First Quantum to kick off massive $5.48bn copper mine in Panama in just months

Commissioning of the vast Cobre Panama mine will begin in early 2018.

Canada's First Quantum Minerals (TSE:FM) is just a few months away from commissioning its massive $5.48 billion copper project in Panama, one of the largest of very few new red metal mines to begin production by the end of the decade.

The company, which gained control over the Cobre Panama project in 2013 with the acquisition of rival Canadian copper miner Inmet Mining, said Thursday the open-pit mine was now about 50% complete.

Cobre Panama project is now 50% complete and on track to produce 320,000 tonnes of copper in 2019.

Speaking at the Paydirt Latin America Downunder conference, in Perth, First Quantum global exploration director, Mike Christie, said the firm would spend close to $1 billion this year to advance construction at the project, located about 120 km west of Panama City, and 20 km from the Caribbean Sea coast.

The Toronto-based miner plans to invest a further $830 million next year and $110 million in 2019, when the mine is expected to reach full capacity of 320,000 tonnes of copper annually.

Once that happens, First Quantum’s total production will surpass 900,000 tones a year, making the company one of the world’s top six copper producers.

Panama will also reap the benefit from the operating mine, as it is expected to generate around $2 billion worth of annual exports during its 34-years of life. That, according to Christie, is equivalent to around 4% of the Central American nation’s current GDP.

Cobre Panama is already generating some benefits for the country’s economy, as it’s creating 7,000 jobs during construction and will employ 2,500 people once in operations, the company said.

First Quantum, which has operating mines in Australia, Zambia, Mauritania, Turkey, Spain and Finland, is also developing two other projects in Latin American — Haquira in Peru and Taca Taca in Argentina – but it hasn’t decided which one will develop first.

First Quantum to kick off massive $5.48bn copper mine in Panama in just months

Once Cobre Panama reaches full production in 2019, First Quantum’s total output will surpass 900,000 tones a year, making it one of the world’s top six copper producers. (Image: Infrastructure construction around Cobre Panama project in April 2013. By Enstoa | YouTube)