Alaska’s Pebble project team keeps eye on RoD goal despite Covid-19 precautions

Canada’s Northern Dynasty said on Thursday that work on the Pebble project, in Alaska, continued to advance, despite the mandatory and voluntary steps that its US-based subsidiary implemented in response to the spreading of the novel coronavirus. The project developer confirmed that it still expected a final environmental impact statement (EIS) and record of decision (RoD) by mid-year.“While it feels like the entire world has come to a halt because of Covid-19, many organisations, Pebble included, have modified their approach to work, but remain focused on core activities. For us, this means making sure we are doing everything necessary to ensure that the project schedule published by the USACE [US Army Corp of Engineers] of a final EIS and a RoD by mid-2020 remains on track," says Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier.

Freeport-McMoRan in talks over limited operations at Cerro Verde

NYSE-listed Freeport-McMoRan said on Thursday that it was in discussions with Peruvian authorities to allow the Cerro Verde mine to conduct limited operations during the country’s extended state of emergency, positioning the mine to return to normal operations when restrictions were lifted. Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra has ordered an extension of the Covid-19 state of emergency for an additional 13 days until April 12 in a bid to curb the spread of the infection. The initial state of emergency was due to expire on March 30.

Hot Chili strikes production deal in Chile

Junior Hot Chili has accepted an offer from Chilean-government agency Empresa Nacional de Mineria (Enami) for the lease mining and processing of ore from the Productora copper/gold project, in Chile. Subject to a formal agreement, Enami would lease the mining concession for a period of two years, at a terms and conditions to be agreed upon, and could sublet sectors of the concessions to third parties who will exploit the site and deliver their production to the Enami plant in Vallenar.

Chile’s copper miner Codelco suspends construction projects over coronavirus

Chile's Codelco, the world's largest copper miner, said on Wednesday it would temporarily suspend construction on some projects in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus, as the company´s unions ratcheted up pressure for more safety measures. In a statement Codelco said the 15-day suspension applied to remaining work being carried out to make Chuquicamata an underground mine, and projects at an early stage at Rajo Inca and Traspaso Andina.

First Quantum jumps 35% on operations update

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. [FM-TSX] shares rallied Tuesday March 24 after the company released an operations update, saying its production and sales remain stable in the current environment. The company also said it is maintaining its production guidance for the year.

First Quantum shares advanced on the news, rising 35% or $1.78 to $6.82 on volume of over 5.0 million shares traded. The shares are currently trading in a 52-week range of $4.72 and $16.63.

First Quantum is a diversified mining company that is engaged in the production of copper, nickel, gold and zinc. It has operating mines in Zambia, Finland, Turkey, Spain and Mauritania. The company’s portfolio of assets includes the Kansanshi Mine in Zambia, which ranks as the largest copper mine in Africa.

The company is working to develop its Panama copper-gold mine in Panama, the world’s largest new copper mine.

Cobre Panama is located in the Panama jungle, about 120 km west of Panama City. The concession consists of four zones, covering 13,600 acres. First Quantum recently increased its stake in the open pit project to 90%. Having reached the commercial production stage in early September 2019, Cobre Panama continues to ramp up amid expectations that its forecast copper production will amount to between 285,000 and 310,000 tonnes this year.

“Our key priorities are the health of our employees and to ensure the business remains robust in the midst of a challenging commodity price environment,” said First Quantum CEO Philip Pascall. “We are doing everything we can to care for our staff, their families and the communities around us in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “It is also our responsibility that we continue our contribution to the economies of the countries in which we operate and supply the products on which our customers depend. We will continue to operate our mines responsibly, providing employment and generating revenues, and we will ensure that our business withstands this period of downturn.”

First Quantum said several members of the contractor workforce at the Cobre Panama operation have been confirmed as having the COVID-19 virus. The affected personnel are being cared for in the public healthcare system as per the Panama Ministry of Health requirements. First Quantum said Cobre Panama has already implemented the appropriate control, isolation and quarantine measures in line with Government guidelines and site-specific conditions.

However, the company said the Government of Panama has decreed that Cobre Panama is specifically authorized to continue operating, albeit with strict adherence to protocols established by the Ministry of Health, which will require a reduced labour force operating on 12-hour shifts.

As a result of the implementation of the health protocols at the operation, the pace of ramp-up may be slightly slower than originally planned and will impact first half production, the company said. “At this stage, it is expected that the annual production expectation can still be met with better than planned second half production levels,” it said. “The Punta Rincon international airport at Cobre Panama remains open for import and export.”

First Quantum eyes stake sale in Panama mine – sources

Miner First Quantum Minerals is considering selling a minority stake in its flagship Cobre Panama copper mine to reduce debt, two banking sources familiar with the discussions said. First Quantum's possible move comes as global miners scramble to bolster finances strained by the coronavirus pandemic, which has battered stocks and copper prices. First Quantum shares are down more than 50% this year.

Taseko’s operations not affected by Covid-19

TSX- and NYSE-listed Taseko Mines confirms there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 nor related impacts at any of its operations or offices in Canada and the US. Particularly, the company’s 75%-owned Gibraltar mine, in British Columbia, has operated at planned rates in the first quarter and the company expects it to produce about 32-million pounds of copper.

Orion Minerals halts Prieska financing talks

Copper developer Orion Minerals on Tuesday said that it would postpone debt financing activities for the development of its Prieska copper project, in South Africa, until global macro-economic and market conditions stabilise. The ASX- and JSE-listed Orion has told shareholders that the company has proactively implemented work-from-home protocols from March 13, and has implemented cost saving and asset preservation initiatives across its business since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rupture of copper demand to fuel surplus as industry hit by virus

A slide in copper demand as much of the world's manufacturing sector is disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak is expected to fuel a surplus this year of up to a million tonnes in what was expected to be a balanced market. Most analysts are still revising estimates but they say the loss of consumption will be greater than the decline in supply due to closures of loss-making mines or those that have workers affected by the virus.