Reading the future is a hazardous business, especially when it comes to Zambia.
Change is in the air at First Quantum Minerals following the December resignation from executive duties of the firm’s co-founder and president, Clive Newell. Tristan Pascall, son of co-founder, Philip, is also to become COO - a move suggesting the next generation of managers is being readied. Reading the future, however, is a hazardous business, especially when it comes to Zambia, the country that is host to First Quantum’s Kansanshi and Sentinel mines which comprise more than half of First Quantum’s 780,000 ton a year copper output.
A technical report in September laid out plans for a $650m expansion of Kansanshi which would extend operations for a further 24 years, but much turns on Zambia’s investment environment. A revenue-based royalty imposed last year is threatening to unravel all new investment in copper, Kansanshi included, which seems madness considering the powerful economics of copper in the electrification of the automotive market. There’s still a hope Zambia - which is economically strapped having defaulted on sovereign debt last year - will relent by allowing the royalty to be deducted from existing corporate taxes. Pascall has had his ups and downs with Zambia over the years and the push/pull relationship shows no sign of changing. First Quantum agreed to sell gold by-product from Kansanshi to Zambia’s central bank as the bank sought to build up reserves. A power supply dispute with Zambia’s utility also appears to have eased.
Outside of these issues, 2020 was a good year for Pascall & Co: the company de-stressed its balance sheet assisted by a strong performance from Sentinel which “hit the straps”. Progress was also made with new South American development assets, suggesting Pascall sees the value of reducing the firm’s reliance on the helter-skelter that is Zambia.
LIFE OF PHILIP
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