First Quantum re-shuffles management at Zambian operation

The Sentinel open-pit copper mine. (Image courtesy of First Quantum Minerals.)

First Quantum Minerals Ltd (FQM) is re-shuffling top-tier personnel at its Zambian operations in a bid to tackle production and safety shortfalls in the South African country, an internal memo seen by Reuters showed.

The latest action comes as the company continues to deal with fallout from the sudden closure order of its flagship Panama mine late last year. FQM has lost more than half its market value since public protests against the Cobre Panama project started in October.

“Whilst we recognize the solid efforts of the teams at both Sentinel and Kansanshi, the last two production years at our Zambian operations have fallen short of our overall expectations in terms of safety and production,” said an email sent by chief operating officer Rudi Badenhorst to the employees of the Kansanshi mine last week.

With the impact of the suspension of operations at Cobre Panama towards the end of last year, the memo said, “we recognise our need to reinvigorate our commitments to deliver on our investments in Zambia.”

Meiring Burger, who was part of First Quantum’s group mining team was promoted to general manager of Kansanshi mine, while Axel Kottgen who led the Enterprise nickel project in Zambia was promoted to assistant general manager “to achieve target outcomes at Kansanshi,” the note said.

Anthony Mukutuma, will lead external relations in Zambia to work on government and political strategy, the note added.

First Quantum did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

First Quantum suffered a major blow in Panama last November when the Panama government asked it to shut down one of the world’s biggest copper mines, accounting for 40% of the company’s revenues.

Earlier this year, FQM said it would move ahead with planned investments in Zambia even as the company cut production guidance.

The two Zambian mines, Sentinel and Kansanshi, generated $943 million in revenue for the quarter ending September 2023 and an operating profit of $210 million, company filings showed. In 2023 two contract workers died at the company’s Zambian mines in separate incidents.

Total copper production at Zambia in 2023 was 349kt, 10% lower than in 2022, due to a combination of lower throughput at both sites and lower grades at Kansanshi, the company said in a statement on Jan. 15.

First Quantum said in January that it was exploring the sale of smaller mines and stakes in its larger mining assets.

Fitch ratings agency has warned that permanent closure of First Quantum’s Panama mine could hurt the company’s borrowing capacity.

(By Divya Rajagopal; Editing by Veronica Brown and Susan Fenton)


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