Copper Mountain reports decreasing costs, plans to expand mill this year

Aerial view of Copper Mountain mine. Credit: Copper Mountain Mining

Last year, Copper Mountain Mining’s (TSX: CMMC; ASX: C6C) 75%-held namesake mine in B.C. recorded all-in costs of US$1.9 per lb. copper (cash costs of US$1.53 per lb. and all-in sustaining costs of US$1.69 per lb.), in line with the company’s revised all-in cost guidance of US$1.8 to US$2 per lb. All-in sustaining costs for 2020 decreased by 18% when compared with 2019 numbers.

Fourth-quarter cash costs came in at US$1.43 per lb. of copper, translating to all-in sustaining costs of US$1.58 per lb. and all-in costs of US$1.82 per copper lb. Strong fourth-quarter performance, which included a record output of 23.1 million lb. of copper, was based on higher grades processed.

Full-year cash flow from operations came in at $121.6 million, with adjusted net earnings of $20.6 million. The company closed out the year with $85.6 million in cash and equivalents, a $32-million increase over the third quarter and a $53.4-million increase year-on-year.

For the year, Copper Mountain generated 77.6 million lb. of copper, exceeding prior guidance for 70 to 75 million lb. of the red metal.

With higher grades expected to continue into 2021, this year’s copper production is expected in the range of 85 to 95 million lb. of copper. Similar to 2020, the output is expected to be weighted more towards the second half of the year as grades trend upwards and an ongoing mill expansion improves recoveries and increases throughputs. All-in costs are forecast around US$1.8 to US$2 per lb.

“We continued to post another strong quarter with record quarterly production for copper, gold and silver,” Gil Clausen, Copper Mountain’s president and CEO, said in a release. “We expect our low cost profile to remain in 2021 and for production to increase by up to 22% to the range of 85 to 95 million pounds of copper this year. Increased production will be driven by higher grades, as already experienced in the fourth quarter of 2020, and increased throughput and recovery following the commissioning of the 45,000 tonnes per day mill expansion planned for completion in the third quarter of 2021.”

In the fourth quarter, the company also restarted the Ball Mill 3 expansion project, aimed at growing throughputs to 45,000 t/d, from 40,000 t/d currently, that is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year. Copper recoveries are also expected to increase from a finer ore grind. Demolition is now complete in the mill installation area and foundation excavation work has started.

In November, Copper Mountain tabled an updated mine plan for the mine, that incorporated a further mill expansion, to 65,000 t/d. The expansion would increase production to 106 million lb. of copper and 60,000 gold oz. in its first ten years.

Mitsubishi Materials holds a 25% interest in the Copper Mountain mine.

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