Zambia's Lumwana mine to raise copper output

Wed Nov 25, 2009 11:18am EST

* Increased efficiency, cost cuts key to higher output

* Mine will build uranium plant

* Stockpiling uranium from Malundwe pit

By Chris Mfula

LUSAKA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Zambia's Lumwana Mining Co. Ltd., a unit of Equinox Minerals Ltd. EQN.TOEQN.AX plans to raise copper output through greater efficiency and also plans to build a uranium plant, its managing director said on Wednesday.

Adam Wright, who took over from Harry Michael a fortnight ago, said at a news briefing in Lusaka that the company would in 2010 ramp up production to 170,000 tonnes from a projected 110,000 this year.

Wright said that copper production in the third quarter ending September 2009 had risen to 28,000 tonnes from 24,000 tonnes in the previous quarter, giving hope the company would ramp up total annual output to the 170,000 tonnes target.

Lumwana, which Equinox says is Africa's largest open pit mine, cut its 2009 copper output forecast to 110,000 tonnes from 170,000 tonnes after delaying its start up by five months until December last year, following a fire at the site's processing plant and heavy rains early this year.

"It is more to do with production. When we increase production to full capacity it will give us a lower unit cost," Wright said when asked how the company planned to cut costs. He did not say at what capacity Lumwana was currently operating.

Wright said the mine's focus would also be to ensure safety to avoid disruptions in production.

"The good thing is that production has kept rising. All the ingredients are there to make Lumwana one of the greatest mines in the world. We need to produce at full production and as efficiently as we can," Wright said.

Wright said Lumwana was stockpiling uranium from its Mulundwe pit and would study the option of building a uranium processing facility in future.

Equinox has completed a feasibility study, investigating onsite treatment of discrete and high grade uranium mineralisation contained in the Lumwana copper pit shells, he said. (Reporting By Chris Mfula, Editing by Shapi Shacinda and Anthony Barker) ((Johannesburg newsroom; +27 11 775 3155)) (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com)

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