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First Quantum Invests $1 Billion in Zambia Copper Mine

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. plans to invest more than $1 billion on a new copper mine and smelter in Zambia as it looks to to expand beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Vancouver-based First Quantum will build the Trident mine and smelter project in the southern African country’s Northwestern province, Clive Newall, the company’s president, told reporters today in Lusaka, the capital. The mine will have three open pits, Sentinel, Enterprise and Intrepid, he said.

“The initial annual through-put at Sentinel is estimated at 25 million metric tons of ore, expected to rise up to 50 million metric tons to produce 300,000 metric tons of copper,” Newall said in a statement handed to reporters. “Enterprise and Intrepid hold further potential for increased production at Trident.”

Zambia’s copper output recovered from a low of 245,000 tons in 1999 through new investment. Production reached a record 819,159 tons last year, according to provisional figures from the country’s central bank. First Quantum’s Kansanshi mine in Zambia produced about 245,000 tons of copper in 2009, according to the company’s website.

First Quantum is seeking to diversify after a battle over mining rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company is investing in projects including the Kevitsa nickel-copper operation in Finland and the Ravensthorpe nickel mine in Australia, which is scheduled to start output next year.

The Zambian project will be commissioned by the end of the year, Newall said. The mine will probably produce copper over 20 years and create about 2,000 jobs. The company will build a new hydropower station near the mine to ensure continuous supply of electricity, he said.

First Quantum will initially spend $400 million on the mine and about $450 million to build the smelter at Solwezi, the provincial capital about 150 kilometers (94 miles) west of the three pits, Project Coordinator Tristan Paschal said by phone from Lusaka. It will invest another $400 million in Trident as the project develops, he said.

Solwezi is about 700 kilometers northwest of Lusaka.

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