First Quantum set for Ravensthorpe restart despite virus

First Quantum Minerals has continued work towards restarting the Ravensthorpe nickel operations in Western Australia despite coronavirus challenges.

The company restarted the acid plant and atmospheric leaching operations during the March quarter and brought the first high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) circuit online in mid-April.

It also commenced product drying and containerising of nickel mixed hydroxide product this month, with the second HPAL circuit scheduled to come online in due course.

Despite solid results for First Quantum’s international operations, the company reduced its 2020 financial year copper production guidance from 805,000 tonnes to 755,000 tonnes, and its gold outlook from 270,000 ounces to 250,000 ounces due to coronavirus impacts.

First Quantum finished the March quarter with a total copper production of 195,285 tonnes, which included a contribution of 56,240 tonnes from the Cobre mine in Panama, a 43 per cent increase from the same period last year.

Labour activities at the Cobre mine have since been suspended due to the coronavirus, with First Quantum placing Cobre Panama onto preservation and safe maintenance earlier this month.

First Quantum also boosted its gold production by 39 per cent in comparison with the March quarter of 2019, hitting 68,788 ounces.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, impacted First Quantum’s operations in Spain and Zambia due to nationwide lockdowns and border closures.

First Quantum chairman and chief executive Philip Pascall said the company’s priority during this time was managing capital spending and operating costs while prioritising the health and safety of employees and the communities in which they work.

“We are managing the restrictions and protocols implemented in each country where we operate to assist in the protection of all, particularly the most vulnerable,” Pascall said.

“We have reduced our operating costs and capital spending to deal with the current environment and have hedges in place to mitigate the uncertainty of the copper price.

“We will continue to make the changes necessary to deal with this global crisis.”

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