Canadian miner First Quantum celebrated a significant milestone at its newest copper mine last week with the first shipment of 31 200 t of concentrate leaving the Punta Rincon port under a Panamanian flag vessel.
First Quantum invested $6.3-billion in the new mine, which is forecast to produce between 140 000 t and 175 000 t of copper this year.
Production will ramp up to between 270 000 t and 300 000 t next year, and between 330 000 t and 350 000 t in 2021. First Quantum is considering an expansion of the mine’s throughput rate from 85-million tonnes to 100-million tonnes, which will increase production to 375 000 t/y.
The company believes that “copper is the future”, Cobre Panama general manager Tristan Pascall said in a media statement.
“This copper, 100% Panamanian, will contribute to the world reaching the sustainability that it requires, providing the necessary material for the generation of clean energies, but it also represents the opportunity to offer a future full of opportunities to the neighbouring communities, to our collaborators and to Panama,” he said.
The shipment marks the beginning of copper exports from Panama and came in the same week that top producer Codelco’s Chuquicamata mine, in Chile, was hit by a labour strike. The strike should provide support for the price of copper, which is in short supply, but analysts say that trade tensions are weighing on demand.
The International Copper Study Group (ICSG) is forecasting a global deficit of about 190 000 t of refined copper in 2019, increasing to about 250 000 t next year, as refined production is forecast to lag behind that of usage.
The ICSG is projecting that mine production would remain essentially unchanged in 2019, despite the start-up of the Cobre Panama mine and the expansion of Southern Copper’s Toquepala mine, in Peru.
Refined output would increase by about 2.8% this year, the group said in a May press release.