JSE-listed tin concentrate producer Alphamin Resources has increased its tin production by 29% quarter-on-quarter to 2 739 t, while also managing to reduce its all-in sustaining costs (AISC) by 13% to $10 849/t.
Alphamin operates the Bisie tin mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and attributes the higher production, which is better than previous market guidance, on its better-than-expected tin feed grades.
During the quarter under review, the miner reduced its debt by $31.2-million.
Plant throughput increased by 8% to 91 928 t during the period, which is based on higher underground volumes derived from the new open stoping with hydraulic backfill mining method employed.
During the quarter, Alphamin reports that mined volumes exceeded plant throughput by about 4 000 t, thereby increasing the run-of-mine stockpiles.
The miner also reports that the processing plant is performing well and that various initiatives aimed at achieving consistently higher throughput are under way.
Alphamin’s AISC for payable tin sold reduced by 13% to $10 849/t mainly as a result of increased tin production.
Additionally, the miner notes that the first quarter’s performance were negatively affected by high arsenic penalties and exceptional logistical costs incurred while the national road bridge was under repair.
Meanwhile, Alphamin says the Bisie tin mine recorded two lost-time injuries during the second quarter when an employee and a contractor sustained minor injuries during two separate accidents.
However, the miner notes that both have subsequently returned to work.
In terms of production guidance for the third quarter, Alphamin says it expects contained tin production of between 2 600 t and 2 800 t.
In addition, an elevated tin price, which recently increased to about $18 000/t, will, if maintained, bode well for Alphamin’s third-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation.
During the third quarter, Alphamin also plans to increase its ownership of the Bisie tin mine, from 80.75% to 84.14%.
In terms of growth initiatives, Alphamin reports that, following the debt reduction and restructuring, the company’s balance sheet has been strengthened and, coupled with the increase in tin prices, Alphamin has initiated some growth initiatives.
As part of its two-year strategy to produce over 12 000 t/y of contained tin and proving additional resource and life-of-mine extensions.
To this end, Alphamin has appointed Obsideo as its engineering, procurement and construction management contractor for the execution of its Fine Tin Project (FTP). The FTP is focussed on treating the tailings stream from its gravity concentration plant at Bisie to recover the fine to ultrafine tin particles.
Alphamin CEO Maritz Smith says that, when the company first commissioned the gravity concentration plant at Bisie, it was focussed on ramping up to a production level of 10 000 t/y of payable tin, which the company has surpassed since the second quarter at a yearly 11 000 t.
“We believe we can increase plant throughput by another 10% through minor plant de-bottlenecking activities, which could increase yearly tin production to about 12 000 t.”
He adds that, in its efforts to increase metallurgical recoveries, Alphamin has identified process flow streams that contain fine, recoverable tin, and has selected proven metallurgical technology to recover the fine tin from these streams, which should increase tin output further at very low incremental operating costs.
In terms of exploration at its Mpama South prospect, Alphamin has appointed T3 Drilling, to undertake a 6 000 m diamond-core drilling programme, which is expected to start in the third quarter.
Mpama South is located about 1 km south of the main processing plant at Bisie and the drilling programme has been designed to delineate a maiden mineral resource.
Between 2012 and 2013, Alphamin drilled 19 drill holes for 3 364 m to determine the extent and nature of the mineralisation at Mpama South. Two distinct mineralised zones were intercepted – an upper zone showing well-developed lead, zinc and silver mineralisation, and a lower zone rich in tin and copper.
“We are encouraged by the historical drilling results from Mpama South and we are optimistic that by applying our exploration experience as demonstrated at Mpama North, that this drilling programme will deliver sufficient information to support the declaration of our maiden mineral resource at Mpama South and enable for possible extension to the life of operations at Bisie,” says Smith.