FCX expects sales from the North America copper mines to approximate 1.45 billion pounds of copper for the year 2013, compared with 1.35 billion pounds of copper in 2012, primarily reflecting higher production at Morenci and Chino.
Average unit net cash costs (net of by-product credits) for the North America copper mines of $1.78 per pound of copper in fourth-quarter 2012 were higher than unit net cash costs of $1.48 per pound in fourth-quarter 2011, primarily reflecting increased mining and milling activities.
FCX estimates that average unit net cash costs (net of by-product credits) for the North America copper mines would approximate $1.82 per pound of copper for the year 2013, based on current sales volume and cost estimates and assuming an average molybdenum price of $11 per pound. North America's average unit net cash costs for 2013 would change by approximately $0.04 per pound for each $2 per pound change in the average price of molybdenum. North America's average unit net cash costs for 2013 are expected to be higher than 2012 because of lower molybdenum credits and higher mining rates.
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.
At Cerro Verde, FCX is engaged in a large-scale 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. Cerro Verde received approval of the environmental impact assessment in fourth-quarter 2012. Detailed engineering and long-lead item procurement are under way, and construction is expected to commence in 2013.
FCX is also engaged in pre-feasibility studies for a potential large-scale milling operation at El Abra to process additional sulfide material and to achieve higher recoveries. Exploration results at El Abra have identified a significant sulfide resource.