The S3 expansion project at the Zambian copper-gold mine is expected to ramp up its total annual throughput to 53Mtpa; separately, the Canadian miner will proceed with the development of the Enterprise nickel sulphide deposit to draw an average of 30Ktpa of nickel in high-grade concentrate

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First Quantum Minerals gets board approval for S3 expansion and Enterprise project. (Credit: swm/Freeimages)

First Quantum Minerals said that its board of directors has sanctioned the $1.25bn S3 expansion at the Kansanshi copper-gold mine as well as the $100m Enterprise nickel project, both located in Zambia.

The Canadian miner will immediately begin work on both projects.

The company said that it has worked with the Zambian government to resolve all points of contention that had slowed down the progress on the S3 expansion and Enterprise nickel project.

As part of this, the two parties had reached an agreement regarding the outstanding value-added tax sum that is receivable along with an approach for repayment which will be contingent on offsets against mining taxes and royalties in the future.

First Quantum Minerals CEO Tristan Pascall said: “The S3 Expansion and the Enterprise nickel project are a key part of our brownfield growth strategy. The Kansanshi mine has been a cornerstone asset for First Quantum for 15 years and the S3 Expansion will expand production and extend the mine life for another two decades.

“The low-cost, high-grade Enterprise nickel project is well placed to supply the rapidly growing electric vehicle battery sector. The approval of these two projects is an important milestone for the Company’s path towards responsible production growth of the metals needed for the global green energy transition.”

The S3 expansion project at the copper-gold mine is being taken up to transition the existing selective high-grade, medium-scale operation to a medium-grade, larger-scale mining operation.

The planned transition will be more suitable for the higher proportion of primary, lower-grade sulphide ores at depth, said First Quantum Minerals.

When completed, the S3 expansion will be made up of an independent processing plant with a capacity of 25 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) along with a new larger mining fleet. The project is expected to boost the total annual throughput of the Kansanshi copper mine to 53Mtpa.

After the completion of the expansion, First Quantum Minerals expects the copper production from the Kansanshi mine to be nearly 250,000 tonnes per annum (Ktpa) on an average for the remaining life of mine to 2044.

The Canadian miner is restarting detailed engineering works for the S3 expansion project for determining purchase orders for important long-lead items, including the SAG mill, in-pit crushing station, and ball mill.

The company will invest $900m in the processing plant and mine fleet and the remaining $350m will be for pre-stripping of the South East Dome pit.

Separately, First Quantum Minerals will develop the Enterprise nickel sulphide deposit, located 12km of its Sentinel copper mine in the northwest direction. The proven and probable reserves at the nickel sulphide deposit are 34.7 million tonnes of ore at 0.99% nickel.

According to First Quantum Minerals, the Enterprise nickel project will have a single, main open pit and an extension to the southwest. It will make use of the existing 4Mtpa nickel circuit that was built in the past as part of the original processing complex at the Sentinel mine.

The company expects the mine development project to take nearly 12 months. At full production, the Enterprise nickel project is estimated to yield an average of 30Ktpa of nickel in high-grade concentrate.