Mr. Tristan Pascall reports
FIRST QUANTUM ANNOUNCES BOARD APPROVAL OF THE KANSANSHI S3 EXPANSION AND ENTERPRISE NICKEL PROJECT
First Quantum Minerals Ltd.'s board of directors has approved the S3 expansion at the Kansanshi mine and the Enterprise nickel project (in U.S. dollars except where noted).
"First Quantum has been working constructively with the government of Zambia's New Dawn administration as part of their efforts to reform the mining sector, attract investment and increase Zambia's copper production. The approval of the projects reflects First Quantum's increased confidence in the investment climate in Zambia," commented Tristan Pascall, chief executive officer. "The S3 expansion and the Enterprise nickel project are a key part of our brownfield growth strategy. The Kansanshi mine has been a cornerstone asset for First Quantum for 15 years, and the S3 expansion will expand production and extend the mine life for another two decades. The low-cost, high-grade Enterprise nickel project is well placed to supply the rapidly growing electric vehicle battery sector. The approval of these two projects is an important milestone for the company's path towards responsible production growth of the metals needed for the global green energy transition."
Work on both projects will start immediately. The company is recommencing detailed engineering works for the S3 expansion to determine purchase orders for key long-lead items, including the SAG (semi-autogenous) mill, ball mill and in-pit crushing station. A mining contractor will be mobilized for the Enterprise nickel project to commence prestripping of the pit in June, 2022. The development timeline and capital commitments of both projects remain consistent with the three-year guidance recently provided by the company on Jan. 17, 2022.
Zambian investment climate
The approval of the projects follows the efforts of the New Dawn administration to enhance both the investment climate for mining and to seek commitments from the mining sector to contribute to the national economy and to corporate social responsibility. These initiatives will help establish a platform for more stable, durable and responsible mining in Zambia.
The government of Zambia's commitments address the ease of doing business in Zambia, covering areas such as expediting immigration procedures in exchange for commitments for local employment levels, competitive pricing of power transmission and power procurement from independent sources, which in turn will support renewable energy projects and measures to ensure the ease of importing and exporting goods.
The approvals follow the reintroduction of the deductibility of mineral royalties for corporate income tax assessment purposes that became effective January, 2022. This measure realigned Zambia with international best practice. The government's commitment to improve the predictability of the mining fiscal regime also provides the certainty needed to support large capital investments in Zambia.
Furthermore, First Quantum and the government have resolved all points of contention that have been stumbling blocks to progress on the S3 expansion and Enterprise nickel project. This includes reaching agreement in respect of the outstanding value-added tax receivable sum and an approach for repayment based on offsets against future mining taxes and royalties.
The S3 expansion is expected to transition the current selective high-grade, medium-scale operation to a medium-grade, larger-scale mining operation that will be more appropriate for the higher proportion of primary, lower-grade sulphide ores at depth. As outlined in the National Instrument 43-101 technical report filed in September, 2020, the S3 expansion, when completed, will comprise a stand-alone 25-million-tonne-per-year processing plant with a new larger mining fleet that will increase Kansanshi's total annual throughput to 53 million tonnes per year. Once the expansion is completed, copper production from Kansanshi is expected to average approximately 250,000 tonnes per year for the remaining life of mine to 2044.
A significant portion of the initial construction works for the S3 expansion have been previously undertaken with much of the civil and structural work on site completed. The remaining work includes completion of the remaining engineering design works, and procurement and installation of equipment, electrics, controls and infrastructure. The S3 processing train will comprise a 28-megawatt SAG mill and a 22-megawatt ball mill. The open-pit mine will be expanded to increase the supply of sulphide ore from the Main pit and extend into the South East Dome deposit. The expanded mining fleet will use similar ultraclass equipment as First Quantum's other key mines, and will benefit from new electrical loading and drilling equipment along with the extension of the current electric trolley assist infrastructure.
In parallel with the expansion of the mine and processing facilities, the company plans to increase the throughput capacity of the Kansanshi smelter from 1.38 million tonnes per year to 1.65 million tonnes per year of concentrate. This will enable the smelter to produce over 400,000 tonnes per year of copper anode.
The total capital expenditures associated with the S3 expansion are expected to be $1.25-billion, which include $900-million on the S3 plant and mine fleet and $350-million for prestripping of the South East Dome pit. Approximately $800-million of this spending is included in the company's current three-year guidance released on Jan. 17, 2022, with the balance falling beyond the guidance period. First production from the S3 expansion is expected in 2025.
Enterprise nickel project
The Enterprise nickel sulphide deposit is located 12 kilometres northwest of the Sentinel copper mine. As outlined in the NI 43-101 technical report, filed in March, 2020, proven and probable reserves at Enterprise total 34.7 million tonnes of ore at 0.99 per cent nickel.
The Enterprise nickel project will consist of a single Main open pit and one extension to the southwest. It will utilize the existing four-million-tonne-per-year nickel circuit that was previously built as part of the original Sentinel processing complex. The main work stream to bring the project on-line will be the prestrip of waste. The development timeline for Enterprise is expected to be approximately 12 months. At full production, Enterprise is expected to produce an average of 30,000 tonnes per year of nickel in high-grade concentrate.
The total capital expenditures associated with the Enterprise nickel project are expected to be approximately $100-million. Prestripping of the Enterprise pit of $60-million is included in the three-year guidance provided earlier this year along with $40-million related to infrastructure and plant commissioning. Expected first nickel production of 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes of nickel in 2023 is included in the company's three-year guidance.
The S3 expansion and the Enterprise nickel project underline First Quantum's continued standing as the largest private sector employer and the largest contributor to corporate social responsibility in the mining sector in Zambia. The company is committed to local procurement and the advancement of Zambian small- and medium-sized business development in North Western province. Power for both projects will be supplied predominantly from renewable sources, including the existing hydro power within Zambia, as well as potential wind and solar power projects that are under consideration by third parties.
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