First Quantum begins production at $2.1bn Sentinel copper mine in Zambia

First Quantum begins production at $2.1bn Sentinel copper mine in Zambia

Sentinel mine. (Image courtesy of First Quantum )

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM), Zambia's largest foreign investor, has kicked off production at its $2.1 billion Sentinel copper mine, amid low metal prices.

The Vancouver-based miner aims to produce 280,000 to 300,000 tonnes of the red metal a year, but warned commercial production levels at Sentinel will be reached only after state power utility Zesco connects the mine to the power grid, which is expected to happen in September, according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, First Quantum 's local subsidiary Kalumbila Minerals Limited (KML) said it would have to lay off about 1,480 workers after a reduction in its power supply curbed production.

Zesco has limited supplies after water levels at its hydro-electric plants dropped due to drought.

The copper processing plant at Sentinel was impacted by the restrictions, and operations were temporarily halted as a result.

KML, majority owned by First Quantum, is developing the Trident Project which comprises the Sentinel copper mine and Enterprise nickel mine plus associated infrastructure at Kalumbila in north-western Zambia.

The job losses would affect both Zambians and expatriates, KML said, warning of more cost cuts if electricity supplies were not secured.