SANTIAGO, Chile, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Chilean outlook for gold and copper production, described as strategic to national interest, has improved with forecasts of greater exploration and refining activities in 2012.
The Latin American country had its state copper producer's ratings upped amid assessments of a continuing lead in copper production and its positive effect on the economy.
Canadian Casablanca Mining, in a news release, outlined plans by its wholly owned Chilean subsidiary, Santa Teresa Minerals, S.A., to finish preparations for exploitation of its Casuto gold property in IV Region Coquimbo, Choapa province, about 120 miles northwest of Santiago.
The Casuto project includes 22 contiguous exploration concessions more than 6,200 hectares. The deposit is thought to extend through the valley and into Chigualoco Bay for about 8 miles.
Abundant historic pits, shafts and underground workings are evidence of the historical exploitation, the company said.
The Casuto-Chigualoco River basin and estuary, protected over the years from sea tides, holds gold deposits carried by the river instead of being carried out to sea. Gold in the Jurassic rocks of the area is thought to be of a high grade.
In a gold rush from 1836 to 1846, Casuto grew to about 6,000 workers in a town with more than 40 stores and trading houses. Skimpy records cite gold output during the period to have averaged 24-48 pounds a day.
The Casuto gold boom slowed due to river sedimentation and waterlogging of shafts. Current government plans call for a vigorous recovery in gold exploration and production.
U.S. Geological Survey statistics indicate Chile, fourth in the world in terms of untapped gold reserves, after Russia and ahead of the United States, is looking to boost its gold output.
In 2011, Chile mined 50 tons of gold, but its potential could be as high as 3,750 tons. That would place Chile, 17th largest gold producer, closer to the top 10 -- the government's stated target.
Fitch Ratings this month affirmed its ratings on state copper producer Corporacion Nacional del Cobre to stress the strategic importance of the metal's exports.
Codelco's net revenue in 2011 of $17.5 billion accounted for 7 percent of Chile's gross domestic production and 31 percent of general government revenues.
"Fitch views Codelco's long-life copper reserves as a strategic asset for Chile because it should allow the company to remain an important contributor to government revenues in the future," Fitch said.
"Codelco possesses immense copper deposits, accounting for 9 percent of the world's known proven and probable reserves," the rating agency said.
Fitch says Chile's rating could be upgraded as a result of stronger economic growth prospects. Both gold and copper are rated by industry analysts as crucial to boosting Chile's economic outlook.