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Prieska copper/zinc project, South Africa

29th January 2021

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
Prieska copper/zinc project.

In the Northern Cape, in South Africa.

Project Owner/s
Orion Minerals.

Project Description
An updated bankable feasibility study (BFS) has confirmed the potential of the Prieska project to underpin a significant near-term, low-cost, copper/zinc development project, with exceptional opportunities for future growth.

The project has total mineral resources of 30.49-million grading 1.2% copper and 3.7% zinc.

The updated BFS on the foundation phase of the project proposes the development of a new 2.4-million-tonne-a-year copper/zinc mining operation at the brownfield project.

Underground and surface mining methods are planned to be used in conjunction with con­ventional froth-flotation concentration to produce differentiated copper and zinc concentrates for export.

Peak production is estimated at 23 000 t/y of copper and 88 000 t/y of zinc.

The life-of-mine has been extended by two years from 9.7 years to 11.5 years.

Material changes in the updated BFS, compared with the 2019 BFS plan, include:

• reducing the mine dewatering timeline and sup­plementing the treatment of that water,

• incorporating additional mineral resources into the mining plan that will increase the mine life by two years,

• a more conservative timeline to ramp up to steady-state production,

• prioritising the early mining of high-grade zones in the mining sequencing,

• the adoption of semiautogenous grinding mills in the processing flowsheet,

• an owner-miner operating philosophy for under­ground mining,

• using an experienced contractor to operate the processing plan, and

• a change in the key operational infrastructure being supplied by third-party financing and in the supply of select key operational infrastructure.

The mining methods for the project remain unchanged, compared with those stated in the 2019 BFS. Tunnel development remaining from the previous mining operations allows for early access to underground production mining areas. A combination of longhole open stoping with fill and drift-and-fill mining methods are planned to be used, supported with paste backfill.

Potential Job Creation
Not stated.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The project has a net present value, at an 8% dis­count rate, of A$779-million, compared with A$574-million in the 2019 BFS, and an internal rate of return of 39%, compared with 38% in the 2019 BFS. Payback from first production is estimated at 2.4 years, a decrease of five months.

Capital Expenditure
Total startup capital, including contingency, has decreased from A$400-million in the 2019 BFS to A$373-million in the updated BFS.

Peak funding requirements have increased from A$378-million in the 2019 BFS to A$413-million.

Planned Start/End Date
Orion Minerals is targeting production startup in 2024, market conditions permitting.

Latest Developments
Orion Minerals has reported an encouraging set of results from its high-impact exploration drilling programmes targeting near-mine and regional volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) copper/zinc and nickel/copper targets around its flagship Prieska copper/zinc project.

Drilling was undertaken in the quarter ended December 31, 2020, on the Prieska copper/zinc mine; the Namaqua-Disawell and Masizhame prospecting rights, including the K3 and K6 prospects at the Kielder project within the Doonies prospecting right; the Jacomynspan and Area 4 prospects within the Namaqua-Disawell prospecting right; the B4 anomaly on the Boksputs prospect; and the Kantienpan prospect on the Masiqhame prospecting right.

Base metal sulphides were intersected at all five prospects drilled, with the drilling programme having delivered highly encouraging early results, despite being impacted on by restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, fewer field staff, slower sampling and assay turnaround, as well as the lack of available down-hole geophysical instruments that are currently stranded in Australia because of logistical challenges.

Overall, the results confirm the underexplored nature of the Areachap province and the substantial opportunity for a major discovery in the near-mine environment around the fully permitted Prieska copper/zinc project and the broader region, Orion has stated.

Despite these temporary challenges, the company intends to substantially expand its exploration activities within the Areachap province in the coming weeks, given the "very promising" results generated so far and the potential to unlock major new growth opportunities for the company.

Some of the targets are near-mine opportunities that could quickly develop into satellite ore sources for the Prieska mill. Others are situated further afield and have demonstrated strong geological potential to emerge as potential major new VMS discoveries of a similar size to Prieska, "or perhaps even bigger” the company has said. The Boksputs prospect, in particular, has caught the company’s attention, as it fits into the latter category.

The drill hole is still in progress, but the evidence Orion is seeing from the drill core is that it is in a very big VMS system.

“Based on the encouraging results so far, we intend to substantially accelerate exploration at Boksputs, including a further deep diamond drill hole to test a strong 3000S EM conductor 3 km to the north at the other end of the syncline, along with surface EM and reverse circulation drilling across the entire strike length of the structure,” Orion MD Errol Smart has said.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Companies involved in the BFS included A&B Global Mining; ABS Africa; BPDT & Co; Bluhm Burton Engineering & Ventilation Consultants; Beulah Africa; Cart Investments; DRA Projects South Africa; Earth Science Solutions; Endeavour Financial Limited; Falcon and Hume Attorneys Inc; Fraser McGill Mining & Minerals Advisory; Knight Piésold; METC Engineering; Gariep Mining and Exploration Services; Mets Consulting South Africa; Patterson and Cooke; PCDS Consultants; Power Plant Electrical Technologies; Professional Cost Consultants; Promethium Carbon; Shift Innovations; SRK Consulting; Strategy4Good; The MSA Group; Turnkey Civil (International) Group; VBKom Engineering Consultants; Whittle Consulting; and Z Star Mineral Resource Consultants.

Contact Details for Project Information
Orion Minerals, tel +27 11 880 3159 or email

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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