First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (“First Quantum” or the “Company”, TSX Symbol “FM”) today announced that its Board of Directors has approved the expansion of Cobre Panama’s throughput capacity, by 15%, to 85 million tonnes per annum (“mtpa”) and upgrades to certain areas to accommodate a further increase to 100 mtpa after year 2022. The Board has also approved additional initiatives aimed at achieving a smooth and efficient commissioning and ramp-up phase.
Altogether, Cobre Panama’s total development capital is now estimated at $6.3 billion with an improved capital intensity of $18,000 per tonne of annual copper produced, assuming an annual production rate of 350,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate.
- Expansions of throughput capacity:
- Installation of an eighth mill, which is already owned by the Company, and associated infrastructure is planned to begin in the second half of 2018 for completion in the second half of 2019
- Includes an expansion of the mining fleet and process equipment, additional pre-production stripping and supporting infrastructure to accommodate the future expansion
- Expansion to 100 mpta is expected to be undertaken after 2022
- Additional initiatives to enable a smooth and efficient commissioning and ramp-up:
- Following on the successful commissioning and ramp-up of our Kansanshi smelter, we plan to embed various highly-skilled technical personnel from our equipment manufacturers and suppliers and a supplemental experienced operational ramp-up team during the pre-commissioning stage
- Other initiatives include the procurement and increased market cost for higher quality and capacity equipment, additional spares, upgrade and rectification of certain power station equipment and an increase in the contingency cost to completion
The project is expected to start phased commissioning during 2018, continue to ramp-up over 2019 and reach the 85 mtpa throughput rate by 2020. Over this period, contained copper production is estimated at a minimum of 150,000 tonnes in 2019, between 270,000 tonnes and 300,000 tonnes in 2020 and up to 350,000 tonnes in 2021. At steady-state, the unit cost of production is estimated at $1.20 per pound C1 and $1.50 per pound all-in sustaining, net of a by-product credit of $0.25 per pound.
“The outlook for copper has improved meaningfully and is widely expected to remain strong for some significant time. As such, we believe this is an opportune time to undertake these initiatives which have compelling estimated benefits. The addition of the eighth mill is expected to optimize the current milling circuit which would facilitate the plant to ramp up to 85 mtpa from the outset. Looking further out, the upgrades to some areas of the mine and process plant are intended to allow the future expansion to 100 mtpa to be achieved without interruption to operations,” commented Philip Pascall, CEO and Chairman.
“Additionally, all steps conceivable are being taken to enable a smooth and efficient commissioning and ramp-up process. We are replicating the principles we had implemented at our Kansanshi smelter where we achieved commercial operations well ahead of all prior projections. It is important to us that we deliver a successful project that will benefit all stakeholders.”