Identifying Sales Opportunities

Good news for equipment companies and service suppliers to the mining industry during the second quarter of 2019 centred on new mines extracting a range of commodities, including coal, copper, gold, iron ore, mineral sands, PGMs and tin.

Jul 02, 2019
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Despite the ongoing difficult conditions for raising risk finance, especially for junior mining companies, the mining sector continues to see considerable development activity. For example, in a recent interview with Eyewitness News, South Africa's Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, said the country has 61 mining projects currently in the development pipeline, with R110 billion (US$7.8 billion) invested and the creation of 32,000 jobs. The pipeline includes 12 new mining development projects, 10 exploration projects, 26 expansion projects, four new processing plants and four sustainability projects to extend the life of mines. The five remaining projects are unspecified.

Feasibility Studies

Positive feasibility studies  for mines are a good early signal of a business-development opportunity for equipment companies and service suppliers to the mining industry.

For example, at the start of the June quarter, a feasibility study at Harte Gold Corp.'s Sugar Zone gold mine in Ontario defined a post-tax net present value (NPV), discounted at 5%, of almost C$267 million, an increase from C$244 million over a 2018 preliminary economic assessment, which had assumed a gold price of US$1,300/oz. Production is estimated at 61,000 oz/y over a 14-year mine life at all-in sustaining costs of US$845/oz.

Core Lithium Ltd's definitive feasibility study for its Finniss lithium project in Australia's Northern Territory outlined an NPV, discounted at 10%, of A$114 million. The study focused on developing the ore reserves within the first two orebodies at the Grants and BP33 deposits over an initial four year period. The project comprises an open pit and dense media separation processing of up to 180,000 t/y of high-quality lithium concentrate. Start-up capital expenditure is estimated at A$73 million with a payback period of under two years.

In mid-April, NioCorp Developments Ltd updated the underground mine design and the National Instrument (NI) 43-101 feasibility study for its Elk Creek superalloy materials project in south-eastern Nebraska. The NPV, discounted at 8%, jumped 26% over the June 2017 feasibility study to US$2.10 billion. Net preproduction capital expenditure was reduced almost 13% to US$879 million to produce 17% more niobium at 168,861 t, 17% more titanium at 418,841 t and 5% more scandium at 3,410 t, with a 13% increase in mine life to 36 years.

Newfield Resources Ltd announced on May 9 that a front-end engineering design study for the Tongo diamond project in Sierra Leone had outlined a pre-royalty, pre-tax NPV, discounted at 10%, of US$33 million. The study was based on a maiden probable reserve of 1.09 Mct contained in 1.09 Mt from the shallow zones of the Kundu and Lando kimberlites, which supports an eight-year mine life with peak production reaching 260,000 ct/y. The final investment decision, together with project financing, is due in the second half of this year.

Also in early May, an economic analysis by King Island Scheelite Ltd for redeveloping its Dolphin open-cut tungsten project in Tasmania, Australia, estimated an NPV, discounted at 8%, of A$153 million. The capital cost estimate stands at A$65 million and includes a processing plant and mobile mining equipment.

A definitive feasibility study for Core Lithium Ltd's Finniss lithium project in Australia's Northern Territory has outlined an NPV, discounted at 10%, of A$114 million. The project has an 80% internal rate of return and a 17-month payback after the first sale of concentrate.

Neometals Ltd announced on May 22 that an update to its 2009 definitive feasibility study for the Barrambie vanadium-titanium-magnetite project in Western Australia had outlined an NPV, discounted at 10%, of A$199 million. The operation, which will have a plant feed rate of 2.66 Mt/y, requires an initial capital expenditure of A$692 million, with sustaining capex of A$123 million.

At the end of May an updated feasibility study for RNC Minerals' Dumont nickel-cobalt project in Quebec delivered an NPV, discounted at 8%, of US$920 million. Initial capex is given as about US$1.02 billion, and the study used a nickel price of US$7.75/lb and an exchange rate of US$0.75 to the Canadian dollar.

In early June a feasibility study on Bacanora Lithium Plc's 50%-owned Zinnwald lithium project in Germany outlined a base-case NPV, at an 8% discount, of €270.0 million. Initial capital expenditure is estimated at €158.9 million, and the study was based on a forecast selling price of €22,000/t of lithium fluoride.

