JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Aim-listed mining and resource development company Vast Resources achieved record first-quarter gold production of 6 326 oz at its 25%-owned Pickstone-Peerless gold mine, in Zimbabwe.
“Outperformance over any previous quarter in terms of ore grade milled, gold produced and sold was achieved,” Vast stated on Tuesday.
Gold production at Pickstone-Peerless was 4% higher quarter-on-quarter, while gold sale increased by 14% quarter-on-quarter to 6 549 oz. Additionally, the milled gold grade improved by 13% quarter-on-quarter to 2.78 g/t.
Vast stated that an exceptionally high level of pre-stripping was undertaken in preparation for the expected increase in ore tonnages in the coming months.
The high level of stripping and heavy rainfall during February resulted in 28% reduced volumes of ore mined, at 65 342 t, compared with the 90 874 t mine in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Volumes of ore milled were also 6% lower quarter-on-quarter, owing to plant mechanical problems and delayed availability of parts.
These mechanical problems have now been remedied and, together with improved weather outlooks, it is anticipated that the plant should process in excess of 30 000 t/m in future quarters.
The grades continue to increase at depth as expected at Pickstone-Peerless and will continue to do so until it hits the sulphide orebody.
Meanwhile, Vast CEO Andrew Prelea on Tuesday commented that the company’s focus during recent months has been to ready itself for the next phase of growth, adding that this has been most noticeable in Romania, where the company’s efforts were redoubled to prepare the 100%-owned Manaila mine to deliver a sustainable, long-term, high-quality source of copper and zinc concentrate to satisfy the offtake agreement with global energy and commodity trading company Mercuria Trading.
The agreement entails a $9.5-million prepayment (from Mercuria) offtake agreement for the construction of the metallurgical complex near the Manaila mine. The agreement includes up to 100% of the copper and zinc concentrate produced at Manaila, as well as the Baita polymetallic mine in Romania, to be supplied to Mercuria.
“These efforts have certainly not been wasted as, towards the end of the period, in the lead-up to initial deliveries to Mercuria, Manaila has been delivering an excellent performance and I am confident that this will continue.
“Post-period end, we achieved our largest delivery in terms of volume and monetary value and I believe we are set to meet, and potentially exceed, our target for May deliveries,” he noted.
At the Manaila mine, the company’s planned plant shutdown continued in anticipation of the offtake agreement with Mercuria.
The shutdown had an adverse impact on production figures for the first quarter, but is anticipated to deliver a substantially improved performance for the remainder of the year.
The focus of activity at Manaila during the quarter continued to be pre-stripping, together with plant maintenance and repairs, to ensure the sustainable supply of product.
As a result of the plant shutdown and focus on waste stripping, the stripping ratio has shown a significant increase over the past two quarters and will allow for the required ore to be delivered to the plant. The stripping ratio has increased by 85% from 10.4 times to 19.4 times on a tonne-for-tonne basis.
Manaila’s copper concentrate production decreased by 31% quarter-on-quarter to 386 t for the quarter ended March 31; however, a 6% increase in copper concentrate grade to 17.3%, was achieved.
Zinc concentrate production decreased by 13% quarter-on-quarter to 84 t, while zinc concentrate grade decreased by 18% quarter-on-quarter to 30.4%.
Meanwhile, the next phase of growth for Vast is not limited to Manaila and Pickstone-Peerless.
“We are actively looking at complementary assets and nondilutive financing structures with which to build Vast into a midtier mining company. The first asset off the block was the Eureka gold mine, in Australia, in which we now hold an indirect 23.75% interest.
“Currently on care and maintenance, our intention is to recommission this mine in as short a timeframe as possible, and it is with this in mind that I look forward to reporting on our enlarged production portfolio in the near future," Prelea concluded.