JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – A focus on recovery at the Drakelands tungsten project in Devon, in the UK, and the increase in the tungsten price bolstered Aim-listed specialist metals miner Wolf Minerals during the quarter ended March 31.
“It is a very encouraging start to 2018, with the improvements to the gravity fines circuit and the return to seven days a week operations providing an increase in throughput before snow and freezing temperatures across the UK in March. This delayed production while safety, access and equipment protection were prioritised and supply chains re-established,” said Wolf Minerals MD Richard Lucas.
The return to seven-day operations and the implementation of the improvements in the gravity fines circuit, which helped alleviate capacity constraints and throughput tonnes tracked 25% higher through January and February when compared with the December quarter.
Also, opportunities for further improvements were identified in the crushing circuit, with material upgrades for crusher segments to be trialled in extended run time periods in preparation for more consistent harder granite ore feed.
Final tungsten concentrate production during January and February was consistent with the December quarter monthly average. Excess capacity in the kiln is also allowing further optimisation activities to be explored with the kiln product to improve concentrate quality.
“Subsequent to the extreme weather delay and with the ore feed continuing to be restricted, optimisation activities have resumed to focus on tungsten recovery, concentrate quality and waste minimisation to improve operating cash flows.”
The tungsten price has continued to build upon the strong 2017 performance, rising to $325/t in Europe and China followed by balanced market conditions in March.
“Further, the successful restructuring of the company's financing arrangements during the quarter has provided additional flexibility to address our operational requirements, as well as capacity to investigate value-adding initiatives for Wolf's long-term growth,” he added.
Cash used in operating activities for the quarter was A$7-million, which included A$2.5-million on development, A$13.6-million on production and A$700 000 on finance costs, and revenue of A$13.2-million.
The company had A$4.4-million cash at the end of the quarter, with further funding of A$9-million available to support revenue, on a forecast gross cash outflow of A$28-million for the coming quarter.
“Financing arrangements have been put in place to support Wolf in achieving long term self-sustaining cash flow,” said Lucas.
Meanwhile, during the quarter, a pre-processing trial started on a range of ore feed qualities and mineralised wastes to identify potential improvements in processing efficiency and project cash flows. The initial results on the lower quality ore feeds have successfully replicated the laboratory testwork.
The trial is continuing throughout the June quarter, with potential to be expanded across additional material flows generated from the processing plant.
A total of 506 584 m3 of material was moved during the quarter, with the ore grade averaging 0.2% tungsten trioxide and 0.04% tin. The mine has progressed to a depth of 50 m and is expected to complete the transition to consistently harder granite ore feed in the second half of this year.
Subsequent to quarter end, the company commenced an orebody drilling programme to provide the next stage of grade control data and also an opportunity to enhance the resources classification for the deposit.
The programme includes four holes 500 m deep angled below the final pit design, to expand the understanding of the opportunity to access further ore at depth and also to determine the extent of mineralisation intersected in the surrounding killas within the current pit envelope.