DRC withdraws permit for First Quantum's Frontier mine

30th August 2010 By: Chanel de Bruyn - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Base-metals-miner First Quantum has suspended operations at its Frontier mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after the DRC mining registry withdrew the mine’s exploitation permit.

Further, the miner had also received a letter stating that DRC government-owned company Sodimico had been granted Frontier’s titles and that First Quantum had to stop all mining and exports from Frontier and leave the title areas.

“Today’s threats by Sodimico render it impossible to continue safe and orderly operations at Frontier. Our immediate concerns are to ensure the safety of our employees in what has progressively become an unstable environment. It is regrettable that the dispute could not have been resolved in a rational manner to ensure the continued operation of Frontier,” First Quantum CEO Philip Pascall said on Friday.

The Canada-based company again said that this was in retaliation over its decision to start arbitration process regarding its Kolwezi project, adding that the withdrawal of the exploitation permit for the Frontier mine was contrary to the DRC’s laws and the mining code.

First Quantum took the DRC government to the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration after the State, in August 2009, revoked its mining licence for the Kolwezi tailings project – a copper/cobalt project in the Katanga province, where the company had already spent $750-million in acquiring and developing the property.

“First Quantum will continue to advance its rights through international arbitration with respect to the Kolwezi project and now the Frontier mine, and will pursue all other legal remedies available against third parties seeking enrichment through interference with First Quantum's legal rights,” it stated.