Independence output at Nova hit by SAG mill issue

The Nova site. Image: Independence Group

Independence Group (IGO) has narrowly missed guidance in the first year of production at the Nova nickel-copper mine in Western Australia due to a SAG mill issue last month.

The company launched commercial production at the Fraser Range site in July last year and is now running the operation at its nameplate 1.5Mt/y mining rate.

Nova’s performance was, however, impacted by a SAG mill liner issue in the second half of June that affected processing plant availability and productivity, causing an 800t shortfall in nickel output.

IGO’s nickel production at Nova was, therefore, 3 per cent short of its 23,000t–27,000t target for the financial year despite a 23 per cent improvement quarter on quarter during the June three-month period.

The company is currently replacing the SAG mill liners and they are not expected to be an ongoing problem.

Apart from the concerns last month, the Nova mine performed well for IGO during the June quarter, according to managing director and chief executive Peter Bradford.

“We achieved a big step up in metal production rate at Nova during the June quarter driven by better than nameplate mining and processing rates and higher overall grade, which absorbed downtime and lower productivity in the second half of June due to the SAG mill liner issues,” Bradford today said in the company’s preliminary full-year production report.

“Nova is a world-class asset producing nickel, copper and cobalt, all of which are aligned to the energy storage thematic, and Nova is now fully ramped up in every respect.”

IGO also produced 9545t of copper and 740t of cobalt at Nova in the 2018 financial year, both slightly below guidance as well.

The Tropicana gold mine in Western Australia, which IGO owns 30 per cent of in the joint venture with AngloGold Ashanti, produced 467,139oz in the 2018 financial year and 114,252oz in the June quarter. Tropicana’s output was comfortably within the 440,000oz–490,000oz guidance.

“Both Nova and Tropicana are poised for a strong 2019 financial year, with continuing business excellence projects at both operations poised to deliver improved productivity and value,” Bradford said.

“In parallel, we continue to make good progress with the prefeasibility studies for the downstream processing of Nova concentrates to produce nickel and cobalt sulphates and the Boston Shaker underground at Tropicana, with both studies due for completion by the 2018 calendar year end.”

IGO’s Long mine produced 5855t of nickel during the financial year.

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