Freeport-McMoRan, the world's biggest listed specialist copper miner, has quietly just produced its first copper cathode at the giant Tenke Fungurume copper cobalt mine, near Lubumbashi, Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. First phase development capital investment at the project is formally USD 1.75bn, with initial production targets of an annualised 115,000 tonnes of copper and 8,000 tonnes of cobalt a year.The beleaguered mining community in and around Lubumbashi, where mining collapsed as copper fell from USD 4.08/lb in mid-2008 to USD 1.28/lb by the end of the year, is, however, as optimistic as Freeport about Tenke Fungurume, long described as one of the biggest undeveloped copper deposits in the world. According to miners familiar with the budding mine, cash costs are coming in at USD 0.90 per pound of copper, about half current spot prices in world markets, following a sharp recovery in the past few months. The mine's low costs are also partly a reflection of the rich 2.3% copper grade, and 0.3% cobalt grade.Global cobalt production has been sharply reduced, and prices remain depressed, but could well recover in due course and lower net copper cash costs at Tenke Fungurume. The mine's relative fortune, given apparently recovering copper prices, are in sharp contrast to a number of sorry  stories from other miners in Katanga Province, not least Katanga Mining (with a stock price currently trading 98% below its highs), Camec

(also down more than 90%, but with indications that it is again to mine at Mukondo Mountain), Metorex (also down more than 90%, and looking for yet more debt and fresh equity issues to complete its Ruashi II project), and Anvil (also down more than 90%).Apart from Freeport, with its huge balance sheet and financial clout, it's really only First Quantum that's making headway in Katanga Province, as it proceeds with its Kolwezi tailings project build. First Quantum, an African copper and gold miner, is well established across the border in Zambia, where Equinox is busy building up to commissioning of Lumwana, which would rank as Africa's biggest copper miner, with output of around 180,000 annualised tonnes of copper-in-concentrate.However, within five to seven years, Freeport aims to increase production at Tenke Fungurume to more like 400,000 tonnes of copper a year, and indeed, to eventually have mining, processing, and support facilities with the ultimate capability of producing one billion pounds of copper (about 454,000 tonnes) a year for 50-100 years.

Tenke Fungurume is 57.75% held by Freeport, the operator, 24.75% by Lundin, and 17.5% by DRC parastatal Gecamines. On Tuesday Lundin announced that ramp up of copper production at Tenke will continue over the next several months in parallel to completion of the cobalt circuit and acid plant. Full production levels in the initial plant are expected during the second half of the year.The recent news from Tenke, along with firmer copper prices, may inspire some resuscitation of Katanga Province's devastated mining sector. A mining veteran, based in Lubumbashi, recalls how in 2005, when copper hit USD 1.80/lb, there was a boom in mining and celebrations all round. When it went above that level we all said it could not last, and it did not. Now the copper price has again reached USD 1.80/lb and there is doom and gloom. I think there should again be a boom in mining. Most formal producers will have a cash cost of USD 0.80/lb to a maximum of USD 1.25/lb, and that makes good business!Selected copper stocks

