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Mutanda provides production highlight for Glencore

Keywords: Tags  Glencore, copper, zinc, nickel, lead, tin, ferroalloys, claire hack

LONDON — Copper metal production was up just 2 percent last year at Glencore International Ltd’s 75.2-percent-owned Katanga operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following more than two months of lost production.

Katanga produced 93,000 tonnes of copper in metal and concentrate in 2012 after output was severely disrupted by power failures in the DRC. Copper cathode production was up 7 percent from 2011, despite the disruption caused by the power shortage, and a new power converter and synchronous condenser were commissioned in December.

At Glencore’s 60-percent-owned Mutanda operation, meanwhile, copper production was up 37 percent to 87,000 tonnes in metal and concentrate, while copper cathode production was up 90 percent to 83,500 tonnes.

Following completion of the cobalt plant, Mutanda now has the capacity to produce as much as 110,000 tonnes of copper and 23,000 tonnes of cobalt annually. Mutanda’s cobalt production totaled 8,500 tonnes last year, up 8 percent from 2011.

Glencore acquired a further 20-percent stake in Mutanda in May for $340 million in cash plus the assumption of about $140 million in debt. The company said that raising its stake to 60 percent was the first step in merging Mutanda and Kansuki, a copper and cobalt pre-development project bordering Mutanda, to form a combined entity with an installed annual capacity of 200,000 tonnes of copper by the end of this year.

In Zambia, Glencore’s own copper production at its 73.1-percent-owned Mopani operation came to 99,000 tonnes in 2012, down 2 percent from the previous year, and total copper production reached 187,100 tonnes, down 8 percent. The reduction in total finished copper production was attributed mainly to the planned smelter shutdown during 2012, Glencore said, while the reduction in Mopani’s own copper production followed the temporary suspension of the heap leach process earlier in the year.

The smelter upgrade project, including improving sulfur dioxide emission capture to more than 97 percent, is expected to be completed by December, 18 months ahead of schedule.

At Glencore’s other copper operations, which include Cobar in Australia, Pasar in Malaysia, Punitaqui in Chile and Sable in Zambia, metal production last year was 40 percent lower than in 2011.

A fire at Pasar stopped production there for about six months. Since the restart in July, output has been in line with or above levels achieved in 2011.

Copper concentrate production at Cobar was down 13 percent last year and silver contained in concentrate was down 9 percent following operational issues due to electrical failures and delays in underground development activities.

In Kazakhstan, where Glencore now holds a 69.6-percent interest in Kazzinc, gold production increased 22 percent to 474,000 ounces thanks to continued growth at Altyntau as well as the contribution of gold recovered from the copper smelter.

Copper production at Kazzinc fell 3 percent to 49,600 tonnes, but copper cathode production more than doubled to 47,300 tonnes following the ramp-up at the new copper smelter, commissioned in 2011.

Lead production from its own sources totaled 26,800 tonnes in 2012, down 25 percent from the previous year, reflecting the processing of gold-rich concentrate at the old lead smelter ahead of its decommissioning before the ramp-up at the new lead smelter, commissioned in August 2012.

Zinc production from its own sources was down 8 percent to 227,300 tonnes following a small reduction in grade during 2012.

The picture was mixed at Glencore’s other zinc operations, which include Los Quenuales in Peru, Sinchi Wayra in Bolivia, AR Zinc in Argentina, Portovesme in Italy and Rosh Pinah in Namibia.

The acquisition of Rosh Pinah and a strong performance at AR Zinc led to higher production of silver metal and lead concentrate, but this was offset by lower production at Los Quenuales and Sinchi Wayra.

The nationalization of the Colquiri Mine at Sinchi Wayra meant no tin was produced after June, while Los Quenuales received community approval to develop a new ore area at Iscaycruz.

At Murrin Murrin, Glencore’s 100-percent-owned nickel operation in Australia, production totaled a record 33,400 tonnes of nickel, up 17 percent from 2011, while cobalt production was up 18 percent to 2,400 tonnes due to improved throughput levels and plant availability.

Production at Sherwin Alumina in Gregory, Texas, totaled 1.4 million tonnes, down 6 percent from 2011 following the overhaul of the calciner.

Glencore acquired 100 percent of Vale’s European manganese ferroalloys operations in 2012. The operations in France and Norway currently have the capacity to produce a total of 260,000 tonnes of manganese ferroalloys annually. 

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Metal Bulletin.

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