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China’s state-owned Chinalco said it would step up investment at its flagship project in Peru, as the country becomes an increasingly important supplier of copper to China.

Wu Jiangqiang, president of Chinalco China Copper, said the company’s Toromocho mine would produce around 180,000 to 190,000 tonnes of copper this year, an increase of 13 per cent.

Last year the company failed to meet its copper output target of 182,000 tonnes, with output reaching 168,376 tonnes, according to Peru’s customs statistics.

Last November during a visit by Xi Jinping to Peru, Chinalco signed a preliminary agreement with Peru’s government to expand production of its Toromocho project and invest $1.3bn.

“We will start to build the second phase of Toromocho very soon,” Mr Wu told the Financial Times on the sidelines of the CRU world copper conference in Santiago.

Analysts at Citi estimate the expansion will add an additional 70,000 tonnes a year to the project.

China’s imports of copper from Peru have risen rapidly as Chinese-owned projects in the country ramp up production, including Toromocho and China MMG’s $10bn Las Bambas project.

Peru’s copper output rose by 38 per cent last year, with most of the copper going to China. In January China imported more raw copper concentrate from Peru than Chile for the second consecutive month.

MMG’s Las Bambas produced 330,227 tonnes of copper last year, 20 per cent more than the company’s guidance.

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