First Quantum trims 2023 copper and nickel guidance

25th October 2023 By: Mariaan Webb - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

First Quantum trims 2023 copper and nickel guidance

The Sentinel mine, in Zambia.

Canada-headquartered First Quantum has lopped off as much as 65 000 t from its copper production guidance for the year, to reflect the performance to-date of its three key mines – Cobre Panamá, Kansanshi and Sentinel.

The miner reduced its copper production guidance to between 745 000 t and 775 000 t, from its previous guidance of between 770 000 t and 840 000 t.

The lower guidance comes despite First Quantum’s three main copper operations delivering an improved production performance in the third quarter. Copper production increased by 18% quarter-on-quarter to 221 550 t.

Copper C1 cash costs of $1.42/lb for the third quarter were $0.56/lb lower than the second quarter. The improvement in copper C1 cash costs was primarily related to improved production volumes.

Cobre Panama, in Panama, produced a record 112 734 t in the third quarter, on the back of improved grades and higher tonnes milled as the CP100 Expansion project continues to ramp up. The production guidance for Cobre Panamá has been narrowed to between 365 000 t and 375 000 t, and the guidance for gold has been lowered to between 135 000 oz and 150 000 oz.

“The ramp-up of the CP100 Expansion project is progressing well, allowing the Cobre Panamá mine to achieve another record in quarterly production. This continued strong performance, together with the recent finalisation of the legal framework for the mine, provides a solid foundation for Cobre Panamá's future,” said CEO Tristan Pascall.

At Kansanshi, in Zambia, copper production also increased quarter-on-quarter to 39 600 t. The company expects to produce between 130 000 t and 140 000 t from Kansanshi in 2023, but lowered its gold guidance to between 65 000 oz and 70 000 oz.

Sentinel, in Zambia, also improved its output when compared with the second quarter, delivering 63 805 t in the third quarter. The operation continued a steady improvement after the impact of record heavy rains experienced earlier this year. While higher grades were accessed in the third quarter, mining was impacted by hard rock from lower levels in stages 1 and 2 of the openpit, which increased blast requirements and hampered crushing reliabilities. First Quantum noted that the ramp-up of the openpit had been slower-than-expected, owing to the hard rock conditions. Stage 3 mining will start in the fourth quarter, which should enable more favourable mining operations with softer material and shorter haul distances.

The Enterprise nickel mine, in Zambia, marked its first concentrate sale in the third quarter. However, the final ramp-up of the process plant to full production capacity has been challenged by the metallurgical characteristics of the shallow ore and impacted recoveries, leading to First Quantum lowering its production guidance for Enterprise to between 3 000 t and 5 000 t, from an earlier range of 5 000 t to 10 000 t.

First Quantum expects the Enterprise mine to reach commercial production and full plant throughout in 2024.

The guidance for Ravensthorpe, in Australia, has also been lowered, resulting in lower group nickel guidance of 25 000 t and 29 000 t, compared with 28 000 t to 38 000 t.

First Quantum’s 2023 gold production will be between 230 000 oz and 250 000 oz, rather than the previously guided 265 000 oz to 295 000 oz.