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Japan's JXTG cuts output target for Chile copper mine

TOKYO, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Japan's JXTG Holdings has crimped the full-year target for copper concentrate output at its Caserones mine in Chile, hit by lower production in the first half after a blackout, company officials said on Friday.

The firm now expects output of 102,000 tonnes in the fiscal year ending March 31, versus its August forecast of 110,000 tonnes.

The Caserones copper mine was forced to halt operations for three weeks after power lines were damaged by heavy snow and rain in mid-May.

Copper concentrate output in April-September was 39,000 tonnes, compared with 36,000 tonnes in the same period last year, the officials said after a media briefing on the firm's earnings.

Output in October-March is projected to total 63,000 tonnes. The utilization rate has stabilized at around 90 percent and will likely stay around that level through next March, said company general manager Kyugo Yotsuya.

Output at the Caserones project - 77.37-percent owned by a joint venture between JXTG and Japan's Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co Ltd - has been behind schedule since it started producing in May 2014 in the arid mountains of northern Chile. Trading house Mitsui & Co owns the remaining stake in the mine.

Forecast production at Caserones remains at 140,000-145,000 tonnes for 2018/19, and at 150,000 tonnes for 2019/20, a company spokesman said.

JXTG, formed from a merger of Japan's biggest and third-biggest oil refiners, on Friday reported a 195.4 billion yen ($1.72 billion) operating profit in the six months ended Sept. 30.

That compares with a combined profit of 118.6 billion yen for JX Holdings and TonenGeneral Sekiyu in the corresponding period a year earlier.

After the merger on April 1, JXTG, which controls about half Japan's domestic gasoline sales, said it expected to report an annual operating profit without taking into account the effect of inventory of 400 billion yen.

Katsuyuki Ota, JXTG Holdings Senior Vice President, said oil refining margins have remained at their highest levels in seven years, reflecting lower crude refining capacity to comply with the government's second round of directives on increasing the competitiveness of refining units. ($1 = 113.5000 yen) (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)