Barrick says Zambia copper project on track for 2028 production

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Barrick Gold Corp.’s [ABX-TSX, GOLD-NASDAQ] Lumwana copper mine’s Super Pit expansion project in Zambia has been accelerated with first production now scheduled for 2028, Barrick Gold President and CEO Mark Bristow told Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema at a meeting on Tuesday.

The project will transform Lumwana into one of the world’s major copper mines, with projected annual production of 240,000 tonnes annually during an expected lifespan of over 30 years.  As a result, it is a key component of the Zambian government’s drive to revive the country’s copper industry over the next 10 years.

The estimated cost of the project is almost US$2 billion and construction is scheduled to start towards the end of the year.

Production will come from a 50 million tonne per annual process plant over a mine life of 36 years. The project’s accelerated work program is targeting completion of the full feasibility study by the end of 2024, bringing expected expanded process plant production forward to 2028.

Barrick’s transformation of its Lumwana mine into a world class producer will provide strong impetus for the government’s thrust to revive the county’s copper industry, Bristow has said.

On Tuesday, Barrick Gold shares rose 0.99% or 21 cents to $21.24. The shares trade in a 52-week range of $28.19 and $19.04.

Barrick has gold and copper mining operations and projects in 13 countries in North and South America, Africa, Papua New Guinea and Saudi Arabia.

The portfolio includes half of the world’s top 10 tier one gold assets (defined as having a mine life of over 10 years, at least 500,000 ounces of annual production and in the bottom half of global total cash costs).

They include Cortez and Goldstrike in Nevada, Kibali in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Loulo-Gounkoto in Mali, and Pueblo Viejo.

Another key asset is Barrick’s Nevada Gold Mines operation. Nevada Gold Mines, established in July 2019, is owned 61.5% and operated by Barrick Gold. Newmont Corp. [NGT-TSX, NEM-NYSE] holds the other 38.5%.

The joint venture ranks as the largest global gold producing complex by a wide margin, with three of the world’s top 10 Tier One gold assets (Goldstrike/Carlin, Cortez and Turquoise Ridge/Twin Creeks) and potentially another one in the making (Goldrush).

Lumwana is a conventional open pit (truck and shovel) operation, located about 100 kilometres west of Solwezi in Zambia’s Copperbelt. The operation produced 115 million pounds of copper in the first six months of 2023.

Since Barrick took over operations at Lumwana in 2019, the mine has contributed almost US$3 billion to the Zambian economy in the form of taxes, royalties, salaries and procurement of goods and services. In addition to its local procurement policy, the company is also committed to local employment, and 99.3% of Lumwana’s current workforce are Zambian nationals.

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