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Canada's First Quantum shelves stake sale for Zambia copper mines

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By Jeff Lewis

TORONTO (Reuters) -Canadian copper miner First Quantum Minerals has shelved plans to sell a stake in its Zambian copper mines, Chief Operating Officer Tristan Pascall said on Wednesday. China’s Jiangxi Copper Co Ltd had been speculated as a potential suitor for minority interests in First Quantum’s Kansanshi and Sentinel mines. Benchmark copper has pulled back after reaching a peak of $10,747.50 a tonne in May, hit by concerns about a resurgence of the pandemic, the potential for central banks to taper stimulus and China's sale of strategic reserves due to concerns about rising raw material prices.

Even so, First Quantum on Tuesday flagged rising costs on the back of higher Zambian royalty rates driven by increased copper prices.

"There has been limited progress" on talks with the Zambian government for terms which would pave the way for an expansion of ore processing at Kansanshi ahead of national elections, Pascall said.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu faces his most serious challenge yet from businessman and serial presidential hopeful Hakainde Hichilema in elections set for August 12.

Zambia's ZCCM-IH sealed its acquisition of Mopani Copper Mines in March giving the state a deeper understanding of mine operations, Pascall said.

"We don't see any significant risk there given where tax rates are at the moment," he said.

(Reporting by Jeff Lewis; Additional reporting Chris Mfula in Lusaka; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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