Thiess has been awarded its first project in the Americas, signing a $137 million services agreement for the Encuentro Oxides open pit copper mine in Chile. Thiess commenced pre-strip operations at the site, within the Centinela Mining District, located in the Antofagasta Region, on July 1. The four-year project will be delivered in partnership with Emeco.The copper mine and nearby processing facility is owned by Antofagasta Minerals, a copper-focused mining group with high-quality assets and a major portfolio of growth opportunities.CIMIC Group Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Marcelino Fernández Verdes, said: “This project, the first venture for Thiess’s New Markets division, marks a significant milestone for Thiess as a global mining business. Through Thiess’s expert contract mining capabilities we plan to further diversify into new, reliable markets, including those in the Americas, to service the needs of clients such as Antofagasta Minerals (AMSA).”Thiess Managing Director Michael Wright said: “Expanding Thiess’s strong mining service capabilities into the Americas, and leveraging our strong base in Australia and Asia, allows us to offer mining solutions to clients in the resource rich regions of North and South America, in addition to Africa where we currently work.“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with AMSA on the Encuentro Oxides Project. This announcement reflects positive alignment between Thiess’s global mining capabilities and the South American marketplace. We will seek to leverage this project as a first step for further growth in Chile and globally.”Encuentro Oxides will produce an estimated average of 50,000 t/y of copper cathode using the existing capacity at Centinela’s SX-EW plant. This will enable the plant to continue to produce at full capacity of 100,000 t/y, thereby helping to offset a decline in production that would otherwise occur due to falling mined grades at the existing oxide pits at Centinela.The project entails the installation of new crushing and heap-leach facilities, a pipeline to take the leach solution to the existing SX-EW plant for processing and the extension of the sea water pipeline from Centinela to Encuentro. The higher-grade ore will be crushed and sent to the new heap-leach facilities, while lower-grade ore will be processed later on a Run-of-Mine (“ROM”) leach pad.This deposit is geologically important for the Group’s long-term development plan, as Encuentro Oxides sits on top of the large Encuentro Sulphide deposit and will act as a funded pre-strip for the sulphides below.First production is expected in the second half of 2016.