The board of First Quantum Minerals has approved a $1.25bn S3 expansion at the Kansanshi copper-gold mine and the $100m Enterprise nickel project in Zambia.

With the approval in place, the Canadian firm plans to begin work on both projects with immediate effect.

The S3 expansion project aims to transition the mine’s existing high-grade, medium-scale operation to a medium-grade, larger-scale mining operation to produce a proportion of primary, lower-grade sulphide ores at depth.

The project will comprise a processing plant with a capacity of 25 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) and a new larger mining fleet.

First Quantum expects the expansion project to boost the Kansanshi mine’s total annual throughput to 53Mtpa.

As part of the expansion, the company plans to invest $900m in the processing plant and mine fleet. The remaining $350m will be used for pre-stripping of the South-East Dome pit.

First Quantum Minerals CEO Tristan Pascall said: “The S3 expansion and the Enterprise nickel project are a key part of our brownfield growth strategy.

“The Kansanshi mine has been a cornerstone asset for First Quantum for 15 years and the S3 Expansion will expand production and extend the mine life for another two decades.”

Located 12km from its Sentinel copper mine, the Enterprise nickel sulphide deposit will comprise a single, main open pit and an extension to the south-west.

Planned to be commissioned in 2023, the project is estimated to have an average production capacity of 30ktpa of nickel in high-grade concentrate.

Pascall added: “The low-cost, high-grade Enterprise nickel project is well placed to supply the rapidly growing electric vehicle battery sector.

“The approval of these two projects is an important milestone for the company’s path towards responsible production growth of the metals needed for the global green energy transition.”

The company said it has resolved all points of contention with the Zambian Government that hindered the progress of the S3 expansion and Enterprise nickel project.

As part of this, the two parties agreed to the outstanding value-added tax receivable sum and a repayment approach based on offsets against future taxes and royalties on mining work.