Message Mar 28 Juil 2009 07:18

Zambia's Lumwana sees copper output below target

Zambia's Lumwana sees copper output below target
Wed Jul 8, 2009 9:32am EDT

* Output to drop significantly below 170,000 T forecast

* Heavy rains, inadequate equipment weigh

LUSAKA, July 8 (Reuters) - Zambia's Lumwana Mining Co. Ltd, a unit of Australia's Equinox Minerals Ltd (EQN.TO) (EQN.AX), said on Wednesday annual copper output will be much lower than the projected 170,000 tonnes due to production setbacks.

Heavy rains and lack of equipment had affected production, making it hard for the company to reach its targeted output, Lumwana Mining chief executive officer Harry Michael said.

"We will obviously go down this year," Michael told Reuters in a telephone interview from Lumwana, about 800km (500 miles) northwest of the capital Lusaka.

"We are still revising the numbers but copper production will be significantly lower than the 170,000 tonnes projected for 2009," he added.

Michael said a company hired to supply equipment had failed to deliver it on time, meaning the processing plant had to work without the right materials in the first quarter of the year.

Research firm Macquarie Research said last month Lumwana would likely miss production and cost targets this year due to heavy rains and factors such as a lack of available trucks.

Its analysts said they expected the downside range for output at Lumwana to be 130,000-140,000 tonnes at costs of C$1.31/lb. Lumwana parent Equinox is based in Australia but trades in Toronto.

Lumwana Mining also said last month it lost $1.8 million in revenue, equivalent to 500 tonnes in copper production, after a nation-wide power blackout in Zambia that hit operations at all its copper mines for 18 hours.

Equinox Minerals said in January that it planned to produce 170,000 tonnes of copper metal concentrate at the Zambian operation in 2009 after starting production at the mine.

Lumwana, which Equinox says is Africa's largest open-pit copper mine, opened in December after a five-month delay caused by a fire at the site's processing plant.