London-listed Tertiary Minerals on Thursday said it had signed an agreement with First Quantum Minerals to jointly explore two copper projects in Zambia.
First Quantum, one of the top 10 copper producing companies in the world, operates two copper mines in Zambia, Africa's second largest producer of the mineral. Tertiary is a mineral exploration and development company with four copper exploration licences in the southern African country.
The agreement covers Tertiary's Mukai and Mushima North licence areas, which are close to First Quantum's mining operations and exploration targets, Tertiary said in a statement.
Tertiary's executive chairman Patrick Cheetham said the agreement would "turbo-charge" Zambian copper exploration in two key areas.
The agreement gives Tertiary access to First Quantum's expertise and knowledge of Zambia without the associated cost, Cheetham said.
"In return, First Quantum will gain first-hand knowledge of any new discoveries that we make, and will be in pole position, should we seek an exploration or development partner in future," Cheetham said, adding that the agreement did not bind the parties to any future deal regarding the projects.
Tertiary said a technical committee would be set up with First Quantum to jointly work on advancing exploration and development of the projects.
First Quantum, which produced 435,000 tonnes of copper and 128,000 ounces of gold from its Zambian operations in 2021, approved plans for a $1.25 billion expansion of its Kansanshi copper mine in May, a decision the miner said was prompted by "renewed confidence" in Zambia's investment climate.
The company also approved a further $100 million investment in its Enterprise nickel project in Zambia, which it expects to start producing in 2023, ramping up to annual production of 30,000 tonnes of nickel in concentrate.
(Reporting by Nelson Banya; Editing by Christopher Cushing)