Today at the AfricaDownUnder conference, an African-focused legal specialist has encouraged Australian explorers and miners venturing into the continent to take their lawyer on due diligence trips, not just their geologist. Also, the Federal Government’s export credit agency says it is continuing to support and expand its financial backing for Australian-backed mine project opportunities in Africa. At Lumwana, shovel and truck problems are being overcome and production is now ramping up nicely.Addressing the second day in Perth today of the Paydirt 2009 Africa DownUnder Conference, Perth-based Partner of Blakiston & Crabb Lawyers, Michael Blakiston, said a lawyer was often not included in such trips, left “at home” to contribute their inputs into mine focused transactions. “In our experience, you should have your lawyer visit on site regardless of the African state as you need to collect and clear all the information possible – and that includes talking directly with those involved on the ground.“In dealing with African mining, Australian participants need to explore every source of information as many mining projects are seen as the golden goose and that puts a lot of pressure on government, private sector and NGOs – many of whom make decisions based on tribal relationships. We would recommend Australian stakeholders source the bulk of their information from private intelligent groups – it comes at a cost but it can be very insightful and can bring background information together in a manner that we as Australians may not understand as we are not African and may not be aware how local issues can manifest.”Blakiston advised Australians venturing into African projects to also “find a champion” in government as this level of help was needed if a project was to be fostered and not derailed.Export Finance Insurance Corporation Director, Jan Fuchter, said support for Australian involvement in a range of additional countries in Africa is being considered in addition to current project support in Kenya, Zambia and Mozambique. “In the northwest, we are currently assessing support for Australian projects in Morocco, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon,” Fuchter said. “We also plan to lift our presence on the southeast and southcoast, possibly adding Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa to our current African exposure.”The corporation has already committed since 2004, more than $420 million in support for African ventures involving Australian firms, including copper projects in Zambia, the Mozambique to South Africa gas pipeline, and for EPC services for the Moma mineral sands project. The bulk of funds have been to support Equinox Minerals’ Lumwana copper project in Zambia.“The EFIC is willing to support the growth of Australian business internationally by providing financial solutions in a manner that is complementary to, not in competition with, commercial lenders,” Fuchter said. “Our key focus as a lender, insurer and guarantor is structured trade and project finance for larger companies and projects and SME/mid size companies and obviously Africa’s resources expansion is attracting interest from Australian explorers and mine developers.”Earlier in the conference, Craig Williams President of Equinox Minerals, owner of the world’s largest new copper mine development of the past two years – Zambia’s $841 million Lumwana operation – said production ramp-up is continuing to improve and the mine is expected to rapidly build throughput. He said the Lumwana plant performance was now meeting and exceeding expectations and ore recoveries and concentrate grades were improving.“Mine performance is still ramping up to expectations and we need to focus on material movement to maintain that momentum. The underperformance has primarily been due to truck and shovel availability and productivity but we are continuing to ramp up to successfully move towards an anticipated production rate of 20 Mt/y.“Our metals target is 170,000 t/y of copper for at least six years and our guidance for 2009 is between 110,000-120,000 t of metal at a cash cost of $1.35-$1.50/lb of copper.” Lumwana has a total resource including Measured, Indicated and Inferred of 6.3 Mt of copper as well as a uranium resource of 16.6 Mlb U3O8.The mine has concentrate offtake agreements with Chambishi Copper Smelter for 230,000 t/y of copper concentrate over the next five years, a 70,000-80,000 t/y concentrate contract for five years with the Nchanga smelter and shorter term contracts with international traders.Williams said Equinox believed optimisation and debottlenecking requiring limited additional capital requirements had the potential to increase Lumwana’s throughput by 20% to 24 Mt/y of ore. “This is a very large resource and is a long life mine with opportunity for further expansion,” he said. “There is also opportunity for additional ore feed to the mill from mine extensions and the potential from further regional exploration.“The full bankable feasibility study and plant design has already been completed for the mine’s proposed $200 million uranium plant and we will progress work on that over coming months – as we already have about 1 Mt of uranium ore on the stockpile, the development of a uranium plant is almost inevitable.” Lumwana’s uranium campaign has been designed around 1 Mt/y plant producing 2 Mlb/y of uranium oxide concentrate.