Molten copper is poured from a smelting furnace into a mould in Roorkee, Uttarkhand, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Battle to Cut Emissions Leaves Top Copper Producer Facing Smelter Halt

(Bloomberg) -- Codelco plans to suspend operations at two of its four smelters for several weeks as the world’s largest copper producer falls behind schedule in complying with tougher emission rules in Chile by mid-December.

Smelters at the Chuquicamata and Salvador mines will be halted for 75 days and 45 days, respectively, from Dec. 13 when the new standards kick in, the state-owned company said Friday. Annual maintenance will also be done during these periods.

A smelter at Teniente, Codelco’s largest mine, is expected to be ready for the emission rules, while a fourth plant is already compliant.

“The reason for these delays is the complexity and magnitude of the three projects and the fact that they are currently operating," the company said in response to questions. "This has involved managing the interaction between the operation and the implementation of these projects."

Government-owned Codelco has invested about $2.1 billion to adapt to new standards that require smelters to capture 95 percent of emissions. The company said on Thursday that some processes at Chuquicamata might be interrupted for about 80 days, but gave no information about upgrade progress at its other smelters.

At Chuquicamata, new acid plants, a new drying system and treatment of refined gases are scheduled to start operating at the end of February. The smelter is now operating at a capacity of 1,800 metric tons a day with a converter in maintenance. Work will continue through early November, after which capacity will increase to 2,400 tons, Codelco said.

At Salvador, Codelco’s smallest mine, annual maintenance at the smelter was scheduled to run from Dec. 13 to late January. With the upgrade delays, the company now plans to undertake a more exhaustive program that will take 45 days.

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