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First Quantum beats copper output guidance in FY'16

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. on Jan. 26 said it produced 146,101 tonnes of copper in the fourth quarter of 2016, bringing its full-year total to 539,458 tonnes, increasing from 2015 fourth-quarter output of 115,885 tonnes and full-year production of 411,025 tonnes.

The full-year copper figure, which included production from the Sentinel mine in Zambia, was 5% ahead of guidance and 31% more than 2015 figures. Sentinel achieved commercial production in the fourth quarter.

Contained nickel output dropped to 6,205 tonnes in the final quarter of 2016, down year over year from 7,653 tonnes, while full-year production decreased from 26,668 tonnes to 23,624 tonnes.

Gold production, meanwhile, improved on a yearly basis to 54,234 ounces in the December 2016 quarter, compared to 53,889 ounces the year before, and annual output totaled 214,012 ounces, up from 211,067 ounces in 2015.

Zinc production increased to 11,084 tonnes in the three-month period, up year over year from 9,605 tonnes, while full-year zinc output fell from 41,139 tonnes to 28,862 tonnes.

In the fourth quarter, copper sales increased to 136,265 tonnes, up from 119,534 tonnes the year before, while nickel and gold sales dropped to 6,073 tonnes and 45,620 ounces, respectively, compared to 8,584 tonnes and 57,958 ounces. Zinc sales were slightly up, increasing from 11,036 tonnes to 11,971 tonnes year over year.

Copper sales for the full-year grew significantly to 535,613 tonnes from 391,653 tonnes in 2015, while contained nickel sales decreased to 25,882 tonnes from 26,934.

Annual gold sales were up at 232,783 ounces, compared to 213,927 ounces of gold in 2015, while zinc sales came in at 27,361 tonnes, down from 41,618 tonnes.

Separately, the Toronto-listed company outlined production and cost guidance for the next three years, expecting to gradually increase copper production to 605,000 tonnes in 2019 while gold and contained nickel output is maintained at 200,000 ounces and 25,000 tonnes, respectively.

Zinc production is expected to drop to 15,000 tonnes in 2019, down from 20,000 tonnes anticipated in 2017 and 2018.

The company's Kansanshi and Sentinel mines in Zambia will contribute to increased copper production through 2019, with production at Kansanshi increasing from 240,000 tonnes in 2017 to 245,000 tonnes. Copper output at Sentinel is expected to grow to 235,000 tonnes in 2019, increasing from 195,000 tonnes this year and 215,000 tonnes in 2018.

Meanwhile, the expected nickel output of 25,000 tonnes is lower than First Quantum's February-2016 guidance of 40,000 tonnes in 2017 and 42,000 tonnes in 2018.

The company noted that the guidance does not include production from the start up and commissioning of its Cobre Panama property or any expansion of the Kansanshi operation, as the timing of both is dependent on various factors.

Copper all-in sustaining costs will come in at between US$1.65 per pound and US$1.80 per pound through 2019, which is lower than previously stated guidance for 2017 and 2018. All-in sustaining costs for nickel are expected to average between US$5.10 and US$5.40 per pound for the next three years.

Net CapEx is projected at US$1.07 billion for 2017, decreasing to US$850 million in 2018 and to US$260 million in 2019. The company previously guided net CapEx to be about US$820 million per year through 2018.

The company will report fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 financial results Feb. 16.