Orion Minerals has advised that it has commenced workstreams to assess the merits of phasing the development of its flagship Prieska Copper-Zinc Project in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa (Prieska Project), in a manner that brings forward the start of production and allows for dewatering of the underground workings to commence ahead of the final investment decision for the full-scale project construction as planned in the 2020 Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS-20).
The BFS-20 outlines the plan to re-establish the Prieska Copper Mine, which was previously operated as an underground mine between 1971 to 1991. During this time, mine records show, 46Mt were mined to produce 430kt of copper and 1.01Mt of zinc in concentrates.
While funding discussions for the Prieska Project, based on the BFS-20 plan, are in progress with banks and finance institutions, investigations into further enhancing the technical and commercial aspects of the Project are being advanced.
The strategy is to capitalise on the positive near-term base metals market and focus on investigating opportunities that have the potential to bring forward the start of production and revenue generation, potentially reducing the upfront external peak funding requirements of the project.
Extraction of the shallow supergene sulphide ore by open pit mining is included in the BFS-20 plan. It is currently scheduled to be undertaken from Year 13 of the mine life, with tonnage milled stepping down from the 200,000 tonnes per month rate of the earlier underground mining to 100,000 tonnes per month, using only one of two installed mills for the open pit mining phase.
The 1.12 Mt of supergene sulphide open pit ore, at an average grade of 1.9% Cu and 2.4% Zn, is planned to be mined and processed over a 2-year period in the BFS-20 (refer ASX/JSE release 26 May 2020).
The Early Production Scenario plan will assess the impact of re-scheduling mining of the open pit to the start of the Prieska Project mine plan to allow concentrate production with earlier commissioning of the first mill, while the second mill is being installed and other long-lead time capital projects for commencement of the Prieska Deeps Mine are completed.
In the BFS-20, the start of production is planned for month 33. Rescheduling of open pit mining to commence early aims to assess the impact of open pit production occurring concurrently to the long lead time elements of the Deeps Projects, such as mine dewatering, shaft refurbishment, underground infrastructure construction and stope preparation, which are all independent of open pit mining.