The Board of Directors for First Quantum Minerals Ltd. has approved the S3 Expansion at the Kansanshi mine in Zambia and the Enterprise nickel project.
“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,” First Quantam CEO Tristan Pascall said. “The approval of the projects reflects First Quantum’s increased confidence in the investment climate in Zambia.”
The S3 Expansion and the Enterprise nickel project are a key part of the company’s brownfield growth strategy, Pascall added.
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.
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 mill, ball mill and in-pit crushing station. A mining contractor will be mobilized for the Enterprise nickel project to commence pre-stripping of the pit in June.
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. The S3 Expansion, when completed, will comprise of a standalone 25-million-metric-ton-per-year (mt/) processing plant with a new larger mining fleet that will increase Kansanshi’s total annual throughput to 53 million mt/y. Once the expansion is completed, copper production from Kansanshi is expected to average approximately 250,000 mt/y 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 onsite completed. The remaining work includes completion of the remaining engineering design works, procurement and installation of equipment, electrics, controls and infrastructure. The S3 processing train will comprise of a 28-megawatt (MW) SAG mill and a 22-MW 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 ultra-class 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 mt/y to 1.65 million mt/y of concentrate. This will enable the smelter to produce more than 400,000 mt/y of copper anode.
The total capital expenditures associated with the S3 Expansion is expected to be $1.25 billion, which includes $900 million on the S3 plant and mine fleet and $350 million for pre-stripping of the South East Dome pit. Approximately $800 million of this spending is included in the company’s current three-year guidance. First production from the S3 Expansion is expected in 2025.
The Enterprise nickel sulphide deposit is located 12 kilometers northwest of the Sentinel copper mine. The proven and probable reserves at Enterprise total 34.7 million mt of ore at 0.99% nickel.
The Enterprise nickel project will consist of a single, main open pit and one extension to the southwest. It will utilize the existing 4 million mt/y nickel circuit that was previously built as part of the original Sentinel processing complex. The main workstream to bring the project online will be the pre-strip 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 mt/y of nickel in high-grade concentrate.
The total capital expenditures associated with the Enterprise nickel project is expected to be approximately $100 million. Pre-stripping 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. First nickel production of 5,000 to 10,000 mt of nickel is expected in 2023.