Antofagasta (OTC:ANFGF) on Thursday raised its cost estimate for the ongoing expansion of its flagship Los Pelambres operation in Chile to $2.2B, up from its previous estimate of $1.7B, although the completion schedule for the project remains unchanged.
The company cited COVID-19’s impact on costs and the construction schedule, as well as general inflation, including higher input prices, wages and logistics costs.
The Los Pelambres expansion, 73% complete as of the end of March, will increase throughput at the plant to 190K metric tons/day from 175K currently.
Antofagasta reported Q1 copper production fell 22% Q/Q and 24% Y/Y to 138.8K metric tons, which Citi analyst Ephrem Ravi said was 4% lower than expected, although the miner has reaffirmed full-year guidance for copper production and cash costs, with performance likely to normalize in H2.
RBC’s Tyler Broda was more pessimistic, saying the Q1 results “with weaker production, higher costs and higher capex for the Pelambres expansion reaffirms our view that Antofagasta is at risk from a valuation perspective.”
Saying Chile’s planned tax increase remains unknown and has the potential to act as a negative catalyst, UBS analysts recently downgraded Antofagasta shares to Sell.