OZ Minerals is ramping up work on its massive Carrapateena copper deposit, with decline construction slated for the coming months.
The miner announced that it will not only speed up development of the project, but that it has also expanded the project’s planned output, moving from 2.8 million tonnes originally announced in February to 4 million tonnes following extensive prefeasibility studies.
OZ plans to start work on the decline in July, with first production from Carrapateena slated for 2019.
It will now begin short-listing contractors to construct the decline, with four contractors currently in the running for the award.
OZ Minerals managing director Andrew Cole called the project’s development “very compelling”.
“With such strong financial metrics, we have decided to commence development of the mine’s decline and accelerate the prefeasibility study with a larger four million tonnes per annum scope with the aim of first copper concentrate production in 2019,” he said.
As part of the project’s development, OZ Minerals is also constructing a concentrate treatment plant (CTP), proposing to build it in Whyalla, creating a boon for the town following the region’s other major industrial operator, Arrium, entering into administration.
The miner developed a hydromet demonstration processing plant to verify scalability for its site two years ago, and has seen positive results from the trials.
According to OZ Minerals, the system involves processing copper concentrate containing chalcopyrite and bornite. It then converts these two minerals into chalcocite by leaching out the iron and other impurities.
“The first trial results from the hydromet demonstration plant indicate that the process is scalable and is already returning copper-in-concentrate levels of more than 55 per cent,” OZ Minerals stated.
“This compares favourably to globally produced concentrates with copper-in-concentrate grades that typically average less than 30 per cent.”
On the back of this proposed plant location, the South Australian Government invited OZ to submit the CTP for assessment as a major project, which would enhance the construction timelines.
“If the processing plant is built in Whyalla, it will be a great outcome for the region creating many local jobs,” South Australian premier Tom Koutsantonis said.
The miner has also signed a non-binding MoU with the administrators of Arrium to explore possible site, infrastructure, and port options at Whyalla.
“The Government will work with OZ Minerals and Arrium to ensure the speediest and best outcome for this project,”Koutsantonis added.
The CTP will have an estimated cost of $150 million, and create around 100 jobs during the construction phase, between 2017 and 2019, and 100 local ongoing jobs during its operation.