Codelco Appoints Nelson Pizarro CEO to Revamp Chile Copper Mines

Jul 31, 2014 9:45 pm ET

July 31 (Bloomberg) -- Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, appointed a former manager of its Chuquicamata mine with more than 50 years experience in the industry as to lead a $25 billion revamp of the state-owned company.

Nelson Pizarro, who most recently developed the $4.2 billion Caserones copper mine in the Atacama Desert for Japan’s Pan Pacific Copper Co., was appointed chief executive officer with a unanimous board vote. Pizarro inaugurated Caserones yesterday with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Codelco sought a candidate with mine management expertise to oversee development of two of the world’s largest underground mine projects as the company digs deeper to profitable ore. Pizarro, a mining engineer who also once worked for Antofagasta Plc, ran Codelco’s Andina and Chuquicamata mines, both more than a century old, between 1990 and 1997.

Pizarro will carry out the biggest investment plan in Codelco’s history, Chairman Oscar Landerretche said in a statement.

Former CEO Thomas Keller was asked to resign in June after differences with the board over how to carry out Codelco’s investment plan. Keller had also clashed with Codelco’s labor unions over a redundancy plan at Chuquicamata.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to announce a plan for Codelco that will allocate funds to carry out investments the company needs to avoid losing its four- decade long ranking as the world’s top-ranked copper producer.

A mining committee in Congress has considered proposals to finance the expansions that include tapping Chile’s sovereign wealth funds and scrapping a law that allocates 10 percent of Codelco’s revenue to the armed forces.