By Mary de Wet
First Quantum Minerals Ltd. expects its copper production to rise in 2022 based on the midpoint of its guidance, after its operations yielded the largest output of the metal in the Canadian miner’s history last year.
On its outlook:
First Quantum expects to produce 810,000 to 880,000 metric tons of copper, 285,000 to 310,000 ounces of gold, and 25,000 to 30,000 contained metric tons of nickel in 2022.
Grades and recoveries at Cobre Panama, First Quantum’s biggest producer of copper and gold, are expected to be consistent with 2021 levels but will fluctuate from quarter to quarter, the company said.
Grade is expected to improve at Sentinel from 2021 levels as higher-grade ore is exposed. “Construction of the fourth in-pit crusher was completed in the December 2021 and commissioning was completed in January 2022, which will enable the plant to achieve throughput of 62 [million metric tons per year] in 2022.”
Grades at Kansanshi are expected to decline over the course of the year, First Quantum said.
“Through advancement of its brownfield portfolio, the company sees a path to 1 million [metric tons] of copper production.”
“The company’s exposure to the strong copper price environment is expected to continue to improve with the declining profile of the hedge book with no new additional copper hedges were entered into during the fourth quarter.”
Nickel production will be affected by major shutdowns and descales of autoclaves at the Raventhorpe operations scheduled for March and August.
On its full year:
Copper production totaled 816,435 metric tons, the highest annual copper production in First Quantum’s history, the company said.
That was a 5% increase from 2020, attributable to record production at Cobre Panama and the resilience of the other operations, First Quantum said.
On its fourth quarter:
Copper production totaled 201,823 metric tons, down from 203,171 tons in the year-ago quarter.
Gold output rose to 74,945 ounces from 68,747 ounces but fell 4% from the third quarter due to lower production at Cobre Panama, the company said.
Nickel production fell to 3,385 contained metric tons from 5,603 tons a year ago. “Fourth-quarter production was impacted by the delayed transition to the Shoemaker Levy orebody and unplanned maintenance at the power plant main steam pipe,” First Quantum said.
“However, commissioning of the Shoemaker Levy conveyor was completed later in the quarter and the resulting material handling performance and beneficiation upgrade was improved compared to the Hale Bopp ore, in line with expectations.
“Skilled labor availability and high sulphur prices remain a challenge,” the company said.
Write to Mary de Wet at firstname.lastname@example.org