Australia’s Sandfire produces first copper at new Botswana mine

GABORONE (Reuters) – Australia’s Sandfire Resources said on Thursday that it has produced the first copper concentrate at its new Motheo mine in Botswana’s Kalahari Copper Belt, becoming the second producing mine in the emerging copper hotspot.

Sandfire said in a statement that commissioning of the mine, which has been under construction for the past two years, is almost complete and the first shipment of copper concentrates is expected by the middle of this calendar year.

“The Motheo team will now focus on completing commissioning activities and ramping-up the processing plant to its initial 3.2 million tonnes per annum processing capacity, which is expected to be achieved during the September quarter of the 2024 financial year,” Sandfire Managing Director and CEO Brendan Harris said.

Sandfire has also received environmental permissions to expand Motheo’s processing capacity from 3.2 million tonnes per annum to 5.2 million tonnes per annum by early 2024 through an expanded plant and an open pit mine, Harris added.

The Kalahari Copper Belt, which extends for nearly 1,000km from northeast Botswana to western Namibia, has geological similarities to the Central African Copper Belt, which includes top continental producers Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

It is touted as one of the world’s most promising but largely under-explored copper-silver regions.

The emerging copper belt, burnished by rising international copper prices, could help Botswana to diversify beyond its mainstay of diamond mining, which accounts for over 70% of its export revenue.

Sandfire’s Motheo mine is the second copper mine to be developed in the Kalahari Copperbelt after the Khoemacau copper mine, owned by U.S private equity fund Cupric Canyon Capital, which started production in June 2021.

(Reporting by Brian Benza; Editing by Nelson Banya and Sharon Singleton)