Zijin starts production at giant Tibet copper mine

Tibet. (Image by Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn), Flickr).

Zijin Mining on Monday said it had started production at its Qulong copper mine in Tibet, one of the largest in top metals consumer China, adding a new source of supply to the market for next year.

Zijin, a well-known copper and gold producer that is buying Argentina-focused lithium miner Neo Lithium, took control of the Qulong mine around 18 months ago when it bought a 50.1% stake in operator Tibet Julong Copper Co and swiftly resumed construction at the project.

Julong Copper is expected to produce 120,000-130,000 tonnes of copper in 2022, including volumes from Phase 1 of Qulong and the Zhibula mine, which is also in Tibet, Zijin said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

“After Phase 1 reaches the designated production capacity, the annual copper production volume will be approximately 160,000 tonnes,” it added.

The tightness in the copper concentrate market seen in recent years is expected to ease in 2022 as more mine production comes on stream. Annual treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) agreed by miners and smelters have risen for the first time since 2015.

Zijin said Julong Copper had applied to merge the mining rights for the Qulong mine and the adjacent Rongmucuola mine, arguing they belong to the same copper ore body. Following the merger, the mine will be renamed as Julong and Phases 2 and 3 will be pursued, it added.

“If the project obtains the approvals of the relevant governmental authorities, a final mining and processing scale of approximately 200 million tonnes of ores per year can be reached, and it will become the copper mine with the largest mining and processing scale in the world,” Zijin said.

(By Tom Daly; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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