First Quantum Minerals is looking to make a US $327m expansion in Panama. FQM already boasts a massive mining and processing complex in the area; unarguably the largest copper mine coming to market over the next couple of years. It is also the biggest single private sector investment in the nation’s history-reportedly.
According to an updated technical report for Cobre Panama, the Toronto-based company expects an increase from 85m tonnes per year to 100m annual tonnes, beginning in 2023.
The Cobre Panama copper project, which is located about 120 km west of Panama City and 20 km from the Atlantic coast, processed its first ore in early February. This would be a record fifty years after the deposit was discovered, but only six years since First Quantum gained control over it.
According to media reports, the expansion will involve the earlier development of the adjacent Colina pit, the addition of a ninth mill, an expanded mining equipment fleet, additional conveyors, an in-pit crusher and other infrastructure to access the nearby pit.
In 2017, First Quantum spent close to US $1Bn to advance construction at Cobre Panama, investing a further US $830m in 2018. This year, the company plans to allocate around US $110m to keep advancing the project until it reaches its full capacity of more than 375,000 annual tonnes of copper.
Once it reaches full production, expected in 2021, First Quantum’s total production will surpass 900,000 tonnes a year, placing it among the world’s top six copper producers.
Panama will also reap the benefit from the operating open-pit mine, as it is expected to generate around US $2Bn worth of annual exports during its 34-years of life. First Quantum also has operating mines in Australia, Zambia, Mauritania, Turkey, Spain and Finland.