operations are consolidated in FCX's financial statements. In addition to copper, the Cerro Verde mine produces molybdenum concentrates.
The Cerro Verde expansion project commenced operations in September 2015 and is expected to reach full rates in early 2016. Cerro Verde's expanded operations will benefit from its large-scale, long-lived reserves and cost efficiencies. The project expanded the concentrator facilities from 120,000 metric tons of ore per day to 360,000 metric tons of ore per day and is expected to provide incremental annual production of approximately 600 million pounds of copper and 15 million pounds of molybdenum.
During third-quarter 2015, FCX revised plans for its South America copper mines principally to reflect adjustments to the mine plan at El Abra (which produced 324 million pounds of copper for the year 2015) to reduce mining and stacking rates by approximately 50 percent to achieve lower operating and labor costs, defer capital expenditures and extend the life of the existing operations.
Through its 90.64 percent owned and consolidated subsidiary PT-FI, FCX's assets include one of the world's largest copper and gold deposits at the Grasberg minerals district in Papua, Indonesia. PT-FI operates a proportionately consolidated joint venture, which produces copper concentrates that contain significant quantities of gold and silver.
PT-FI continues to engage in discussion with the Indonesian government regarding its Contract of Work (COW) and long-term operating rights. In October 2015, the Indonesian government provided a letter of assurance to PT-FI indicating that it will approve the extension of operations beyond 2021, and provide the same rights and the same level of legal and fiscal certainty provided under its current COW. FCX expects, but cannot provide any assurance, that PT-FI will be successful in reaching a satisfactory agreement on the terms of its long-term mining rights.
During 2015, PT-FI revised its plans to incorporate improved operational efficiencies, reductions in input costs, supplies and contractor costs, foreign exchange impacts and a deferral of 15 percent of capital expenditures in 2016.
PT-FI has several projects in progress in the Grasberg minerals district related to the development of its large-scale, long-lived, high-grade underground ore bodies. In aggregate, these underground ore bodies are expected to produce large-scale quantities of copper and gold following the transition from the Grasberg open pit, currently anticipated to occur in late 2017. Development of the Grasberg Block Cave and Deep Mill Level Zone (DMLZ) underground mines is advancing. Production from the DMLZ commenced during September 2015, and the Grasberg Block Cave mine is anticipated to commence production in 2018.
Over the period from 2016 to 2020, estimated aggregate capital spending on these projects is currently expected to average $1.0 billion per year ($0.8 billion per year net to PT-FI). Considering the long-term nature and size of these projects, actual costs could vary from these estimates.