JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Tin exploration and development company Alphamin Resources is nearing completion of the boxcut at its 9 900 t/y Bisie tin project, in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Alphamin CEO Boris Kamstra tells Mining Weekly Online that local earthworks contractor Kongo River, which is responsible for all the project’s earthworks, and mining contractor Reliant Congo, which is responsible for shotcreting and soil nailing – Reliant will also be responsible for the underground mining once the mine is in operation – have done an “excellent job”, to date, in developing the project.
Cutting of the decline portal for the new underground mine will start soon. The mine’s return airway adit is 120 m in length and has intercepted the orebody and will provide Alphamin with it first actual view of the underground orebody, beyond what it has recorded in previous drill results.
Kamstra says that, to date, about $70-million had been invested in the project, with $134-million in capital still needed.
“We are getting very close to signing up $80-million worth of debt financing, which will leave us with $54-million balance of equity [that needs to be raised],” he reveals.
South African State-owned development finance institution, the Industrial Development Corporation, has received credit committee approval to provide further finance to the mine, while Mauritius-domiciled investment holding company Tremont Master Holdings has also indicated it will provide additional finance to the project. Tremont is funded by global private-equity firm Denham Capital.
“We, therefore, have to still raise about $20-million to $30-million in finance. This is without tapping into any of our existing shareholders, which we will do in due course.”
Therefore, Kamstra is cautiously optimistic that the project will soon be fully funded and, once this is achieved, mine development will be accelerated.
Kamstra comments that Alphamin has focused this year on completing Bisie’s preparatory infrastructure for the site and advancing the underground mine development. The company is aiming to produce its first tin concentrate during the first half of 2019.
The mine’s all-in cost (AIC) of production is estimated at about $9 000/t, which is higher than the initially estimated AIC of $8 448/t owing to mine redesigns.
There are on average 20 to 30 trucks being sent to and from Bisie a month carrying between 15 t and 20 t each in supplies and general equipment for the site.
Kamstra remarks that the mine’s logistics are working adequately; however, he concedes that conditions are challenging and are not currently at the standard that Alphamin wants them to be at for the duration of the project.
“We need to do a lot more work on our 38 km mine access road. This is tricky as we are working on it while it is in use. The weather in the area has been unseasonably wet. Recently, the area had a storm that brought in 200 mm of rain within the space of a few hours. Usually, the weather would clear up quickly and there would be sunshine that would evaporate the water. However, there has been a lot of overcast days which has caused delays in the drying out of the road.”
Nonetheless, Kamstra notes that road contractors are currently working on mitigating these challenges.
Meanwhile, the company initially built timber bridges which carried loads beyond what was thought possible; however, owing to the speeds and size of the loads carried over these bridges, they degraded and have been replaced with culvert crossings.
Alphamin also has a team assisting the local government in upgrading a provincial road to ensure greater safety for trucks and regular passenger vehicles using the road.
A Pilot Crushtec dry crusher has been built and has been dry commissioned to produce aggregates for wearing course and concrete. A wet circuit is being added to the crusher as there is some clay material in the initial rock that is being fed into the machine which needs to be washed out.
An airstrip is also being established about 30 minutes from Bisie, which will also aid in getting people and light materials to and from the site. The company is currently using an airstrip called Kilambo, which is, in fact, a piece of national road between Wailikale and Goma, in North Kivu.
Bisie has already created about 200 jobs for locals and has aided in the development of commercial enterprises in the region.
The company assisted Vodacom establish two cell towers, one near the mine and another at its offices at Logu, which has made it easier for locals to communicate with family members in the rest of the country, while providing new business opportunities for locals relating to the selling of airtime and data.
The company is also in talks with a local bank to establish a branch and an autoteller in the region to assist locals in accessing money and setting up bank accounts.
“We do not just want to develop a tin mine, we want to assist the local government in building sustainable industries that will leave a lasting positive legacy, long after the final ton of tin has been produced at Bisie,” Kamstra concludes.