First Quantum Said to End Dispute in Zambia Delaying MineMatthew Hill
First Quantum Minerals Ltd. has ended a dispute with Zambia’s electricity supply company to erect a line to supply power to a $1.7 billion copper project the company is building, a person familiar with the matter said.
Zesco Ltd., the government-owned power supplier, proposed that First Quantum build the line and that proposal has been accepted by the company, the person said, declining to be identified because an official announcement is yet to be made. The disagreement began on April 23, when the Vancouver-based company took the electricity supplier to arbitration because of a dispute over the selection of contractors after a tender for the construction of a transmission line, First Quantum said on May 6.
The pact will prevent delays to the Sentinel mine First Quantum is building in the North Western province in Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer. The agreement will allow a local First Quantum unit to award the construction contract for the power line that will cost about $95 million, while Zesco will hire a consultant to oversee works, the person said yesterday.
“The potential for a prolonged legal dispute between First Quantum and Zesco was a growing concern as it presented a risk the Sentinel project could fall behind schedule,” Patrick Jones, a London-based analyst with Nomura International Plc said in reply to e-mailed questions. “A resolution of this will likely be taken well by the market.”
Calls to First Quantum’s office in Toronto outside of normal office hours weren’t answered and an e-mail wasn’t immediately responded to. Bestty Phiri, a spokeswoman for Zesco, declined to comment.
The 615-kilometer (382-mile) power line will run from Lusaka West via Mumbwa and Kalumbila to Lumwana, where Barrick Gold Corp. owns a mine. Kalumbila will be complete by the end of next year and will produce as much as 300,000 tons of copper, First Quantum said in December.
First Quantum shares fell 1.6 percent to 1,193.5p by the close in London,