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Prieska copper/zinc project, South Africa – update

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Photo by ©Creamer Media

29th March 2024

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
Prieska copper/zinc project.

Northern Cape, South Africa.

Project Owner/s
Diversified metals explorer and developer Orion Minerals.

Project Description
An updated bankable feasibility study- (BFS-) 2020 has confirmed the potential of Prieska to underpin a significant near-term, low-cost, copper/zinc development project, with exceptional opportunities for future growth.

The updated BFS on the foundation phase 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,
•    adopting 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, supported with paste backfill, is envisioned.

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
Market intelligence firm S2 Research noted in May 2022 that the peak funding requirement of the Prieska project had decreased from R2.4-billion to R2.25-billion. This has reduced the funding risk of the project.

In a prior note, S2 anticipated that Orion would need R2.7-billion to develop and optimise the Prieska mine.

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

Latest Developments
An updated mineral resource estimate – completed in the quarter ending December 31, 2023, for the +105 m level crown pillar block – has revealed an increase in tonnes and grade.

The block now stands at 2.3-million tonnes at 1.7% copper and 1.6% zinc, including an increase in the indicated resource to 1.9-million tonnes at 1.82% copper and 1.70% zinc. The overall mineral resource for Prieska has now risen to 31-million tonnes grading 1.2% copper and 3.6% zinc.

Orion has appointed an experienced South Africa-based mining contractor for the trial mining of the +105 level supergene ore. This trial aims to test conventional and alternative underground mining methods, with insights gained feeding into the updated BFS.

As of the reporting period, trial mining is under way, marked by development drilling and blasting from the existing +105 level footwall haulage ramp to access the +105 block at the 95 m elevation.

Further,  after the reporting period, the +105 block was successfully intersected at the 95 m elevation level.

Initiating the mine development and construction phase, Orion has started early dewatering and trial mining activities to provide essential inputs for the updated BFS.

The first funding drawdowns from the combined A$33-million from the Industrial Development Corporation and Triple Flag funding facilities were completed in early August last year.

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; Z Star Mineral Resource Consultants; P2 Mining (early works trial underground mining programme); and Newrak Mining (trial mining contract).

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

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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