Chilean firm Minera Escondida received approval for a US$17mn exploration campaign at the Pinta Verde target at its operation in northern region II, a source from the environment ministry's (MMA) regional evaluation office told.
Pinta Verde is located 4km north of Escondida's main deposit, which is the largest copper operation in the world.
Previous drilling at the target identified the presence of near surface oxide mineralization and the company is looking to carry out further tests and develop economic studies to evaluate the potential mining of the resources.
The campaign will run for 19 months and works are expected to start immediately.
Multinational resource group BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP) controls 57.5% of Escondida. Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO) owns 30% while two JVs led by Mitsubishi hold the remainder.