First Quantum Minerals has reported a year-on-year increase to 242,000 tonnes of copper production at its Sentinel mine, 9,000 tonnes higher than in 2021, and record quarterly production of 73,000 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2022, 13,000 tonnes higher than Q4 2021 and 9,000 tonnes higher than Q3 2022.
However, production at its Kansanshi was 146,000 tonnes, which was lower than in 2021 due to lower grades. The lower production reflects a combination of lower sulphide grades from narrow-veined regions, depleting oxide ore, and restricted access to high-grade blocks due to an accumulation of water in the main pit in the second and third quarters of 2022.
Copper production at Kansanshi in Q4 2022 was 35,000 tonnes, a reduction of 17,000 tonnes from Q4 2021, but 5,000 tonnes higher than in Q3 2022 as access to high-grade areas improved following successful dewatering of the pit.
“It is pleasing to see that the focus on operational improvements has resulted in a strong end to 2022. We continue to monitor the macroeconomic conditions closely and debt reduction remains a priority,” commented Tristan Pascall, FQM’s Chief Executive Officer.
He added,“Disciplined and responsible growth continue to be a focus at First Quantum. The CP100 Expansion remains on schedule to exit 2023 at 100 million tonnes per annum and work is well underway for the S3 Expansion. We are also pleased that the Enterprise nickel project will enter its first production this year. These projects are a key part of the Company’s brownfield growth strategy over the next several years.”
The mining firm further revealed that capital expenditure guidance has increased to $1.6 billion in 2023 and $1.8 billion in 2024, reducing to $1.5 billion in 2025 with the completion of the S3 Expansion project at Kansanshi.
It added the expenditure increases in 2023 and 2024 are principally due to inflationary pressures on sustaining capital and the timing of expenditures for project capital. This includes the re-phasing of the S3 Expansion and higher costs for crusher relocations at the mine sites.
Kansanshi copper production in 2023 and 2024 reflects similar levels as in 2022 with lower oxide grades and sulphide grades while mining vein-hoisted areas. Copper and gold production in 2025 includes limited production associated with the S3 Expansion, expected to commence in the second half of 2025.
Nickel production at Enterprise is expected to commence in the first half of 2023 with a ramp-up to total plant throughput and recovery in 2024. 2023 production guidance for Enterprise includes 5,000 tonnes of pre-commercial production results.