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(Reuters) – The Mopani copper smelter in Zambia has refused to accept the first copper concentrate shipment from Equinox Minerals’ Lumwana copper mine on the grounds the material did not meet contract specifications, an Equinox official said on Wednesday.

“We have shipped concentrates to four offtakers and one of them, Mopani, has claimed they are not within specification,” said Craig Williams, President and CEO of Perth-based Equinox Minerals.


“We believe that they are within specifications and the other three offtakers have accepted them. We are obviously unhappy with this situation,” he said.


A spokesman at privately owned Swiss trading company Glencore International, which holds a 73 percent stake in the Mopani smelter, declined to comment.


Williams did not give further details, but said Mopani was contracted to take concentrate containing 48,000 tonnes of copper, or 28 percent of the 170,000 tonnes of copper-in-concentrate slated for production at the copper-uranium mine in 2009.


Equinox began copper production at Lumwana — considered Africa’s largest open-pit copper mine — in December.


Craig said the concentrate had been placed with other companies and Equinox was considering its options.


Earlier this month, Equinox said it was delaying construction of a uranium processing plant at the Lumwana copper-uranium mine in Zambia, due to low uranium prices and difficulty in raising financing.


Equinox shares were last quoted at C$1.51 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down from a 2-½ month high of C$2.00 on January 6.