Copper miner Tiger Resources has increased its production guidance for Stage 1 of its heavy-media separation (HMS) plant at the Kipoi copper project, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“Kipoi, which is based in Katanga province, is on track to exceed the 2013 production target of 37 000 t of copper in concentrate and Tiger has revised the HMS production guidance to a range of 41 000 t to 43 000 t for 2013,” Tiger Resources MD Brad Marwood says.
Speaking to Mining Weekly, he points out that the company set a monthly production record of 4 007 t of copper in concentrate in March, which was 37% above the plant’s nameplate capacity.
“Tiger Resources has been able to continue these high levels of production, owing to a thorough maintenance schedule, which ensures the plant is running at high-efficiency levels. The company has also demonstrated high levels of health and safety practices at Kipoi, achieving more than two-million hours of operating time, with no time lost as a result of work-related injuries,” Marwood points out.
Year-to-date production to the end of May, was 16 182 t of copper in concentrate, supporting a production estimate of 19 500 t for the six months to June 30.
“The Kipoi mine plan has been updated to include the results of grade-control drilling in support of mining the Kipoi central pit to the 1215 reduced-level, which will take HMS processing operations to the end of 2014,” he says.
Marwood says the resultant mine model reports an increase in copper grade, compared with the original model. On this basis, the HMS production target for the six months to December 31, 2012 has been revised to a range of 21 500 t to 23 500 t.
The company’s guidance for average operating cash costs for 2013 – $0.48c for every pound of copper produced – is maintained.
“The current plan is for the HMS plant to continue production until the end of 2014, following the completion and ramp-up of the Stage 2 solvent-extraction electrowinning (SX-EW) plant. This will result in residues totalling 6.1-million tonnes of material grading 2.4% copper, free at surface, in the form of floats, slimes and run-of-mine ore stockpiles at the start of the SX-EW operation,” says Marwood.
He adds that mining at Kipoi can be stopped for about two years, as these residues will provide three years of feed to the SX-EW plant.
Tiger Resources has been active in the DRC since 2006. Its involvement also includes a partnership with the State-owned mining company La Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gecamines), which has a 40% interest in the Kipoi project.
“This partnership has been an important factor in enabling Tiger Resources to overcome challenges,” states Marwood.
Mining Weekly reported in June that Tiger Resources had refuted speculation that the DRC’s decision to ban copper and cobalt concentrate exports would affect its Kipoi project.
The ban on copper and cobalt exports was expected to come into effect during July or August this year, with the country pressing mining companies to process and refine the metals within the country’s borders.
Tiger Resources noted that it had currently sold more than 80% of its concentrate to smelters in the DRC, adding that there was strong domestic demand for the company’s product.
The remainder of the Kipoi project’s product was sold to a smelter, in Zambia, with the full support of the DRC government.
This operation was also supported by government, with the construction of the SX-EW plant being funded by the HMS operations.
Marwood says mining operations have been welcomed in the DRC as a means of creating employment and business developments.
Benefits for the DRC
“Creating benefits for the community surrounding the Kipoi project has been an important goal for the company. Tiger Resources has, to date, created 350 casual worker positions and 32 contract positions for residents of the five communities closest to Kipoi,” Marwood emphasises.
Further, he notes that the company has also completed projects to improve living standards in the community by working with Cowan University, in Perth, Australia, which has introduced a Raising Infant and Maternal Health Outcomes programme. The programme aims to significantly reduce child mortality rates and to improve maternal health.
“Tiger Resources is also working with local organisations to address issues such as HIV/Aids, and is equipping local healthcare facilities. The company has contributed to local schools by constructing and furnishing school buildings and providing them with water pumps. It has also supplied computers, software and training at Lubumbashi University, in Katanga province, as well as equipment for the provincial labour inspection office in the same province,” he concludes.