JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The new copper listing on the AltX of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange from April 21 has a dozen mines that collectively have a 100-year life-of-mine (LoM).
Moreover, cluster mining is the chosen mining model for the mines – an exact replica of the Okiep Copper Company of old that paid the highest dividend on the New York Stock Exchange in the 1960s.
Copper 360, into which Shirley Hayes’ SHiP Copper and Jan Nelson’s Big Tree Copper are being reversed, is on its way to being South Africa’s only pure copper play.
A cluster mining model involves several mines feeding into one process facility, and fortunately the Northern Cape copper district allows for that. “The Northern Cape is like a copper country on its own, with its various orebodies in close proximity,” says Copper 360 chairperson Hayes, who was born there and loves the place. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
“Cluster mining has several benefits, one of which is a very important one for small orebodies that can't justify a plant on their own. But because we do have a central facility, these smaller orebodies are all now economically viable and they add up to quite a benefit.
“The cluster mining model also allows a plug-and-play opportunity, if I can put it that way, allowing a choice between developing one orebody, or mining the other orebody, without it influencing production,” adds Hayes, who spoke to Mining Weekly in a Zoom interview.
Mining Weekly: How does cluster mining lower capital expenditure and operating expenditure?
Hayes: You only need one central process facility and one tailings facility. There is no replication of infrastructure on every mine. We have additional trucking costs but they are far less than the costs of other infrastructure and we also plan to go electrical when it is possible and viable, which will add an environmental benefit and cost benefit as well. But the biggest advantage really is that you have processing focus and expertise on one central area.
What are the environmental benefits offered by cluster mining?
It offers huge environmental benefits. Initially, the environmental benefits were the driver of our adoption of cluster mining because we were at Rietberg and we already had the processing facility and the infrastructure at Nababeep. We had water, we had electricity, and we had buildings and we had all our focus there, and the infrastructure at Nababeep and the process facility there is built on previously disturbed area. So, instead of creating a new negative footprint at Rietberg and have the tailings facility at Rietberg, which is a huge environmental negative, we decided to rather move that from what has already been disturbed. A tailings facility is not needed at every mine with a cluster mining model and you reduce your footprint hugely.
What is the value of Copper 360’s dozen orebodies and the LoM?
The LoM is over 100 years. Our first mine works programme talks about the first seven years for Rietberg and the total LoM for the first three mines is 15 years, which is amendable in the mine works programme and renewable every 30 years, so it's an LoM of over 100 years. The value of the metal in the ground is about R425-billion at a metal price of $10 000/t. It's a lot of value and it's all in the vicinity of 19 000 ha, which allows very well for the cluster mining model with one process facility.
What is the capacity of your Nababeep processing plant?
Currently, we’re at 150 t a month and we busy upscaling that to 200 t a month but that's only for the oxides. The sulphides plants will do 500 t of copper a month. The sulphides come from Rietberg and also from our slag projects.
Will you be generating your own solar power?
Yes, we must. It's not a want, it's a need, and we are blessed with long, extended sun hours. We are busy with the planning of a 10 MW solar plant and it's called Solar 360. We're very excited about that. Our current power consumption is 1.2 MW and if all of the plants are in operation, our power consumption will be about 8 MW.
What will you be doing for the community?
I can actually talk for hours on community development. I'm seriously passionate about it. Currently, we are rolling out various projects for the community. We do have the necessary social and labour plan plus the Mining Charter 5% community trust, but we're going to do so much more. We want to do more. We want to create a lighthouse community for other mining companies to follow and other towns to follow, other cities to follow. We’re not talking only about food security and quality of life and job opportunities. We’re talking about training, facilitating urban codesign in the little village of Concordia. But I think we should have another interview just on the community alone because our community vision is huge and it's a tremendous opportunity to take the community with us. My slogan is that we don't inherit the future, we create the future, and I'm very excited for the Concordia community and what we're going to do there.
How much copper will you be mining and marketing a year?
It’s about 660 t of copper a month, which calculates to about 8 000 t a year. Currently, we are at 50 t of copper plates, which we are busy upscaling to 150 t, and then when Rietberg comes online, that will be an additional 500 t.
How much of your production will be copper plate sold by trading company Noble Metals?
Currently we’re selling our plates to SA Metals and we will continue to do that. But in the future we will sell plates and concentrates to Noble Metals as well. Our copper plates will be about 25% of our production and the copper concentrate at 75% of production. SA Metal is a South African metal trader based in Cape Town. At one stage during the Covid pandemic, with Noble, it got difficult. We’re small, and there were issues with transport and harbours, and we then formed a relationship with SA Metals.
FULL OF PRAISE FOR JSE
Copper 360 received formal listing approval on April 5, "which is quite fantastic for us. It did take a long time and we will list on 21 April".
Hayes is full of praise for the JSE, which she says provided wonderful listing facilitation.
“The JSE is quite fantastic to work with. It’s a long process, it’s a difficult process, but that’s exactly why I wanted to list because to be in a field where you have regulation, everything needs to be clarified. The JSE was very good with us. We had great help with various submissions and I’m very grateful,” says Hayes.
Mining Weekly can confirm that a new Copper 360 backer is the Ekapa Group, which will become a 15% shareholder. The 1 500-employee Kimberley Ekapa Minerals, headed by CEO Jahn Hohne, recovers diamonds from surface dumps and underground operations around the historic diamond city of Kimberley, and is reportedly keen to diversify.
Former deputy general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers Marcel Golding holds the controlling share in the Ekapa Group.
Mining Weekly can also confirm that Copper 360 has appointed psychologist and former Stellenbosch University professor Quinton Adams, who is associated with community upliftment, as an independent non-executive director.
One of the conditions of major shareholder Coronation is that Copper 360 distributes 30% of its pre-tax profits in the form of dividends.