Chile: Piñera appoints Juan Benavides as Codelco chairman

SANTIAGO – Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has appointed Juan Benavides Feliú as the new chairman of state copper giant Codelco, the company said in a statement Friday as it posted first quarter pre-tax profit of $537 million.

Benavides, a well-known Santiago businessman, served until Friday as chairman at Chilean private pension fund manager AFP Habitat.

The 60-year old Benavides had led Falabella, one of Latin America’s largest retailers, whose operations include department stores, supermarkets, malls and financial services.

Former presidential candidate of the New Majority, Alejandro Guillier, criticized Benavides’ appointment, saying he was convicted of collusion.

“From Antofagasta, the heart of Chilean mining, I ask myself a question: What is the sign of the President of the Republic when he appoints as the main authority of Codelco, the largest company in the state, a person who has been condemned by the courts of justice by collusion?” Guillier said in a video, broadcast by social networks.

On Friday, Codelco reported first quarter pre-tax profits of $537-million, a slight increase over the previous year, even as ore grades continued to decline at the miner’s aging deposits.

World’s top copper miner raked in $2.88 billion in 2017

The world’s top copper miner produced 446,000 tons of copper in the first quarter, according to state copper commission Cochilco statistics released earlier this month, marking a 7.2% increase over the previous year.

The company on Friday said ore grades had nonetheless declined 2.7% versus the same period in 2017.