February 21, 2008 / 10:30 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-First Quantum profit leaps on copper production

(Adds details. Figures in U.S. dollars, unless noted)

TORONTO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) said on Thursday its fourth-quarter profit more than doubled, as copper production jumped at most of the company's mines. while costs eased.

The company, which is based in Canada but operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Mauritania, earned $135.3 million, or $2.00 per share, in the final three months of the year.

This was up from $60.9 million, or 91 cents a share, in the year-before period.

First Quantum also said it will pay a final dividend of 54 Canadian cents a share, following an interim payout of 24 Canadian cents a share, announced in August.

Sales doubled to $443.3 million from $216.4 million, as the company sold copper at a realized price of $2.56 a pound, up from $2.32. Cash operating costs were 14 percent lower in the quarter, the company said.

Quarterly copper production climbed to 72,466 tonnes from 46,531 tonnes, driven by expansion of the Kansanshi and Guelb Moghrein mines in Zambia and Mauritania, respectively, as well the start of production at the Frontier mine in DRC.

However, production from the Bwana/Lonshi operation was halved as the Lonshi mine nears the end of its life.

Also hurting output was a DRC provincial government decision to prevent shipments from the Lonshi mine to cross into Zambia for processing at the Bwana treatment plant, First Quantum said.

"As of the date of this report the border remains closed," it said.

First Quantum said it expects to produce 310,000 tonnes of copper in 2008, mostly from Kansanshi and Frontier. (Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Rob Wilson)

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