King Island Scheelite Ltd's feasibility study for its Dolphin open-cut tungsten project in Tasmania has outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of A$146 million. The feasibility study estimated mining and processing of about 400,000 t/y of ore for eight years to produce about 3,500 t/y of tungsten trioxide concentrate. Total capital costs for the project were estimated at A$65 million, with operating costs of A$129/t of tungsten trioxide produced.

Asiamet Resources Ltd's feasibility study for its Beruang Kanan Main copper project in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of US$133.5 million. BKM will produce up to 25,000 t/y of copper cathode during an initial nine-year mine life. Initial capital expenditure is estimated at US$192.0 million, with a second-phase cost of US$17.4 million.

Towards the end of the quarter, Orion Minerals Ltd announced that a bankable feasibility study for the foundation phase of its Prieska copper-zinc project in South Africa had outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of A$408 million.

Orla Mining Ltd's feasibility study for its Camino Rojo gold-silver project in Mexico outlined an NPV of US$142 million, at a 5% discount rate. The mine is expected to produce an average of 97,000 oz gold and 511,000 oz silver per year over a mine life of almost seven years. Total life-of-mine capital is estimated at US$144 million, with an initial capital cost of US$123 million. Life-of-mine operating costs were estimated at US$8.43/t of ore processed, and an all-in sustaining costs of US$576/oz. Construction is expected to start in the first half of 2020.

Orezone Gold Corp. said on June 26 that an updated feasibility study for its Bombore gold project in Burkina Faso had increased the NPV to US$361 million, at a discount rate of 5%. The updated study incorporated a staged, phase-two expansion processing 17.6 Mt/y of higher-grade sulphide and lower-grade transition ore starting in year three. It increases plant throughput from 4.5 Mt/y in the 2018 feasibility study to 5.2 Mt/y. Bombore will produce an average of 117,760 oz/y at an all-in sustaining cost of US$730/oz, with initial capital expenditure rose of US$153 million.

New Mines

The start of physical mine construction might be too late for many suppliers, as orders will often already have been made. Nevertheless, new mines are important targets for many products, especially those consumed during the operating process.

On April 8, Rio Tinto approved a US$463 million investment to build the Zulti South project, part of its Richards Bay mineral sands operation in South Africa. The mining giant owns 74% of Richards Bay, while Blue Horizon, a black empowerment consortium, holds 24%. Construction is scheduled to start shortly, with first commercial production expected in late 2021.

Three days later, Zimbabwe and Russia announced the finalisation of a deal to build a platinum group metals mine in the African country. The mine will be built on a platinum deposit owned by Great Dyke Investments Ltd, a joint venture between Russia's JSC Afromet and Zimbabwe's Pen East Ltd. Great Dyke had said in March 2018 that it will invest US$400 million in the first stage of construction at the Darwendale mine and smelter. Zimbabwean Deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambamura said total expenditure on the mine, a smelter and associated infrastructure will be US$4 billion, half of which may be raised by Egypt-headquartered Afrexim Bank.

Also in early April, Fortescue Metals Group said that its FMG Magnetite Ltd joint-venture partner Formosa Plastics Corp. had approved the US$2.6 billion stage-two development of the Iron Bridge magnetite project in Western Australia. The approval follows an initial US$500 million investment in the stage-one construction of large-scale pilot and demonstration plants. The operation's production over a 20-year mine life is targeted at 22 Mt/y (wet) of 67% iron ore once the facility achieves full operational capacity, with initial production slated for the first half of 2022.

Fortescue also announced in May that it had approved a US$287 million development of the Queens Valley mining area at its Solomon Hub iron ore operations in Western Australia's Pilbara region. Queens Valley is estimated to have a life of 10-15 years, and has all environmental and heritage approvals to start the development, according to Fortescue. The development will include relocation of the Solomon Hub mobile maintenance facilities closer to the Queens Valley operation to reduce travel distances, lower operating costs and provide access to additional tonnes in the vicinity of the Kings ore processing facility. The capex will be spent over four years — US$10 million this year, US$151 million in 2020, US$98 million in 2021 and then US$28 million in 2022.

At the start of May, Perseus Mining Ltd approved construction of the Yaoure gold project in Cote d'Ivoire. Capital cost is projected at US$265 million, with the first gold production expected by December 2020.

East Africa Metals Inc. has received approval for the mining licenses over the Mato Bula gold-copper and Da Tambuk gold deposits, part of the Adyabo project in Ethiopia. The company said May 21 that it now holds four fully permitted gold and base metal mining projects in Africa with total indicated and inferred resources of 2.8 Moz of gold and gold equivalent with exploration upside.

