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By Lee Hyo-sik

The Korea Resources Corp. (KORES), the state-run mineral resources developer, has been successfully producing copper at its processing plant in northwestern Mexico, company officials said Thursday.

KORES holds a 74 percent stake in Minera y Metallurgica del Boleo, or MMB, the entity that operates the copper mine in Santa Rosalia. It produced 1,207 tons of copper from January through April.

Hyundai Hysco and other domestic firms hold a combined 16 percent stake, while Canadian mining firm Baja Mining has the remaining 10 percent.

KORES invested about $1 billion in the Boleo project, which began in 2012.

"We will increase production volume over the next year," a KORES spokesman said. "When the plant operates at its full capacity, we expect to produce 51,000 tons of copper annually. We will also boost the operational efficiency of mining and processing facilities in order to maximize profits."

The mining facility, which started operation in January, also plans to produce 8,000 tons of zinc sulphate and 600 tons of metallic cobalt by the end of 2015.

The spokesman said the Boleo project is Korea's first successful overseas mining venture to combine both upstream and downstream operations. The upstream business in resource development includes exploration and production, while the downstream refers to processing.

"We have been mobilizing the state-of-the-art technologies to mine minerals and process them in a safer and more cost-effective method," he said. "We have mined copper and other minerals without having to use dynamite because the ground is not firm. This has made the mining process easier and safer."

Some critics have claimed that the Boleo project has failed, wasting nearly $2 billion of taxpayers' money. But KORES has denied the criticism, saying that the project will soon turn out to be one of the country's most successful natural resources development operations abroad.

"It is too early to judge whether the Boleo project has failed or not because it just began operation. It usually takes years to explore, develop and produce minerals," the spokesman said. "It is true that we stumbled several times in the early stages of the project, but we have successfully overcome difficulties. We will make the mine successful and turn KORES into a competent mineral resources developer."

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Original Article: https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2015/05/123_178924.html

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