First Quantum to fast-track Zambia project after Panama blow

Kansanshi, pictured, is the largest copper mine by output in Zambia and is 20% owned by ZCCM-IH, with the balance owned by First Quantum Minerals. (Image courtesy of First Quantum)

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals (TSX: FM) has inked a deal with Zambia’s Mimosa Resources to fast-track their joint development of the Fishtie copper project in the African country’s Central Province, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The companies, which have been exploring the asset since 2012, now see Fishtie kicking off production in 2026, ramping up production to 30,000 tonnes of copper a year by the end of the decade.

Mimosa currently owns 37.5% of Kashime Copper Ltd, which holds the Fishtie project. The agreement with First Quantum will see Mimosa’s stake grow to 75% through the completion of a feasibility study and the raising of the necessary financing to take the project to technical completion, the companies said. 

Each stage of development is time-bound to ensure the project is brought into operations within a reasonable timeframe, they noted. 

First Quantum has also committed to finance and conduct exploration within the wider licence area, outside of Fishtie. Mimosa Resources will lead the raising of a total investment of $200 million for the project.

The agreement comes at a time when First Quantum is being asked to close its giant copper mine in Panama, which accounts for about 1.5% of the world’s production of the metal. The operation makes up about 5% of Panama’s GDP and 75% of its export of goods.

Zambia, which has unveiled plans to triple its copper output by the end of the decade, recently reviewed its tax policy to increase investment in the sector.

“We are determined that this resource should be developed now that the investment climate in Zambia has improved,”First Quantum Minerals country manager, Godwim Beene, said in the statement.

“In the search for a genuine ‘social licence to operate’, we believe that Zambians need to play a leading role in the country’s future mining development,” Mimosa Resources executive chairman, Jordan Soko, said.  “As such, we believe this will not only be a step forward for the Fishtie project, but also for mining in Zambia more generally.” 

First Quantum’s presence in Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, also includes the Kansanshi mine and smelter in Solwezi and the Sentinel mine in Kalumbila.