Consolidated sales from mines for the year 2012 are expected to approximate 3.6 billion pounds of copper, 1.0 million ounces of gold and 82 million pounds of molybdenum, including 930 million pounds of copper, 255 thousand ounces of gold and 20 million pounds of molybdenum for fourth-quarter 2012. Expected gold sales for 2012 are approximately 50,000 ounces less than the July 2012 estimates because of lower gold production at Grasberg.
As anticipated, consolidated average unit net cash costs (net of by-product credits) of $1.62 per pound of copper in third-quarter 2012 were higher than unit net cash costs of $0.80 per pound in third-quarter 2011 primarily because of lower volumes in Indonesia (Indonesia unit net cash costs were $1.65 per pound in third-quarter 2012, compared with a net credit of $0.48 per pound in third-quarter 2011), lower by-product credits and higher mining costs.
Quarterly unit net cash costs will vary with fluctuations in sales volumes and average realized prices for gold and molybdenum. Assuming average prices of $1,700 per ounce of gold and $11 per pound of molybdenum for fourth-quarter 2012 and achievement of current sales volume and cost estimates, consolidated unit net cash costs (net of by-product credits) for FCX's copper mining operations are expected to average approximately $1.50 per pound of copper for the year 2012. The impact of price changes for fourth-quarter 2012 on consolidated unit net cash costs would approximate $0.004 per pound for each $50 per ounce change in the average price of gold and $0.004 per pound for each $2 per pound change in the average price of molybdenum. Assuming consistent commodity price assumptions, unit net cash costs for 2013 are expected to be lower than 2012 because of projected increased copper and gold volumes at Grasberg.
North America Copper Mines.
FCX operates seven open-pit copper mines in North America - Morenci, Bagdad, Safford, Sierrita and Miami in Arizona, and Tyrone and Chino in New Mexico. All of the North America mining operations are wholly owned, except for Morenci. FCX records its 85 percent joint venture interest in Morenci using the proportionate consolidation method. In addition to copper, certain of FCX's North America copper mines (Sierrita, Bagdad, Morenci and Chino) also produce molybdenum concentrates.
Operating and Development Activities.
FCX has completed projects to increase production at its North America copper mines, including restarting certain mining and milling operations and increasing mining rates at Morenci and Chino. Ramp up activities at Chino are continuing, with annual production of approximately 250 million pounds of copper targeted in 2014. FCX continues to evaluate a number of opportunities to invest in additional production capacity at several of its North America copper mines. Exploration results in recent years indicate the potential for significant additional sulfide development in North America.
At Morenci, FCX is engaged in a project to expand mining and milling capacity to process additional sulfide ores identified through exploratory drilling. The approximate $1.4 billion project is targeting incremental annual production of approximately 225 million pounds of copper in 2014 through an increase in milling rates from the current level of 50,000 metric tons of ore per day to approximately 115,000 metric tons of ore per day and mining rates from the current level of 700,000 short tons per day to 900,000 short tons per day. FCX has received material permits and has commenced engineering and initial construction, and procurement activities are in progress.