Aim-listed copper mining company Weatherly International is targeting production of 30 000 t/y in Namibia within three years at a production cost of less than $2/lb, with minimal capital expenditure (capex).
This is according to the company’s November investor presentation in which it notes that Weatherly is highly leveraged to the copper price and is seeking to apply its competitive advantage to new opportunities in low-risk parts of Africa.
The company owns Otjihase and Matchless, two established underground copper mines and a concentrator adjacent to Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. However, production at these operations was suspended, owing to the marked decline in global copper prices, Mining Weekly reported in September 2015.
The 800 000 t/y concentrator, which is on care and maintenance, produces high-quality copper concentrate sought after for blending, explains Weatherly.
The mines and concentrator are being maintained for immediate restart, with underground workings dewatered and faces accessible.
Weatherly is evaluating the potential opportunity to produce 10 000 t/y to 12 000 t/y at C1 costs of $2/lb for the next ten years and capex of under $10-million, and highlights that Otjihase and Matchless represent one of the lowest capital intensity copper projects in the world.
An offtake agreement is in place, whereby concentrate is trucked to the Walvis Bay port and sold to agricultural goods company Louis Dreyfus at the point of export.
The company’s third and final project in Namibia is the Tschudi openpit copper mine, near the town of Tsumeb, “a derisked producing asset with exceptional nearby infrastructure”, with the capacity to produce 17 000 t/y of London Metal Exchange Grade A cathode for the next nine years at a C1 cost of $1.75/lb as of November 2016.
To the end of June 2016, Tschudi had produced 18 913 t of copper cathode from 3.8-million tons of ore stacked on the heap leach pads, with 12.7-million bank cubic metres of waste having been mined, according to a technical report on the mine dated November 2016.
Tschudi, where construction started in January 2014, reached its full nameplate production rate of 1 400 t/m (17 000 t/y) of copper cathode in December 2015.
The current life-of-mine (LoM) plan forecasts that mining of ore will continue until July 2024 (based on the current copper cathode production rate) and copper production will continue from the heap leach until at least December 2025. Over the LoM, Weatherly expects Tschudi to produce about 175 000 t of cathode copper.
Mining is currently under way in smaller pits that will ultimately be combined into one large pit. As of June 30, 2016, the final pit design had a total ore reserve of 22.6-million tonnes, grading 0.85% copper for contained metal of 191 700 t.
Tschudi, which is supplied with sulphuric acid from Dundee Resources International’s adjacent Tsumeb smelter, also boasts a 20 000 t/y solvent extraction and electrowinning plant. The plant was built on schedule and within budget by the Weatherly team, with mine and leach scheduling optimisation under way as of November 2016.
About 730 people are directly employed by the mine and over 98% are Namibian nationals.