MMG copper output sinks on Peru force majeure

Las Bambas is considered the world’s ninth-largest copper mine with an output of about 400,000 tonnes per year. (Image courtesy of MMG.)

Australia-based MMG saw copper production decline 20% in the first three months of the year, compared to the same period in 2019, after declaring force majeure at its Las Bambas mine in Peru amid coronavirus-related restrictions.

The company, majority-owned by state-run China Minmetals Corp, said in early April that Las Bambas continued to operate at reduced levels despite Peru extending a state of emergency to slow the spread of covid-19.

Production of copper concentrates at the mine fell 28% year-on-year to 73,319 tonnes. Shipments, MMG said, were also adversely impacted and are now suspended. It added that stocks at the Peruvian port of Matarani were exhausted.

MMG still expects Las Bambas to produce around 2 million tonnes of copper from 2021-2025

“As a result, force majeure has been declared on Las Bambas copper and molybdenum concentrate sales agreements,” the company said, noting all cargoes shipped overseas during the quarter had been received without any major interruptions.

MMG had already withdrawn its production guidance for the mine but did not provide a revised full-year figure. On Thursday, it said it still expected Las Bambas to produce around 2 million tonnes of copper over the five-year period from 2021 to 2025.

The miner attributed the output decline to repairs on an overland ore conveyor and local community blockades that impacted logistics, but the greatest disruption since mid-March has been because of covid-19, MMG said.

Company-wide copper production in the first quarter totalled 91,911 tonnes, down from 114,369 tonnes in the same three months f 2019.

“The first quarter was very challenging for the entire business, but particularly for our largest operation, Las Bambas,” MMG chief executive officer, Geoffrey Gao, said in the statement.

“We are continuing to expend considerable effort to ensure that we can return to normal operations at the mine as quickly as possible and will update the market in due course,” Gao added.

Las Bambas is the world’s ninth-largest copper mine, with an output of between 350,000 and 370,000 tonnes of copper concentrate previously expected for 2020, or about 2% of the world’s projected production.

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