Australia's Sandfire to boost output at Botswana's Motheo copper mine

GABORONE, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Australia's Sandfire Resources Ltd (SFR.AX) plans to spend additional $71.9 million to expand production at Botswana's newest copper mine as it looks to establish a major mining hub in the Kalahari Copper Belt, the company said on Tuesday.

Sandfire's Motheo mine is the second copper mine to be developed in the region, which extends over nearly 1,000 kilometres from northeast Botswana to western Namibia.

The mine is expected to produce 3.2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of copper by March next year. Thereafter, the company will expand its production to 5.2 mtpa through a new processing plant and a new open pit mine, located 8 kilometers west of the mine.

Sandfire said that since the start of construction it had invested $185.4 million, which represents 47% of the total development cost estimated at $397.4 million.

Chief Executive Karl Simich said in a statement that the initial project was on schedule for completion in March 2023, which would allow the expansion plan to ramp up immediately following receipt of approvals.

"In parallel with this development, we are also continuing a major exploration campaign both in the near-mine area as well as across our extensive landholding in the Kalahari Copper Belt aimed at defining additional ore sources that can feed into our expanded processing hub at Motheo or support the development of new production centres across the region,” Simich said.

Over its initial 12.5-year mine life, the mine is projected to deliver royalties to the Botswana Government totalling $70 million and corporate income tax in excess of $200 million.

The emerging copper belt could help Botswana diversify beyond its mainstay diamond mining, which contributes 70% to its export revenue.

Reporting by Brian Benza; Editing by Anait Miridzhanian and Bernadette Baum

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