Aerial view of the early-operations area at First Quantum Minerals’ Cobre Panama project. Cobre Panama is ex- pected to produce an average of about 320,000 mt/y of copper on a life-of-mine basis, approximately 20% higher than previously predicted. (Photo courtesy of First Quantum Minerals)
Aerial view of the early-operations area at First Quantum Minerals’ Cobre Panama project. Cobre Panama is ex- pected to produce an average of about 320,000 mt/y of copper on a life-of-mine basis, approximately 20% higher than previously predicted. (Photo courtesy of First Quantum Minerals)

First Quantum Minerals has reported updated project operating parameters, a new development time-frame, and a revised capital cost estimate for its 80% owned Cobre Panama copper-gold-silver-molybdenum project in the Republic of Panama. The new project objectives are based on an intensive review initiated by the company when it acquired its interest in the project from Inmet Mining in March 2013. The remainder of the project is held by Korea Panama Mining Corp., a consortium of LS-Nikko Copper Inc. and Korea Resources Corp.

On the basis of the current resource estimate and planned initial installed throughput capacity of 70 million mt/y, Cobre Panama is now expected to produce an average of about 320,000 mt/y of copper on a life-of-mine basis, approximately 20% higher than in the Inmet plan. Average annual life-of-mine by-products production is estimated at 100,000 oz of gold, 1.8 million oz of silver, and 3,500 mt of molybdenum.

The 70-million-mt/y throughput target is approximately 17% higher than in the Inmet plan and applies to the first 10 years of a project life that is estimated at 34 years.

Project planning is based on estimated measured and indicated resources of 3,271 million mt, inclusive of reserves. Grades will average 0.5% total copper for the first 10 years and 0.37% for the remaining mine life. The average life-of-mine strip ratio is 0.7:1.

The re-engineered and larger Cobre Panama project is now scheduled for construction completion, commissioning, and first concentrate production in the second half of 2017.

Capital cost to develop the project is estimated at $6.4 billion, inclusive of $913 million incurred before First Quantum acquired of the project. Capital per installed metric ton of capacity is approximately $17,125.

Since acquiring the Cobre Panama project, First Quantum has transformed development from an out-sourced approach to a complete “in-house, self-perform” operation, with third-party engineers and contractors now utilized only for identified specific tasks. Significant quantities of on-site equipment have been purchased by First Quantum from contractors whose contracts have been either canceled or modified. First Quantum now fully controls all site development activities. Site accommodation, road access, and communications are now all fully functional.

The locations of key site infrastructure, including the processing facilities, were reviewed, and an alternate, more practical plant site was selected that is expected to be more cost effective to construct and allow for better access to the proposed in-pit crushing and conveyor systems and the main access road.

The Cobre Panama project is located 120 km west of Panama City and 20 km from the Caribbean Sea coast. The concession consists of four zones totaling 13,600 ha. The project elevation is less than 300 m, but the topography features considerable local relief and is covered by dense rainforest.

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