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DAILY NEWS Dec 7, 2012 4:27 PM - 0 comments

First Quantum adds heft to two Zambian projects

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Proving that it isn't entirely pre-occupied with a potential merger with Inmet Mining (IMN-T), First Quantum Minerals (FM-T) found the time to deliver some serious tonnage from two of its projects in Zambia.

The company announced a significant upgrade to reserves and resources at one producing asset and at the same time managed to release an impressive maiden estimate for another development project.

The updated estimate was connected to its Kansanshi copper mine in the Sub-Saharan country, with measured and indicated resources increasing by 121% in tonnage and 74% in contained metal, and proven and probable reserves jumping 178% in tonnage and 106% in contained copper, the new totals will have a significant impact on the operation of the mine.

Recoverable reserves now stand at 725.6 million tonnes grading 0.82% copper and 0.15 grams gold using a 0.25% copper cutoff grade and a US$3.00 per lb copper price and US$1,200 per oz. gold price. Total measured and indicated resource from Kansanshi now stand at 744.3 million tonnes grading 0.86% copper for 6.4 million tonnes of copper.

The new heft in resource comes on the back of over 120,000 metres of diamond drill core. All that drilling helped the company outline a new zone known as the South East Dome discovery, which sits roughly 2-km from the main pit, and contributed 674,000 tonnes of copper with an average grade of 0.9% copper.

The company did announce, however, that the new resource is connected to a higher strip ratio, which went up to 2.4:1 from 2.1:1. The reason for the increase was a decrease in the cutoff grade to 0.25% copper from the previous cutoff of 0.28% copper.

For investors concerned about the slight increase in strip, the increased scale of the deposit compensates in other ways. First Quantum says the increase in ore bolsters the mine life 16 years at a throughput rate of 50 million tonne per year. That is a considerable leap in both time and scale as the company previously had outlined 11 years at 25 million tonnes per year.

With the success of the update, First Quantum is expected to announce the approval of a second phase of expansion, which would increase the project's annual copper production to 400,000 tonnes from 250,000 tonnes by 2015.

First Quantum has an 80% stake in Kansanshi, which last year produced 230,295 tonnes of copper and 112,286 oz. of gold.

An entirely new resource estimate comes from its Trident project, also in Zambia, on a deposit known as Enterprise.

The main zone and the South West zone at Enterprise tallied proven and probable reserves of 32.7 million tonnes grading 1.10% nickel for 363,000 tonnes of contained nickel. Measured and indicated resources came in at 40.1 million tonnes grading 1.07% nickel and inferred resources were 7.1 million tonnes grading 0.70% nickel. Taken together that makes for 481,000 tonnes of contained nickel.

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First Quantum's Kansanshi open pit copper mine. Source: First Quantum
First Quantum's Kansanshi open pit copper mine. Source:...

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