Australia-based Sandfire has maintained its production guidance for the 2023 financial year, despite expecting the Matsa mine, in Spain, to perform at the lower-end of its guidance range for the year.
The group’s guidance for copper production is between 83 000 t and 91 000 t, while its target for zinc is 78 000 t to 83 000 t, lead is 6 000 t to 10 000 t, gold is 12 000 oz to 14 000 oz and silver is 2.2-million to 3.2-million ounces.
Copper production fell to 20 031 t in the December quarter, from 28 056 t in the September quarter.
Acting CEO Jason Grace explained that the performance at Matsa was impacted by some operational challenges at the Magdalene mine, relating to localised poor ground conditions in the main production areas. This forced a change to the mine plan, which resulted in the deferral of some high-grade stoping areas to the second half of the year, resulting in copper production being below budget for the three months ended December.
“In light of these changes to the mine plan and the deferral of copper tonnes to the second half, we expect Matsa production for the 2023 financial year to be at the lower end of the 60 000 t to 65 000 t guidance range for copper,” said Grace.
Unit costs for Matsa were lower for the December quarter, reducing to $1.85/lb, assisted by lower energy costs, which have tracked downward since the September quarter peak and higher by-product credits, offset by lower copper production.
Meanwhile, the DeGrussa operations, in Australia, performed well during the quarter. The site has transitioned to processing of mineralised waste and transitional stockpiles following the completion of underground mining in October 2022.
“Plant scale trials on oxide stockpile processing completed during the quarter, have confirmed the potential opportunity for processing up to 600 000 t ore at 2% copper, subject to ongoing technical and economic outcomes. No formal production guidance is provided for the processing of oxide copper stockpiles,” said Grace.
Meanwhile, Sandfire reported that the construction of the 3.2-million-tonne-a-year Motheo copper mine, in Botswana, was progressing on schedule, with wet commissioning and first ore to the plant “imminent”, paving the way for the start of production early in the June 2023 quarter.
"Given all the challenges being faced by construction projects around the world, including cost inflation, labour shortages, Covid and supply chain issues, this is a fantastic achievement – one that deserves to be celebrated. We look forward to reporting on further milestones from Motheo in the weeks and months ahead,” said Grace.
Meanwhile, Sandfire also announced new near-mine exploration results, which Grace said provided the “first real glimpse of the huge upside at this operation”.
Underground drilling has delineated a new zone of volcanic massive sulphide copper/zinc/silver mineralisation, adjacent to the Aguas Teñidas mine. The company said the newly identified San Pedro zone was located less than 100 m from, and was likely connected, to the Aguas Teñidas deposit.
The new mineralisaiton extends over a strike of at least 400 m.