Nexa Resources aims to expand copper assets

Underground miners at Nexa Resources’ Vazante zinc mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Credit: Nexas Resources.

Nexa Resources (TSX: NEXA; NYSE: NEXA) is looking to expand its copper assets, CEO Tito Martins told MINING.COM. “Copper is the mineral of the moment, of the decade, and maybe the next decades,” said Martins, a former Vale Canada chief.

Copper prices surged again today with the metal hitting above US$9,000 a tonne for the first time in nine years. The bellwether industrial metal has doubled in price since a nadir last March, boosted by rapidly tightening physical markets and the prospects for rebounding economic growth.

“Everything that is said about clean energy and electric vehicles goes through electrical conduction and copper – I’m bullish,” said Martins.


The company plans to invest US$48 million to update its Magistral copper project in Peru, in line with the progress of engineering works.  “Magistral engineering studies continue to progress,” Martin said. “In 2021, we expect to advance further detailed engineering and optimization opportunities to mitigate the risk of project execution, before consideration of project approval.”

Magistral copper production is estimated at 50,000 tonnes per year.

In Brazil, the company expects to begin commercial production at its Aripuanã zinc project in Mato Grosso state by 2022. Nexa faced challenges there last year with some suppliers, but 70% of the project is completed, according to Martins.  “We are on track to conclude mechanical completion in 4Q21 and to start production in early 2022,” he said.

Once in operation, the US$354 million project will become the world’s second-biggest zinc mine, after Teck’s Red Dog mine in Alaska, Nexa says.

The company estimates zinc-equivalent production from Aripuanã will be 119,000 tonnes per year for about 11 years.

Last year, Nexa produced 313,000 tonnes of zinc, down 13% from 2019, mainly driven by the decrease in processed ore volumes at its Peruvian mines, which were affected by the government-mandated temporary shutdowns in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Demand is high,” Martins said. “If I had more metal, I would sell it.” 

As for whether we are entering a super-cycle, that remains to be seen.

“There are great uncertainties about the second half. We have to wait the outcome of Covid-19 in the U.S. and Europe. I think we are still not in a super-cycle, just because of the pandemic.”


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