PERTH (miningweekly.com) – ASX- and TSX-listed Equinox Minerals expects its Lumwana mine in Zambia to produce 145 000 t of copper concentrate this year.
This is after the mine produced 146 690 t of copper concentrate in 2010. In 2009, the plant produced 109 413 t of copper.
The company, which recently bought Citadel Resources, reported on Monday that it produced 33 939 t of copper concentrate at the Lumwana mine in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Material movements of 28,52-million tons marked the third consecutive quarter in which the miner reported above a 105-million ton a year mining rate, with the pit performing well in the early stages of the wet season.
However, Equinox noted that despite the consistent mill throughput, copper production during the fourth quarter was lower than the 38 445 t produced in the third quarter, owing to the lower head grades and in accordance with the mine plan.
In addition to the copper ore mined during the December quarter, a small amount of uranium or was also mined and stockpiled.
Equinox said that the uranium stockpiled on the run-of-mine pad had increased to 4,6-million tons, grading at 900 parts per million uranium and 0,8% copper. The ore was currently being classified as “waste” to the copper project but could be treated at a later date, if the company builds a uranium plant.
Meanwhile, a plant debottlenecking and optimisation programme has started at Lumwana and is expected to increase the plant throughput to 24-million tons a year by the end of 2011.
Key operational trends in 2011 would include increased material movements in the mine as well as the planned increase in the plant throughput.
The average grades for 2011 were expected to remain around the levels experienced in the fourth quarter, as mining operations moved along strike away from the higher grade Starter Pit, at Malundwe.
Recoveries were also expected to continue to be at around 90%, improving as a lower proportion of transitional material is processed.
The scope of the Lumwana expansion study to 35-million tons a year would also be broadened to include a number of additional scenarios up to a plant capacity of 45-million tons.
Equinox said that the overburden removal at the Chimiwungo deposit was scheduled to start in mid-2011, with first ore production expected towards the end of 2012.