Stock

From

From

Value

price

high*

low*

USD bn

Freeport-McMoRan

USD 38.53

-69.7%

145.4%

15.862

Southern Copper

USD 17.03

-59.4%

86.7%

14.541

Antofagasta

GBP 4.86

-41.8%

99.4%

6.838

KGHM Polska Miedź

PLN 46.00

-59.5%

129.1%

2.601

Jiangxi Copper

CNY 23.10

-36.7%

179.3%

5.527

Yunnan Copper

CNY 21.09

-41.4%

209.7%

3.878

Tongling

CNY 13.27

-26.2%

143.0%

2.513

First Quantum

CAD 33.50

-64.9%

162.7%

1.839

Equinox

CAD 1.87

-63.7%

146.1%

0.891

Philex

PHP 5.60

-28.2%

45.5%

0.450

Camec

GBP 0.048

-92.3%

154.7%

0.194

Katanga Mining

CAD 0.38

-97.6%

72.7%

0.063

Quadra

CAD 5.65

-79.1%

186.8%

0.298

Pan Australian

AUD 0.29

-77.2%

247.6%

0.347

Metorex

ZAR 1.56

-93.7%

35.7%

0.120

Palamin

ZAR 50.80

-68.6%

27.0%

0.255

Mercator

CAD 0.55

-95.7%

89.7%

0.047

Anvil

CAD 1.08

-92.7%

140.0%

0.061

Northern Dynasty

CAD 8.29

-21.8%

331.8%

0.613

Taseko

CAD 1.45

-75.3%

119.7%

0.177

Aditya Birla

AUD 0.14

-95.3%

45.8%

0.030

Corriente

CAD 5.75

-11.8%

130.0%

0.346

Fronteer

CAD 3.08

-48.1%

98.7%

0.280

CuDeco

AUD 1.88

-59.9%

101.1%

0.153

Chariot

CAD 0.22

-80.3%

258.3%

0.056

Straits Resources

AUD 1.27

-84.3%

104.8%

0.205

Centenario

CAD 1.58

-74.7%

251.1%

0.065

Globestar Mining

CAD 0.62

-70.9%

113.8%

0.052

Frontera

CAD 0.74

-87.1%

236.4%

0.048

Amerigo

CAD 0.29

-87.8%

26.1%

0.031

Stingray Copper

CAD 0.26

-68.3%

100.0%

0.011

Tiger Resources

AUD 0.10

-82.0%

41.4%

0.017

Candente

CAD 0.31

-84.6%

134.6%

0.020

African Copper

GBP 0.02

-96.7%

132.1%

0.003

Monterrico

GBP 0.90

-65.0%

275.0%

0.034

Inca Pacific

CAD 0.29

-86.8%

141.7%

0.013

Exco Resources

AUD 0.10

-76.5%

58.7%

0.018

Coro

CAD 0.14

-93.5%

92.9%

0.009

Discovery Metals

AUD 0.23

-64.6%

119.0%

0.026

Africo

CAD 0.70

-74.1%

75.0%

0.041

Prairie Downs

AUD 0.08

-92.7%

90.5%

0.004

Red Dragon

CAD 0.14

-67.9%

170.0%

0.007

Polymet Mining

CAD 0.95

-78.8%

58.3%

0.104

African Eagle

GBP 0.03

-68.1%

144.4%

0.008

El Nino Ventures

CAD 0.08

-81.4%

128.6%

0.003

Simberi

CAD 0.01

-90.9%

0.0%

0.001

Augusta Resources

USD 1.35

-80.6%

246.2%

0.120

Rambler Metals

GBP 0.12

-79.1%

84.0%

0.010

Norsemont Mining

CAD 1.69

-61.7%

57.9%

0.073

Nevada Copper

CAD 0.30

-89.4%

81.8%

0.010

Capstone Mining

CAD 1.64

-63.3%

152.3%

0.216

Imperial Metals

CAD 3.20

-69.5%

244.1%

0.082

Pacific Booker

CAD 6.30

-36.2%

146.1%

0.051

Nevada Copper

CAD 0.30

-89.4%

81.8%

0.010

Avanco Resources

AUD 0.04

-87.4%

0.0%

0.002

Palabora

ZAR 50.80

-68.6%

27.0%

0.255

Kagara

AUD 0.43

-92.7%

45.8%

0.076

Stingray Copper

CAD 0.26

-68.3%

100.0%

0.011

Benguet

PHP 6.20

-69.8%

27.8%

0.012

Con't Mines

CAD 0.60

-57.1%

100.0%

0.062

Redbank Mines

AUD 0.01

-84.6%

33.3%

0.005

IMA Exploration

USD 0.20

-57.4%

25.0%

0.010

Cornerstone Capital

CAD 0.06

-84.6%

100.0%

0.004

Thundermin

CAD 0.10

-79.6%

66.7%

0.005

Western Copper

CAD 0.38

-76.6%

82.9%

0.022

Averages/total

-46.4%

65.5%

59.731

Weighted averages

-62.2%

124.2%

 

Diversifieds with copper

Stock

From

From

Value

price

high*

low*

USD bn

BHP Billiton

GBP 13.59

-38.4%

85.8%

116.736

Vale

USD 13.05

-70.4%

48.3%

63.945

Rio Tinto

GBP 23.37

-67.4%

134.9%

48.161

Anglo American

GBP 11.19

-69.6%

23.5%

21.446

Xstrata

GBP 4.49

-82.1%

55.4%

18.784

Norilsk

USD 6.23

-80.3%

77.5%

11.876

Teck

USD 5.44

-89.9%

109.2%

2.598

Vedanta

GBP 6.47

-76.8%

80.3%

2.576

Sterlite

USD 6.41

-72.1%

105.4%

4.541

Lundin

CAD 1.80

-80.3%

160.9%

0.700

Kazakhmys

GBP 3.56

-81.9%

108.3%

2.716

Ivanhoe

CAD 7.45

-40.9%

261.7%

2.249

Inmet

CAD 30.33

-69.5%

149.6%

1.169

Northgate

CAD 1.65

-52.7%

146.3%

0.337

Oz Minerals

AUD 0.56

-85.2%

38.8%

1.195

Polymet

CAD 0.95

-78.8%

58.3%

0.104

Mwana Africa

GBP 0.04

-92.8%

66.8%

0.024

EMED Mining

GBP 0.06

-82.3%

66.7%

0.019

Boliden

CAD 6.21

-52.2%

210.5%

1.356

Averages/total

 

-71.8%

104.6%

300.530

Weighted averages

-65.9%

75.1%

* 12-month

 

Source: market data; table compiled by Barry Sergeant