First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) has expanded its copper reserve base following results of an updated NI 43-101 technical report for its Taca Taca copper-gold-molybdenum project in the Puna (Altiplano) region of Salta province, Argentina.
The report outlined a maiden mineral reserve estimate of 7.7 million tonnes of contained copper at the development project. It also showed over 5 million ounces of contained gold and 210,000 tonnes of molybdenum.
This would increase First Quantum’s total mineral reserves by 36% to over 29 million tonnes of contained copper, representing the fifth-largest copper reserve base globally.
The estimate was derived from an open-pit mine design with a planned processing throughput of up to 60 million tonnes per annum through a conventional flotation circuit with a mine life of approximately 32 years.
The recovered copper reaches a peak of approximately 275,000 tonnes within the first 10 years of operations. The design is based on the process plants that First Quantum has successfully constructed and operated at its Sentinel and Cobre Panama operations.
A decision to proceed with the construction of Taca Taca is not expected until sometime in 2023 or 2024, the company said, as it remains focused on deleveraging its balance sheet over this period.
Work will continue to advance the project and to further refine and optimize the plan while obtaining the required approvals and permits and suitable assurances with respect to the Argentinian fiscal regime in advance of a formal construction decision.
First Quantum also intends to evaluate which energy sources for the project are more environmentally friendly — including potentially 100% renewables or a combination of renewables and natural gas — and to optimize the energy intensity of the project.
The impact of the current carbon tax regime in Argentina is currently not material to the project economics, the company added.
The Taca Taca project was previously acquired through First Quantum’s takeover of Lumina Copper in 2014.
Shares of First Quantum Minerals rose 1.8% by 1 p.m. in Toronto. The Vancouver-based copper miner has a market capitalization of approximately C$12.7 billion.