JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – London-listed African Minerals was on track to achieve the targeted 20-million-to-a-year iron-ore production capacity at its Tonkolili project by the second quarter of the 2013 financial year.
The Sierra Leone-based iron-ore mine, which tabled a 2013 production guidance of 15-million to 18-million tons and an export forecast of 13-million to 15-million tons, further derisked the operations as production stabilised and cash costs decreased to about $30/t by year-end, said African Minerals executive chairperson Frank Timis.
He noted that this would be the year Tonkolili effectively became the largest producer of iron-ore in West Africa and established itself as a new, low-cost, high-volume, scalable and long-lived producer as it contemplated its move to the next stage of expansion to 35-million tons a year of 64% high-grade hematite concentrate production by 2016.
The Tonkolili deposit holds a Joint Ore Reserves Committee-compliant resource of about 12.8-billion tons and has a 60-year life-of-mine.
Last year, the Africa-focused group pursued significant infrastructure establishment and construction projects to support the mine’s expansion, including the upgrading of rail infrastructure, rolling stock expansion, commissioning of the second port stockyard, receipt of a third trans-shipper and ramping up the mine processing facilities.
African Minerals CEO Keith Calder said the mine would be able to consistently achieve 20-million tons a year of exports by 2014, owing to the flexibility afforded by a wet process plant, with a supporting mobile crushing, washing and screening plant and a semi-mobile crushing plant, in addition to a short-haul rail and significant stockpile capacity at both mine and port.
The current export capacity remains constrained pending the April commissioning of the large 6 000 t/h wagon dumper at Pepel port, after which the full mine/rail/port system would have the capacity to maintain the company’s targeted run rate.
African Minerals also commissioned a 300 t excavator and ten additional Caterpillar 777 100 t trucks during the first quarter of 2013, expanding its contract mining fleet.
The rolling stock complement was increased from 20 locomotives and 456 wagons, to 34 locomotives and 1 056 wagons, including 20 flatbed wagons for the container traffic and ten tank wagons for the diesel traffic.
“At full production, we expect to run a rolling stock fleet of eight trains, each with four locomotives and 100 wagons,” the company said.
The group further upgraded the reconstructed narrow-gauge rail from 45 kg/m to 60 kg/m to allow wagonloads to be increased with higher rail speeds. Rail speed was currently averaging 50 km/h, including the waiting time of the empty trains in passing loops.
During 2012, the port’s capacity continued to be expanded, with the commissioning of a second, larger stockyard, including a stacker and a stacker/reclaimer, bringing the total laydown capacity to in excess of one-million tons of saleable product.
A second shiploader was installed on the existing jetty – doubling loading capacity and allowing both stockyards to operate concurrently. It also enabled each stockyard to operate independently with direct loading from the wagon dumpers. A third trans-shipping vessel, the MV Nelvana, was added to the fleet in December.