Cascabel copper/gold/silver project, Ecuador – update

Aerial view of the Cascabel project

Photo by SolGold

19th May 2023

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
Cascabel copper/gold/silver project.

Northern Ecuador.

Project Owner/s
Exploraciones Novomining, an 85%-owned subsidiary of SolGold.

Project Description
A prefeasibility study (PFS) has concluded that Cascabel has the potential to be a large, low-cost and long-life mining operation based on achievable, proven and tested mining and processing assumptions.

The mine is expected to produce a clean copper/gold/silver concentrate, to be sold to Asian and European smelters as part of a project construction financing package.

The project has an initial mineral reserve of 558-million tonnes containing 3.3-million tonnes of copper grading 0.58%, 9.4-million ounces of gold grading 0.52 g/t, and 30-million ounces of silver grading 1.65 g/t over an initial 26-year life-of-mine (LoM), with a potential LoM upside of more than 50 years following the initial LoM.

Access to the Alpala underground mine is expected to be through twin declines,  starting from a boxcut near the surface and the first lift near the 300mRL. Block cave mining will be applied to the underground resource while all horizontal development will be undertaken using conventional drill-and-blast methods. The vertical development for the main ventilation rises will be excavated using blind sinking methods.

The crushed ore from the underground primary crushers will be conveyed to the surface and fed to the secondary crushing circuit. The product from the secondary crushing area will be transferred to the fine ore stockpile, and subsequently reclaimed to the high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) circuit.

The product from the HPGR circuit will be transferred to a grinding circuit comprising ball mills, each operating in closed circuit with a hydrocyclone cluster.

The project is initially expected to produce about 132 000 t/y of copper, 358 000 oz/y of gold and one-million ounces of silver (212 000 t/y copper equivalent), with peak copper production of 210 000 t/y (319 000 t/y copper equivalent).

Potential Job Creation
Not stated.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The project has an estimated pretax net present value, at an 8% discount rate, of $5.2-billion and an internal rate of return of 25.3%, with a payback of 4.7 years from the start of operations.

Capital Expenditure
$2.7-billion for the initial cave development, first process plant module and infrastructure.

Planned Start/End Date
Not stated.

Latest Developments
SolGold is evaluating a phased approach to the development of the Cascabel project to reduce upfront capital and shorten the development schedule.

It has also deferred the Cascabel definitive feasibility study, owing to the fluidity of the current capital cost landscape and the ongoing assessment of value-enhancing opportunities.

The company is prioritising capital allocation as part of a reorganisation plan, which aims to reduce costs and headcount, to preserve financial resources while derisking Cascabel.

“SolGold plans to provide an update as the various value-adding options are evaluated, and a clearer picture of the future direction of the studies and timeframes emerges,” the company has said in its management discussion and analysis accompanying its 2023 third-quarter report.

Regarding the ongoing strategic review, SolGold continues to evaluate financing alternatives, including potentially spinning out non-Cascabel assets.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Mining Plus (mineral resources and reserves estimates); Knight Piésold (environment, social, tailings and water studies); Wood (metallurgy, process plant and infrastructure, as well as financial evaluation); and Wood Mackenzie (marketing).

Contact Details for Project Information
SolGold, tel +44 20 3823 2130 or email

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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