Central Asia Metals produced 5444 tonnes of copper from its Kounrad project in Kazakhstan during the first half of 2015. This was a 7% increase on the comparable period of 2014 and was largely due to expanded boiler-house capacity resulting in higher solution volume treatment rates during winter.

The production has allowed the AIM-listed company to pay a dividend, which sees it pass a milestone. In 2010 when it listed, Central Asia raised US$60 million from shareholders. The latest dividend means to will have returned more than $61 million if share buybacks are included.

It comes during a bear market when the copper industry is under pressure due to falling copper prices.

“Our business has remained profitable despite a 16% decrease in the copper price since the beginning of the year,” said the company’s chief executive Nick Clarke. “The continued low cost of our operations together with our strong balance sheet enables us to continue market leading dividend payments in a challenging commodity environment.”

The company is looking to build on the success of the Kounrad operations through an expansion program.

Less than a year after the start of the Kounrad Stage 1 Expansion program, the solvent extraction-electro-winning (SX-EW) plant extension was successfully commissioned in May. The US$13.4 million program included construction works and equipment installation for the extended facilities, all undertaken by company personnel.

The extra mixer-settler tank increased hourly solution treatment capacity by 33% to 1200 cubic metres and the additional 24 electro-winning cells increased daily plating capability by 42% to 50 tonnes of copper. The upgrade also included installation of an additional 10MW transformer substation.

The expansion and additional 5.6MW boiler capacity installed towards the end of 2014 increased name-plate annual capacity from 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of cathode copper. While the incident reduced 2015 guidance, the company remains on track to achieve 15,000 tonnes in 2016.

A much more significant expansion of throughput is now being proposed, supported by existing cash reserves of more than US$35 million.