Message Jeu 3 Sep 2009 12:15

Equinox overcoming Zambia mine problems September 3, 2009 -

Equinox overcoming Zambia mine problems
September 3, 2009 - 6:54PM

Production is ramping up at Equinox Minerals Ltd's $US841 million ($A1 billion) Lumwana copper project in Zambia that began commercial production in April but has been plagued by start-up problems.

Lumwana is the largest new copper mine to be established anywhere in the world in the past two years.

"Mine performance is still ramping up to expectations and we need to focus on material movement to maintain that momentum," president Craig Williams told the Africa Down Under Conference in Perth on Thursday.

Mr Williams said initial underperformance was "primarily due to truck and shovel availability, and productivity".

"But we are continuing to ramp up to successfully move towards an anticipated (processing plant throughput) rate of 20 million tonnes per annum."

He said optimisation and removal of bottlenecks at the plant required limited additional capital and had the potential to increase throughput - the rate at which the plant treats ore - by 20 per cent to 24 million tonnes per annum.

Mr Williams said the plant was now exceeding expectations and ore recoveries and concentrate grades were improving.

The company expects to produce 110,000 to 120,000 tonnes of copper this financial year and was thereafter targeting annual output of 170,000 tonnes for at least six years.

It had originally hoped to reach the higher rate in the first year of operation.

Huge amounts of ore need to be processed because it is based on a low-grade deposit.