First Quantum kicks off operations at Zambian copper mine

First Quantum kicks off operations at Zambian copper mine

Sentinel copper mine. (Image courtesy of First Quantum)

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) has began operations at its Zambian Sentinel copper mine, which will feed an $850 million U.S. smelter despite the country's government saying that it will push ahead with plans to more than triple royalties.

The Vancouver-based is aiming to produce 300,000 to 350,000 metric tons of copper a year from its Kansanshi Smelter, while it expects to generate 270,000 to 300,000 tons of the metal a year from its Sentinel mine, according to Bloomberg.

The company, Zambia's largest foreign investor, had originally intended to double the size of the smelter, but the government’s decision to keep the tax hike in place, has made it postpone those plans indefinitely, Zambia’s Daily Mail reports.

The paper quoted First Quantum government affairs manager, John Gladston, saying that while suspending the smelter expansion was a decision based on Zambia’s “fiscal uncertainty,” the new tax regime reinforced such choice.

“The decision leaves the country with a continued deficit in copper smelting capacity,” Gladston said.

First Quantum had warned in October that the new tax system would “inevitably” lead to fewer new jobs and dissuade entrepreneurs from investing in the country. Earlier in the year, the miner delayed investment projects worth $1.5 billion.