The First Quantum Minerals Ltd Board of Directors has signed off on the S3 Expansion at the Kansanshi mine and the Enterprise nickel project, both in Zambia.
The approval will lead to work on both projects starting immediately, with the company re-commencing 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; and a mining contractor being mobilised for the Enterprise nickel project in order to commence pre-stripping of the pit in June 2022.
This could see Kansanshi’s life pushed out to 2044 with the introduction of new electrical loading and drilling equipment along with the extension of the current electric trolley assist infrastructure, with Enterprise contributing some 30,000 t/y of nickel concentrate in upcoming years.
“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,” Tristan Pascall, Chief Executive Officer, 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, according to Pascall.
“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,” he said. “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.”
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, First Quantum says. 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 re-introduction of the deductibility of mineral royalties for corporate income tax assessment purposes that became effective in January. This measure realigned Zambia with international best practice, according to First Quantum. 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 successfully resolved all points of contention that have been stumbling blocks to progress on the S3 Expansion and Enterprise nickel project,” it said. “This includes reaching agreement in respect to 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, First Quantum said. As outlined in the NI 43-101 Technical Report filed in September 2020, the S3 Expansion, when completed, will comprise of a standalone 25 Mt/y processing plant with a new larger mining fleet that will increase Kansanshi’s total annual throughput to 53 Mt/y.
Once the expansion is completed, copper production from Kansanshi is expected to average approximately 250,000 t/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 on-site completed, First Quantum said. 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 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, First Quantum said.
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 Mt/y to 1.65 Mt/y of concentrate. This will enable the smelter to produce over 400,000 t/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 released on January 17, 2022, with the balance falling beyond the guidance period. First production from the S3 Expansion is expected in 2025.
The Enterprise nickel sulphide deposit is located 12 km 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 Mt of ore at 0.99% Ni.
The Enterprise nickel project will consist of a single, main open pit and one extension to the southwest. It will use the existing 4 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 t/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. Expected first nickel production of 5,000-10,000 t of nickel in 2023 is included in the company’s three-year guidance.