February 7, 2017 / 9:15 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Japan's JX sees higher output at Caserones copper mine, still below full production

* Production increases but below planned levels

* Output levels stabilizing after cost overruns, delays (Adds details)

TOKYO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Japan's JX Holdings Inc expects to exceed the copper concentrate output target at its troubled Caserones mine in Chile for the year ending March 31, an executive said on Tuesday, but production is still below planned capacity.

The company expects output of a little more than 98,000 tonnes in the current business year, up from its November outlook of 97,000 tonnes, Katsuyuki Ota, JX Holdings' director and executive officer, told an earnings news conference.

The expected output is still less than two thirds of the 150,000 tonnes of concentrate planned when the company started construction of the mine, which has been hit by repeated delays and costs overruns.

JX said last May it was aiming to produce 137,000 tonnes in the year through March, but it cut that target to 100,000 tonnes in August, and reduced it again to 97,000 tonnes.

The repeated delays in the ramp-up have been weighing on profits at JX and Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co, which also has a stake in the mine.

Ota said operations have stabilised after problems last year, but the mine has not reached the break-even point at current copper prices. Still, he said there is no need for writedowns on the Caserones mine.

He said output in the fourth quarter ending March 31 is projected at 33,000 tonnes, up from 29,000 tonnes in the previous quarter.

"Production exceeded our plan slightly in the third quarter and output is likely to top 12,000 tonnes in March alone," he said.

Operations are set to be near peak output next month, he said, but he didn't give a target for achieving full production.

The company is likely to continue curbs on its investments in the next fiscal year from April 1 as it prioritises improving its finances after posting write-downs in the past business years due to declining resource prices. (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Tom Hogue)

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