First Quantum Minerals’ or FQM Zambia’s new copper smelter in Zambia is performing so well since its hot commissioning start in February 2015, the company expects to declare commercial production in Q3, ahead of the previous Q1, 2016 expectation.

The daily copper concentrate throughput currently averages 3 000 t with periods in excess of the 3 500 tpd nameplate capacity. Feed to the smelter is currently comprised of a mixture of stockpiled and fresh concentrate from the Kansanshi mine and fresh concentrate from the new Sentinel mine.

The benefits to Kansanshi are increasing as the ramp-up progresses – its concentrate inventory has been reduced to 29 600 t of contained copper from 59 900 t at the end of the first quarter of 2015. Over 180 000 t of sulphuric acid have been produced by the smelter and used in the mine’s oxide and mixed circuits and the mine’s C1 cost of production has been lowered to between $1.36 and $1.25 per pound from an average of $1.77 in the first quarter of 2015.

“We are very pleased with the performance of the smelter. The achievement of over 100% of nameplate capacity, in just three months from startup, is unprecedented. It is a credit to the design and project teams and illustrates the strong capabilities of the operations management and staff,” notes Philip Pascall, First Quantum’s Chairman and CEO.

“The smelter’s value to our Kansanshi mine in particular is already very evident. For the first time in several years, the mine is able to operate without the constraints of limited availability and widely-fluctuating sulphuric acid prices and the lack of smelter capacity in Zambia.

“At our new Sentinel mine, commercial production on the entire facility is expected in the third quarter 2015 following delivery of the full power requirement which is on track for August. This, together with the smelter will complete a significant phase in the expansion of our production capacity,” Pascall concludes.

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