Diversified miner First Quantum Minerals achieved its highest ever yearly copper production last year, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the company’s Sentinel copper mine, in Zambia was a significant contributor to the record production.
This is according to the company’s fourth quarter and full-year 2020 results, released in February.
“[The year] 2020 was a very challenging and unprecedented year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, the company achieved its highest ever yearly copper production. “Sentinel performed exceptionally well, and was a big contributor to that record production,” states First Quantum CEO and chairperson Philip Pascall.
Total copper production for last year was 203171 t in the fourth quarter, and 778 991 t for the full year, as yearly production increased by 11% from 2019.
Sentinel produced 251 216 t of copper for the year, a record for yearly production, and a 14% increase from 2019 was achieved. This record was achieved as a result of a significant increase in yearly throughput to 57-million tonnes.
The company’s Cobre Panama copper operation produced 65 520 t in the fourth quarter of last year, and 205 548 t for the full year. This is a significant increase from the fourth quarter and full-year production in 2019.
This is also despite the mine operating for most of 2020 under strict protocols related to Covid-19, and the planned seven-day shutdown of the semi-autogenous grinding mills during the fourth quarter of last year.
Fourth quarter copper production costs included a cash cost (C1) of $1.28/lb; total cost (C3) of $2.20/lb, and all-in sustaining cost (AISC) of $1.77/lb. Costs were slightly increased from the fourth quarter of 2019.
Fourth quarter costs benefited from lower C1 at the company’s Kansanshi and Sentinel mines in Zambia of $1.01/lb and $1.44/lb respectively. This resulted from favourable foreign exchange rates and lower fuel costs.
C1 at Cobre Panama were $1.34/lb inclusive of about $10-million in costs for increased health and safety protocols.
In 2020 copper production costs were C1 of $1.21/lb, C3 of $2.11/lb, and AISC of $1.63/lb.
C1 for the year was the lowest in four years, and $0.10/lb lower than 2019, driven by record low C1 at Sentinel of $1.40/lb and C1 of $1.09/lb at Kansanshi, with both being better than the previous year.
C1 at Cobre Panama across the year was in line with expectations, despite the impact of Covid-19 disruptions and additional costs.
The realised copper price was $2.98/lb for the fourth quarter, and $2.74/lb for the full year.
Gold production of 68 747 oz in the fourth quarter, and 265 112 oz for the full year, was recorded, including 84667 oz produced at Cobre Panama.
Nickel production was recorded as 5v603 t in the fourth quarter, and 12695 t for the full year as the Ravensthorpe mine, in Australia, continued to ramp up through the year after the restart of operations in the first quarter of 2020.
First Quantum Minerals in February this year reported comparative earnings of $53-million ($0.08 a share), net earnings attributable to shareholders of the company of $9-million ($0.01 a share) and cash flows from operating activities of $533-million ($0.077 a share), for the three months ended December 31, 2020.
For the full year, First Quantum reported a comparative loss of $46-million ($0.07 a share), a net loss attributable to shareholders of First Quantum of $180-million ($0.26 a share) and cash flows from operating activities of $1.613-billion ($2.34 a share).
“The company’s Cobre Panama experienced a period of preservation and safe maintenance related to the virus, but still performed well, ramping back up to full production in early August. “We expect our 2021 copper production to grow this year to more than 785 000 t. This makes First Quantum one of the top global copper producers with one of the largest mineral reserve bases. “Our success in meeting the challenges of the year was directly attributable to the dedication and resilience of our workforce and their adaptability to the new way of working,” explains Pascall.
“We need to continue to prioritise the health and safety of our workforce and extend all efforts to protect our operations from Covid-19 and help mitigate the spread through the communities. “I am proud of the efforts of our entire First Quantum team in this regard. “In addition, we recently published our policy on climate change, which formalises and further demonstrates our commitment to the environment and reducing emissions across the business.”
He concludes by stating that the company’s focus in 2021 continues to be on “debt reduction to enable us to plan for returns to shareholders and future growth”.