China's Western Mining to launch Qinghai copper smelter next month


By Tom Daly

XINING, ChinaSept 6 (Reuters) - China'sWestern Mining Co Ltd will start commercial production at its 100,000-tonne-per-year (tpy) copper smelter in northwestern Qinghai province in October and spend 8 billion yuan ($1.17 billion) to expand its mine in Tibet, executives said on Thursday.

The smelter project, which involved investment of 2.4-2.5 billion yuan, is currently undergoing test production and output will ramp up gradually after commercial launch, Western Mining Chairman Zhang Yongli said on the sidelines of the China International Copper Forum in Xining.

State-run Western Mining is one of China's biggest copper concentrate producers, but also has smelting assets further downstream.

Its Qinghai smelter accounts for around one-tenth of the roughly 1 million tonnes per year of new copper smelting capacity that is scheduled to be commissioned in China, the world's largest copper consumer, in 2018.

The company wants to have assets across the copper value chain, said Bai Yongqiang, deputy secretary of the party committee at the company.

In Tibet, meanwhile, Western Mining's investment plan will cover the next two years in the second phase of its Yulong copper mine, raising the annual processing volume to 20 million tonnes, or 130,000 tonnes of metal content, by the end of 2020, company President Li Yibang said.

The company said when issuing first-half results that the mine's processing capacity was currently 2.3 million tonnes per year of ore.

The rapid expansion plan comes as Shanghai copper prices languish near one-year lows amid growing concerns about slowing demand growth for the metal used in plumbing and electrical wiring in China, the world's second-largest economy.

Western Mining is also tapping Qinghai'ssalt lake resources to produce materials used in batteries, such as lithium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide.

To this end, Bai said the company's annual magnesium hydroxide output would jump from 100,000 tonnes at present to 500,000 tonnes by 2020. Li said the company was investing 10 billion yuan in the magnesium business.

($1 = 6.8368 Chinese yuan renminbi)




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