TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Canadian gold-miner Kinross Gold has high hopes for prospects of increasing production on the Maricunga belt, in Chile, CEO Tye Burt said on Tuesday.
The company produces gold from the La Coipa and Maricunga mines, and earlier this year acquired the nearby Lobo-Marte project from Teck Cominco (now Teck Resources) and Anglo American.
“The Maricunga belt in Chile is a core focus for future growth,” Burt told analysts and investors on a conference call.
Kinross plans to complete a scoping study on Lobo-Marte by midyear, and is evaluating bids for the prefeasibility study engineering, which it wants finalised by the end of 2009.
The company will also start a three-month drilling programme for metallurgical samples in June, and has started collecting data for the environmental impact assessment, which it plans to submit next year.
Kinross plans to build a heap-leach operation with the capacity to process 40 000 t/d to 50 000 t/d, which would incorporate sulphidation-acidification recycling thickening-processing technology.
However, in parallel to the scoping and prefeasibility studies, it is also exploring the possibility of hauling higher-grade ore to the mill at La Coipa for processing, before the heap-leach facility is built at Lobo-Marte, Burt said.
“This has the potential to accelerate the start-up of production from this project.”
Preparations for permitting are under way, and the shipping of ore to La Coipa could get under way in 2011.
The Lobo-Marte project contains indicated resources of about 5,4-million ounces of gold and about 0,5-million ounces in the inferred category.
Kinross is also evaluating the expansion of throughput at Maricunga, after completing an initial scoping study that indicated the economic viability of doubling production at the site.
A prefeasibility study is targeted for completion by the end of 2009, that will evaluate expanding and optimising the current plant as well as adding a second crushing plant.
The expanded capacity at Maricunga would “effectively be a mirror image” of the current operations, Burt said.
“And as we look at at Lobo-Marte, it's effectively more of the same, only significantly higher grade.
“So, when we look at the ore we see in the Maricunga district, and our particular expertise for developing, that's why we get pretty excited.”
The company is also expanding its exploration efforts in the areas surrounding the La Coipa mine.
Also in Chile, Kinross is currently working on a final feasibility study for the Cerro Casale project that it owns with larger rival Barrick Gold, and expects to announce the results in the third quarter of this year.
A final decision on whether to build the mine is expected to be made before the end of the year.
A technical report was filed in March based on a prefeasibility study for the project, which included a big jump in the capital cost estimate to build the mine, which is now expected to cost $3,65-billion, compared with a 2006 forecast of $2-billion.
But Burt said on Tuesday that he expects the final numbers will be improved, partly because the prefeasibility study used mid-2008 input costs and metals prices, both of which are now more favourable.
The company is also considering a number of possibilities to optimise the project, including high-pressure grinding, different mine sequencing options and the benefits of trucking versus piping the concentrate.
Barrick and Kinross each own 50% of the Cerro Casale project. Kinross inherited the asset through its acquisition in 2007 of Bema Gold.