The Cobre Panama milling area under construction. (Image: First Quantum Minerals)
PANAMA – The board of Toronto’s First Quantum Minerals has approved the expansion of milling capacity by 15% to 85 million t/y at the Cobre Panama copper project being developed 120 km west of the capital city. Additional upgrades were also approved to take total throughput to 100 million t/y after 2022.
First Quantum says the total pre-production capex is now $6.3 billion (all U.S. dollars). It calculates what it calls capital intensity at $18,000 per tonne, assuming an annual copper production rate of 350,000 tonnes in concentrate.
For the mill to reach the new target, an eighth mill will be installed. The company already owns the mill and associated infrastructure. Installation is to begin in the second half of 2018 and be complete a year later.
The mining fleet will also be expanded to provide additional pre-production stripping and supporting infrastructure to feed the mill.
Cobre Panama is expected to start phased commissioning during 2018 and ramp up next year. To ensure the start-up goes smoothly, First Quantum will transfer some of the experienced Kansanshi smelter team for the ramp-up. Various technical personnel from equipment manufacturers and suppliers will also be moved to Cobre Panama.
First Quantum says contained copper recovered during 2019 will be 270,000 tonnes, and between 270,000 and 300,000 tonnes and 2020. When a steady state of 350,000 t/y is reached in 2021, production costs are estimated at $1.20 per lb. and all-in sustaining costs will be $1.50, net of a $0.25 by-product credit.
See the most recent corporate presentation at www.First-Quantum.com for construction photos.