26 Oct 2017 12:18

Kazakhstan's KAZ Minerals doubled copper cathode production in January-September

ALMATY. Oct 26 (Interfax) - KAZ Minerals Group produced 193,300 tonnes of copper cathode in January-September 2017, a year-on-year increase of 100%, the company said.

In comparison with the second quarter, third-quarter copper production increased by 14% to 75,300 tonnes, mainly due to increased activity at Aktogay.

"Ore extraction in the first nine months increased to 51.4 million tonnes, 44% higher than in the same period last year, reflecting the increased mining activity at Bozshakol and Aktogay. The average grade of copper ore processed was 0.73%. Ore processed increased 200% to 30.3 million tonnes," the company said in a statement.

In the reporting period, production of zinc concentrate fell to 45,800 tonnes, a year-on-year decrease of 19%, mainly due to lower output from the Orlovsky mine.

"Following delayed access to higher zinc-grade areas at Artemyevsky in Q3, targets for zinc output in 2017 have been revised to 60-65,000 tonnes," the statement said.

As anticipated, gold output in Q3 was 11% lower than in Q2, or 44,800 ounces, with gold grades at Bozshakol lower than the temporarily elevated levels in the first half of the year.

Gold production was up 61% from last year at 137,000 ounces. Strong gold and silver output has resulted in a revision of targets for 2017 to 160-180,000 ounces.

Q3 silver production corresponds to Q2 figures. In the first nine months of the year, silver production rose 18% to 2.7 million ounces, with an annual target of 3.45-3.7 million ounces.

Bozshakol is approaching its design capacity, producing 26,800 tonnes of copper in Q3 and 78,800 tonnes year-to-date.

"The Bozshakol sulphide plant operated at 100% of design capacity in August," the statement said.

Bozshakol's target for gold production in 2017 was raised to 110-120,000 ounces, given strong year-to-date output.

Aktogay's cathode production was 18,400 tonnes, while total cooper production was 64,200 tonnes.

Ore processed represented 66% of design capacity in Q3, 40% more than in Q2. A scheduled shutdown for maintenance, including the replacement of mill linings, was successfully completed in September 2017.

Aktogay's sulfide concentrator reached commercial levels of production at the end of Q3 and is expected to reach full capacity during 2018.

"With higher oxide production of up to 25,000 tonnes expected for the year, and following good progress in the ramp-up of the sulfide plant, the overall copper production target for Aktogay in 2017 has been increased to 85-95,000 tonnes," the statement said.

Copper production also increased in the East Region and Bozymchak to 17,300 tonnes in Q3 and 50,300 tonnes through September.

The East Region and Bozymchak are on track to produce 50-60,000 ounces of gold and 2.6-2.85 million ounces of silver this year.

Net debt had decreased to $2.220 billion as of September 30, 2017, down from $2.442 billion at the end of June, due to strong operating cash flows and the return of $74 million in value-added tax related to Bozshakol and Aktogay.

The average price of copper on the London Metal Exchange through September 2017 was $5,953 per tonne, up from $4,725 last year.

"Following another strong quarter for our new sulfide operations at Aktogay, we have raised the copper production target for 2017 to 250,000-270,000 tons. Aktogay's sulfide concentrator reached commercial levels of production at the end of Q3, and we expect to reach full capacity in 2018. At Bozshakol, the main concentrator operated at 100% of design throughput in August. KAZ Minerals is rapidly improving its gearing ratio as we deliver on our operational targets in an improving copper market," CEO Oleg Novachuk said.

KAZ Minerals is a high-growth copper company focused on large-scale, low-cost, open-pit mining in Kazakhstan. It is a leading copper producer in Kazakhstan, with five operating mines and four concentrators. The company produces zinc, silver and gold as by-products. KAZ Minerals is listed on the London, Kazakhstan, and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges.