Escondida Q1 output down 30 pct Escondida Q1 output down 30 pct
SANTIAGO, April 29 (Reuters) - Chile's Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, said on Wednesday its first-quarter copper output fell just over 30 percent from a year earlier to 234,229 tonnes. Escondida, majority-owned by global diversified miner BHP Billiton (BHP.AX)(BLT.L), said in a note to Chile's market regulator it produced 155,956 tonnes of copper in concentrates during the quarter and 78,273 tonnes of copper cathodes. That compared to 282,220 tonnes of copper concentrates and 52,432 tonnes of cathodes during the first quarter of 2008. "The lower production of concentrate is explained by the combined effect of a lower ore head grade, increased hardness of the ore treated ... and production problems associated to the failure in the Laguna Seca SAG mill concentrator that require it to operate at a lower-than-design capacity," Escondida said in a statement. "On the other hand, the increased cathode production is explained by an improved recovery and an increase in the level of activity and ore accumulation in the process stockpiles," it added. Escondida said its total sales fell 67.7 percent in the first quarter to $1.018 billion in the first quarter of 2009, citing lower output and a sharp fall in copper prices amid global financial crisis.