Working down the mine

Fluor Corporation has been awarded a contract worth more than $700 million to provide engineering services on a project to process marginal ore at the world’s largest operating copper mine in northern Chile.

Fluor Corporation has been awarded a contract worth more than $700 million to provide engineering, procurement and construction management services on a project to process marginal ore at the world’s largest operating copper mine in northern Chile.

The contract was awarded by Minera Escondida, a Chilean joint-venture mining company owned by an international consortium led by BHP Billiton.

The project will make use of a proprietary leaching process on marginal run-of-mine sulphide ore from the existing Escondida pit, located 100 miles from the port city of Antofagasta, and a second, nearby pit currently in development.

The resulting leachate will be further treated by solvent extraction and electrowinning facilities to produce copper cathodes that will be exported to customers. Production is planned to begin in the second half of 2006.

Also included in the project is a seawater desalination plant and pipeline that will provide additional process water to the Escondida mine site. The plant will be located at Minera Escondida’s existing port facility near Antofagasta. Fluor is executing the work out of its offices in Santiago, Chile.

BHP Billiton manages the Escondida operation on behalf of an international consortium, which is made up of BHP Billiton with 57.5% ownership, Rio Tinto with 30%, JECO with 10% and International Finance Corporation with 2.5%.

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