First Quantum’s Cobre Panama hits commercial production

Copper miner First Quantum Minerals achieved commercial production at its Cobre Panama mine on September 1, one month ahead of schedule. According to a company press release, the Panamanian mine is set to produce 140,000 to 175,000 t of copper in 2019. By the end of September, the mine had produced 87,142 t. Cobre Panama currently has three operating milling trains, with seven operating mills. An eighth mill is expected to be up and running by Q4 2019. “Throughput is expected to be running at an annualized rate of at least 72 mill. t/a by the end of 2019, increasing to 85 mill. t/a during 2020 after the eighth mill is fully ramped-up,” reads a part of the press release. By 2023, annual throughput is expected to reach 100 mill. t/a and will result in over 350,000 t of copper production per year.

These results follow First Quantum Minerals’ investment to expand Cobre Panama, which the company announced back in April of this year. In a technical report, the company laid out its plan to expand Cobre Panama’s throughput from 85 mill. t/a to 100 mill. t/a starting in 2023. First Quantum Minerals began working on this project in 2013 when it acquired the asset from Inmet Mining through a hostile takeover. The company has put billions of dollars into Cobre Panama and has faced hurdles like a supreme court case with the government of Panama. The project came to life in mid-February. At the time, the mine was forecast to produce 380,000 mill. t/a of copper when fully functioning. The company had a goal of 150,000 t of copper in 2019. Work at Cobre Panama was not without its hiccups, with First Quantum Minerals discovering that the mine required additional capital expenditure in July. The company increased its total project capital by 6 %, which put it at US$ 6.7 billion as of July 30. Despite the additional expenses, however, the mine produced 30,896 t of copper in Q2 and began shipping concentrate in June. On October 22, copper prices were trading at US$ 5793.50 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange. (Investing News Network, October 23, 2019)