Russian aluminium producer UC Rusal Plc said May 21 that it had obtained a license to develop a nepheline mine near its largest refinery, Achinsk, in southern Krasnoyarsk Krai in Siberia. The Goryachegorsk mine has nepheline reserves of 414 Mt, enough for 60 years of operations, according to initial analysis. It is scheduled to reach production between 2028 and 2029.

Aus Tin Mining Ltd announced on May 13 that the final permit had been granted to start a two-year trial mining phase at its Taronga tin project in New South Wales, Australia, as "proof of concept" that it can reach the first quartile for cash costs.

Refinements in Australian Mines Ltd's November 2018 bankable feasibility study for the Sconi cobalt-nickel-scandium project in Queensland have extended the mine life to at least 30 years, from the previously outlined 18-year life. The refinements include an updated mine plan, together with an increased ore reserve. The refinements resulted in a 17% increase in NPV, discounted at 8%, of A$817 million. Capital expenditure stands at US$974 million.

In mid-June, Adani Enterprises Ltd received approval from state and federal authorities for development of the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland under the 'original configuration' (rather than for the downsized version it unveiled in November 2018 after failing to secure the necessary financing). The company is apparently cleared to expand output to 60 Mt/y of thermal coal from an initial capacity of 10 Mt/y.

Expansion Projects and Restarts

Expansion projects and mine re-openings also represent a business opportunity for suppliers of some equipment. One source of this news is S&P Global Market Intelligence (SPGMI), whose monthly Industry Monitor report provides data on expansion projects (in addition to updates of new mines). For example, the April issue included two new mines and one expansion project.

SPGMI reports that Shree Minerals Ltd plans to restart the Nelson Bay River iron ore project in Tasmania, Australia (the operation was shut down in June 2014). The company said the decision was prompted by surging iron prices, and that it will focus on completing various studies for the environmental assessment to proceed.

Harte Gold Corp. announced on May 6 that it had secured approval to increase production at its Sugar Zone gold mine in Ontario to 800 t/day. This will allow it to increase annual gold production from 41,000 oz to 65,000 oz.

Western Australia's Environmental Protection Authority has approved an expansion of the West Angelas iron ore mine, owned 53% by Rio Tinto. The watchdog said open-cut mining can be expanded at the mine site by 4,100 hectares to 26,700 hectares, provided there is no impact on groundwater in the Karijini National Park. The West Angelas expansion is part of a plan to sustain production capacity at the Robe River joint venture.

Barrick Gold Corp.'s proposed expansion of the processing plant and tailings capacity of the Pueblo Viejo gold mine in the Dominican Republic is estimated to require initial capex of at least US$1 billion. The expansion may extend the operation's life to beyond 2030. A feasibility study is expected in 2020.

In June, Kalium Lakes Ltd advised that (consistent with section 45.1 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986) the Minister for Environment, Stephen Dawson, has consulted with other decision-making authorities and reached agreement that EPA Report 1631, relating to the Beyondie potash project, may be implemented "subject to the conditions set out in Statement Number 1098". Managing Director, Brett Hazelden, commented that this "completes a comprehensive four-year process to obtain State environmental approval for the project.

New Century Resources Ltd has outlined new development scenarios in an expansion study for its Century zinc-lead-silver mine in Queensland for a potential mine life extension of up to seven years through to mid-2026. Based on a 10 Mt/y tailings operation with a 2 Mt/y in-situ development of the South Block and East Fault Block, the study outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of A$1.02 billion.

Champion Iron Ltd announced on June 20 that a feasibility study for the second-phase expansion of its Bloom Lake iron ore complex in Quebec had outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of C$956 million. Combined with its phase-one operations, the expansion project has an NPV of C$2.38 billion based on an iron ore price (65% Fe) of C$110.7/t. Proven and probable ore reserves are given as 807 Mt grading 29.0% Fe, which supports a 20-year life. The estimated initial capital cost for the operation is C$590 million, with sustaining capex of C$4.40/t. Construction is expected to take place over a 21-month period.

Perth-based Blackham Resources Ltd has secured a working capital facility of up to A$12 million from MACA Ltd. The funds will aid the sulphide-development expansion project at the company's Matilda mine that is targeting 120,000 oz of gold production and a prolonged mine life. MACA now owns 19.33% of Blackham.

