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First Quantum faces delays in securing drill permits for Peruvian exploration

First Quantum Minerals Ltd. said it has been waiting over a year for a permit to drill one of its greenfields projects in Peru.

"It has at times been quite challenging, particularly in that first phase, to get the permissions from the various different permitting authorities in Peru," Global Exploration Director Mike Christie told delegates May 18 at the Latin America Downunder conference in Perth, Australia.

"We have three projects drill-ready in Peru at the moment. One is 400 days and waiting still for its permitting."

However, Christie said he had some "very successful" talks with Peru's Vice Minister for Mining Ricardo Labo at the conference that will see First Quantum soon moving to drill the project.

"We're confident that we're going to be moving ahead and drilling those targets in the near future," he said.

Peru is targeting US$14 billion worth of new mining investment as the country moves to grab a bigger stake of the global resources sector.

Addressing the second day of the Latin America Downunder conference, Labo said the new investment target was one of three central planks for Peru to achieve its redefined mining goals by 2021.

"Our overriding objective is to capture at least 8% of global exploration budgets," he said.

"We have also set out on a path to increase our copper production by 30% or some 3 million tonnes of fine copper concentrates over the next four years."

Labo said, however, that to achieve its objectives Peru needed to better promote exploration, make the pipeline for new projects feasible and guarantee the continuity of existing mining operations in the country.

First Quantum has been operating in Peru for about five years since acquiring the Haquira copper project in the Apurimac region.

"We purchased it some years ago now and did some initial drilling there, but I don't believe we have even scratched the surface in terms of the potential," Christie said.

The Haquira project, which was discovered in the 1990s, lies within 10 kilometers of MMG Ltd.'s Las Bambas copper mine.

The deposit hosts a measured and indicated resource of 569 million tonnes at 0.56% copper and an inferred resource of 406 million tonnes at 0.52% copper.

First Quantum is currently undertaking an environmental impact assessment, evaluating potential locations for waste and tailings and undertaking social engagement.