First Quantum Expanding Cobre Panama Project by 15%

First Quantum recently took delivery of Liebherr T284 haul trucks to support mining operations at Cobre Panama.
First Quantum Minerals announced in mid-February that its board of directors has approved an expansion of throughput capacity at its Cobre Panama open-pit copper project by 15% to 85 million metric tons per year (mt/y), along with upgrades to certain areas of the project to accommodate a further increase to 100 million mt/y after 2022. Altogether, Cobre Panama’s total development capital is now estimated at $6.3 billion, with an improved capital intensity of $18,000/mt of copper produced, assuming an annual production rate of 350,000 mt of copper in concentrate.

Cobre Panama is scheduled to start phased commissioning during 2018, to continue ramping up during 2019, and to reach its 85-million-mt/y throughput rate by 2020. Over this period, contained copper production is estimated at a minimum of 150,000 mt in 2019, between 270,000 and 300,000 mt in 2020, and up to 350,000 mt in 2021. At steadystate, the all-in sustaining cost of production is estimated at $1.50/lb of copper, net of a byproduct credit of $0.25/lb.

The throughput expansion program at Cobre Panama includes installation of an eighth mill that First Quantum already owns. Additional mining fleet and process equipment will be purchased, and additional pre-production stripping and supporting infrastructure installation will be undertaken to accommodate the future expansion. Other initiatives include procurement of additional spares, upgrade and rectification of certain power station equipment, and an increase in the contingency cost to completion.

First Quantum CEO and Chairman Philip Pascall said, “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, facilitating the ramp up to 85 million mt/y 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 million mt/y to be achieved without interruption to operations.

“Additionally, all steps conceivable are being taken to enable a smooth and efficient commissioning and ramp-up process. We are replicating the principles we implemented at our Kansanshi smelter in Zambia, 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.”

The Cobre Panama concession is located 120 km west of Panama City, Panama, and 20 km from the Caribbean Sea coast. The topography in the concession area is low elevation (less than 300 m) but rugged, with considerable local relief covered by dense rainforest. Climatic conditions are tropical, with high precipitation levels, high humidity, and relatively high temperatures of 25°C to 30°C year-round.

As featured in Womp 2018 Vol 03 -