There is some good news for BHP Billiton in a time when any deal it seems to back fails to come to fruition. Its base metals division has declared that its growth could possibly triple copper production.
The acting president of Base Metals, Ivan Arriagada said that several prospects at the flagship Escondida copper mine in Chile will drive growth for the next two or three years. As the majority owner of Escondida the world's largest copper mine, BHP is obviously ecstatic at the news.
The feeling of jubilation is however not shared by metal analysts who feel that supplies of copper will fall behind the demand for the metal in the coming years and will drive the prices up to record levels in the next few weeks.
At present the Escondida mine produces 8% of the world's copper. It also contributes about 1-2% of the gross domestic product of Chile. It is the third largest copper producer after Codelco, owned by the Chilean government and Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold.
Escondida has become an important part of the Chilean economy. According to the CIA World Factbook, the mine's 2007 sales of US$10.21 billion were 4.3% of estimated 2007 GDP of US$234.4 billion and about 15% of exports. At the end of 2006 the company employed directly some 2,951 workers and 3,158 contractors.