FCX expects sales from the North America copper mines to approximate 1.3 billion pounds of copper for the year 2012, compared with 1.2 billion pounds of copper in 2011.
Average unit net cash costs (net of by-product credits) for the North America copper mines of $1.77 per pound of copper in third-quarter 2012 were higher than unit net cash costs of $1.42 per pound in third-quarter 2011 reflecting lower molybdenum credits and increased mining rates, partly offset by higher copper volumes.
FCX estimates that average unit net cash costs (net of by-product credits) for the North America copper mines would approximate $1.67 per pound of copper for the year 2012, based on current sales volume and cost estimates and assuming an average molybdenum price of $11 per pound for fourth-quarter 2012. North America's average unit net cash costs for 2012 would change by approximately $0.01 per pound for each $2 per pound change in the average price of molybdenum for fourth-quarter 2012.
South America Mining.
FCX operates four copper mines in South America - Cerro Verde in Peru and El Abra, Candelaria and Ojos del Salado in Chile. FCX owns a 53.56 percent interest in Cerro Verde, a 51 percent interest in El Abra, and an 80 percent interest in both the Candelaria and Ojos del Salado mining complexes. All operations in South America are consolidated in FCX's financial statements. South America mining includes open-pit and underground mining. In addition to copper, the Cerro Verde mine produces molybdenum concentrates, and the Candelaria and Ojos del Salado mines produce gold and silver.
Operating and Development Activities.
During 2011, FCX commenced production from El Abra's sulfide ores. Production from the sulfide ore is expected to approximate 300 million pounds of copper per year, replacing the currently depleting oxide copper production.
At Cerro Verde, FCX is engaged in a large-scale concentrator expansion. The approximate $4.4 billion project would expand the concentrator facilities from 120,000 metric tons of ore per day to 360,000 metric tons of ore per day and provide incremental annual production of approximately 600 million pounds of copper and 15 million pounds of molybdenum beginning in 2016. An environmental impact assessment was filed in fourth-quarter 2011. Permitting is in an advanced stage and engineering and procurement of long-lead items is in progress. FCX expects to commence construction in 2013.