First Quantum Minerals, Ltd

Bwana Mkubwa Copper Plant Expansion

Bwana Mkubwa was one of the world's lowest-cost copper operations. The two-phase expansion included conversion from a tailings leach to an ore tank leach operation. Fluor provided fast-track services for engineering, procurement, construction support, and commissioning of the project.

Client's Challenge

The project presented difficult foundation conditions and highly weathered ore feedstock. The client preferred to use some pre-used equipment items and many existing designs to fast-track the project and to reduce the labor hours for engineering and drafting. This approach required a high level of teamwork with Fluor personnel, who five years earlier had designed the original facility.

Because the original fine tailings feedstock has been depleted, the first phase of the expansion enabled the existing facility to take ore as feedstock.

The second phase of the expansion more than tripled the capacity of the facilities, from 10,000 to 35,000 tpa of copper cathode.

Fluor's Solution

Having designed the original facility, Fluor personnel were familiar with the client and with the challenges of the project.

During the first phase, Fluor incorporated new equipment in the flowsheets to accommodate the ore from the FQM Lonshi mine. This included ore used for crushing/grinding and in multiple pre-leach filtration units. The second phase expanded leach, filtration, and solution extraction/electrowinning (SX-EW) facilities.

Careful planning and Fluor's familiarity with the process helped to minimize interruption to production operations during the expansion.


The project helped to enable the Bwana Mkubwa facility, the oldest mine in the region, to later reach production of 35,000 tpa of copper cathode. In 2011, it was closed because there were no copper deposits remaining in the area.