First Quantum Minerals Ltd. [FM-TSX] said Monday June 24 that it has reached a key milestone at the world’s largest new copper mine. The company said it has shipped out the first concentrates from the production site at its 90%-owned Cobre Panama copper-gold mine in Panama.
The first shipment carried 31,000 tonnes of wet concentrate, an amount that equates to 8,000 tonnes of contained copper. A second vessel carrying 44,000 tonnes of wet concentrate, or 11,000 tonnes of contained copper, is expected to depart in the next few days.
First Quantum has said it believes 2019 will be a pivotal year as it continues with the ramp up of its huge Cobre Panama Project where commercial production is anticipated by the fourth quarter of 2019.
Cobre Panama is located in the Panama jungle, about 120 km west of Panama City. The concession consists of four zones, covering 13,600 acres. First Quantum recently increased its stake in the open pit project to 90%.
Proven and probable reserves stand at 3.1 billion tonnes, averaging 0.38% copper, 0.07 g/t gold, 1.3 g/t silver and 0.006% molybdenum. That material is estimated to be sufficient to support a mining operation for 40 years.
The reserves contain 11.8 million tonnes of copper and 7.3 million ounces of gold.
The $6.4 billion operation produced its first copper at the end of March, 2019 and is on track to produce between 140,000 and 175,000 tonnes of copper this year, rising to between 270,000 and 300,000 tonnes in 2020. Over 80% of the output this year is expected to be produced in the second half of 2019.
On Monday, First Quantum shares rose 3.01% or 36 cents to $12.31 on volume of 1.3 million. The shares trade in a 52-week range of $9.45 and $20.63.
The concession rights for the Cobre Panama Project were obtained in 1997 under Law 9 by Minera Petaquilla, now known as Minera Panama SA. Minera Panama is a majority owned subsidiary of First Quantum.
Aside from Panama Cobre, First Quantum has major interests in seven mining operations located in Zambia, Spain, Finland, Australia and Turkey.
The company posted net earnings attributable to shareholders of US$53 million or $0.08 per share in the first quarter ended March 31, 2019, and cash flow from operating activities of US$159 million.
First Quantum produced 139,969 tonnes of copper in the first quarter of at an all-in sustaining cost of US$1.77 a pound. That amount included 25 tonnes of pre-commercial production at Cobre Panama.
At the close of the first quarter, First Quantum had US$850 million in net unrestricted cash and cash equivalents. The company recently said power station construction and commissioning is now complete at Cobre Panama.