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March 25, 2020updated 09 Jun 2020 9:38am

First Quantum eyes stake sale in Cobre Panama copper mine

Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals is reportedly exploring the sale of a minority stake in its flagship Cobre Panama copper mine to cut down its debt load.

Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals is reportedly considering the sale of a minority stake in its flagship Cobre Panama copper mine to reduce the company’s debt.

Reuters, quoting two banking sources familiar with the discussions, reported the miner’s possible move comes at a time when mining firms across the world are struggling to boost finances amid the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, which has tumbled stocks as well as copper prices.

According to the firm, it has invested a total of $6.3bn in Cobre Panama up to last year.

First Quantum has a market capitalisation of $2.4bn. It trades around three times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to Reuters.

At the end of 2019 its net debt stood at $8.8bn.

The firm will be required to do more than refinance its loan after discussions to divest its Zambian mines halted due to the Covid-19 outbreak, a source said.

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Cobre Panama, with a 40-year mine life, has proven copper reserves of 3.18 billion tonnes. First Quantum has a 90% stake in the mine.

Meanwhile, the TSX-listed miner said that several members of the contractor workforce at the Cobre Panama operation have been infected with coronavirus.

In a statement, the company said: “The affected personnel are being cared for in the public healthcare system as per the Panama Ministry of Health requirements.”

The firm said that Cobre Panama has already begun implementing control, isolation and quarantine measures as per the government guidelines.

In the wake of coronavirus crisis, the firm plans to temporarily cut the salaries of some senior staff, including the CEO, by 20%.

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