PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Junior Aeon Metals has paused the prefeasibility study (PFS) on its Walford Creek copper/cobalt project, in Queensland, on the back of ever-increasing global input costs and supply chain volatility.
The ASX-listed company in June of last year completed a revised scoping study for Walford Creek, which delivered an initial mine life of 14 years based on the production of 243 000 t of copper, 33 000 t of cobalt, 278 000 t of zinc, 26-million ounces of silver and 15 000 t of nickel.
The revised scoping study estimated a pre-production capital cost of A$996-million for the project.
However, Aeon said on Friday that recent geopolitical events have seen global input costs increase significantly, along with supply chain volatility, which has challenged the basis to complete a consistent and coherent economic assessment of the Walford Creek project.
The company told shareholders that as there was no pressing need to finalise the PFS, the company would instead focus on its exploration programme for 2022, ensuring the orebody was exploited to its full potential.
“The decision to pause the PFS process has occurred at a relatively advanced stage. However, the capital and operating cost estimates are always the final input pieces of any advanced project technical study, received prior to determination of forecast economics and finalisation of results,” said MD and CEO Dr Fred Hess.
“Our decision to commit to an aggressive 2022 exploration programme was driven by our exploration team, led by our newly appointed exploration manager. They have impressed upon me the exciting potential uncovered by our 2021 programme and the opportunity for it to deliver a material step-change in mineral resource size.
“It became increasingly clear to me that when the implications of these issues were objectively weighed, then the best interest of the company would be served by pausing the PFS. The very real potential for a reassessment of project scale and even the possible relocation of the proposed treatment facility in conjunction with the emerging considerations suggested that greater clarity was required ahead of finalising the project scope of work,” said Hess.
He said notwithstanding the pause, Aeon was taking comfort in the underlying direction of commodity prices and the increased signals from government concerning the importance of increasing Australia’s production of critical minerals.
“The decision to advance Walford Creek on a more measured timeline is targeted to yield an enhanced intrinsic value on the back of exploration and other success, and to build in-situ value as market supply and demand forces realign in response to the coming age of energy transformation and evolution in the metal markets that underpin it.”