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Copper miner Sandfire Resources has produced its first copper concentrate from the Motheo mine, in Botswana.

The company on Thursday told shareholders that construction of the mine was nearing completion, with equipment commissioning activities over 92% complete for the initial 3.2-million-tonne-a-year processing capacity.

Openpit mining at the T3 pit is proceeding on schedule, with more than 270 000 t of ore at 1.1% copper, and 130 000 t grading around 0.7% copper having been stocked on the run-of-mine pad at the end of April.

The first concentrate production comes with the introduction of ore to the semi-autogenous grinding mill.

“Achieving these important milestones is an outstanding result for Sandfire and is a tribute to the excellent team that we have at Motheo,” said MD and CEO Brendan Harris.

“First concentrate production at our newest mine signals the start of our ramp-up towards the initial 3.2-million-tonne-a-year capacity, which we expect to achieve on a sustainable basis during the September quarter of 2024. With the approval of the A4 Project environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) paving the way for the grant of the A4 Pit mining licence, our attention now turns to the delivery of the rapid, low-cost expansion in capacity from 3.2-million tonnes to 5.2-million tonnes a year by early 2024.

“The approval of the ESIA is the result of an extensive public consultation process that included multiple stakeholders, including related communities, and is another demonstration of the momentum that Sandfire is building through our positive interaction with stakeholders in the Ghanzi region.”

The base-case Motheo operation requires a capital investment of $259-million, and based on a 3.2-million tonne-a-year operation, will deliver 30 000 t/y of contained copper and 1.2-million ounces of contained silver over an initial mine life of 12.5 years.

First shipments from Motheo are expected in the middle of this year, and Sandfire is now focusing on completing the commissioning activities and ramping up the processing plant.