First Quantum sees higher copper production over next three years

First Quantum Minerals expects to achieve higher copper production in the next three years out to 2023, driven largely by its operations in Zambia and Panama.

The Vancouver, Canada-based company is forecasting copper production this year of 785,000-850,000 tonnes, up from 779,000 tonnes in 2020.

For 2022, First Quantum is expecting copper output of 805,000-860,000 tonnes, increasing to 820,000-880,000 tonnes in 2023.

The company was badly affected last year by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly at its Cobre Panama operations in Panama.

Cobre Panama - the only major greenfield project in the copper industry - was placed on care and maintenance on April 7, 2020, after the government ordered a suspension of operations the previous day.

The suspension ended in July.

The company produces copper at operations in Zambia, Spain, Turkey and Mauritania. Its flagship operation is the Kansanshi copper mine near Solwezi, in Zambia’s North-Western Province, which is capable of producing 340,000 tonnes per year of copper.

In fact, the company reported record annual output of 251,000 tonnes at Sentinel in Zambia last year, exceeding the 221,000 tonnes produced at Kansanshi.

The company is planning to spend $270 million in 2023 on a proposed expansion at Kansanshi. This project is subject to board approval and the timing could be accelerated or delayed depending on capital availability, commodity prices and the Zambian fiscal regime, First Quantum said.

Fastmarkets copper concentrates treatment charge/refining charge (TC/RC) index, cif Asia Pacific set new lows in the first two weeks of January.

It was calculated at $40.30 per tonne / 4.03 cents per lb on January 8 before it dropped marginally to $40.10 per tonne / 4.01 cents per lb on January 15 and remains unchanged as of January 22 - at a record low since the index was launched in 2013.

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