First Quantum’s Cobre Panama Hits Commercial Production

- October 23rd, 2019

Copper miner First Quantum Minerals achieved commercial production at Cobre Panama on September 1, one month ahead of schedule.

Copper miner First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF) 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 tonnes of copper in 2019. By the end of September, the mine had produced 87,142 tonnes.

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 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) by the end of 2019, increasing to 85 mtpa 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 mtpa and will result in over 350,000 tonnes 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 mtpa to 100 mtpa 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 tonnes of copper per year when fully functioning. The company had a goal of 150,000 tonnes 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 percent, which put it at US$6.7 billion as of July 30.

Despite the additional expenses, however, the mine produced 30,896 tonnes of copper in Q2 and began shipping concentrate in June. 

First Quantum Minerals’ share price has varied greatly so far this year, enjoying a hot streak from February to April. It is up 3.44 percent since January 4, and saw its peak this year on April 17 when it closed the market at C$16.36. Since that spike, the company’s share price has fallen significantly, hitting its yearly low on August 27 at C$7.89. 

The company closed on Tuesday (October 22) at C$10.93; meanwhile, copper prices were trading at US$5,793.50 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Sasha Dhesi, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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