EPC Opportunities

Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) is a particular form of contracting arrangement where the contractor is made responsible for all of the activities.

Examples in the June quarter included news that Saudi Arabian Mining Co. (Ma'aden) had awarded a contract to a consortium for the construction and commissioning of the Mansourah and Massarah gold projects in Saudi Arabia. The consortium, which comprises Outotec Oyj and Larsen & Toubro, will also provide start-up assistance for the project and will train Ma'aden personnel. The total investment for development of the Mansourah and Massarah operations is estimated at US$880 million. It is the company's largest gold operation, with a target 250,000 oz/y from a processing plant with a capacity of 4 Mt/y of complex refractory ores.

In early June, Eurasian Resources Group signed a memorandum of understanding with China Communications Construction Co. and China Railway Group Ltd for the US$2.6 billion construction of the mine and related infrastructure for the Pedra de Ferro iron ore mine in Brazil's Bahia state. The mine will have a capacity of 20 Mt/y of iron ore, and cost US$1 billion, with another US$1 billion earmarked for the construction of an ore and general cargo terminal in Ilhéus. The remaining US$600 million is reserved for the assembly of the 525 km railway link between Ilhéus and Caetité.

Financing Signals

The financing of projects is also a reliable business-development signal. Announcements during the June quarter included news in early April that Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc. had secured a C$10.3 million investment from an affiliate of Pallinghurst Group to develop its Matawinie graphite project in Quebec. Pallinghurst will secure a 19.99% stake in Nouveau Monde by subscribing to a private placement of 43.8 million shares. As part of the deal, Nouveau Monde and Pallinghurst will negotiate the required funding to bring Matawinie to commercial production. An October 2018 feasibility study covering an all-electric open-pit operation at the project's West Zone deposit gave an NPV, at an 8% discount rate, of C$751 million.

Hastings Technology Metals Ltd announced in April that it was raising up to A$28.5 million to fund development of its Yangibana neodymium-praseodymium rare earths mine in Western Australia. It will use the funds to continue construction of the 380-room accommodation village, for early infrastructure earthworks on the mine site, to progress payments for long lead-time equipment on order (including the rotary kiln and off-gas scrubber) and for working capital purposes. The company aims to start production in the first half of 2021. The board has approved a revised development capital cost for Yangibana of about A$427 million, compared to A$335 million previously.

Gascoyne Resources Ltd said on April 1 that it planned to raise A$24.4 million to fund development of its Dalgaranga gold mine in Western Australia. Proceeds will be used to increase material movements and mined grade at Dalgaranga as mining advances from satellite deposits and peripheral lodes to the extensions of the Gilbeys lode.

Navarre Minerals Ltd was raising A$6 million from a share placement in April to fund development activities at its Australian gold projects. Proceeds from the placement will be used to support exploration programs at its Tandarra, Stawell and Western Victoria gold projects in Victoria, Australia.

In mid-April, Beacon Minerals Ltd announced plans to raise A$7.1 million from an entitlement issue of shares. Proceeds were earmarked for development of its Jaurdi gold project in Western Australia and for the assessment of potential gold project acquisitions. A pre-feasibility study for Jaurdi indicated an NPV of A$70.5 million.

On April 8, Perseus Mining Ltd inked a US$150 million financing deal with a trio of banks to back construction of the Yaoure gold project in Côte d'Ivoire. The funds largely cover the capital costs of Yaoure, which Perseus Mining has pegged at US$265 million. In January, it awarded a US$95.1 million engineering contract to Lycopodium Ltd, and Perseus Mining anticipates pouring first gold at Yaoure in December 2020.

Rio Tinto said on April 15 that it would invest an additional US$302 million to bring its Resolution copper joint venture with BHP Group in Arizona to the final stage of the permitting phase. The proceeds of the investment will go toward funding additional drilling, orebody studies, infrastructure improvements and permitting activities.

PNX Metals Ltd was raising A$5.5 million in a rights issue in April to advance its flagship Hayes Creek zinc-gold-silver project in Australia's Northern Territory. The company will use the proceeds to complete a definitive feasibility study at Hayes Creek and for ongoing assessment of the Fountain Head gold project.

At the start of May, Echo Resources Ltd was raising A$18 million to fund exploration at the Yandal gold project in Western Australia. Echo will use the funds for a A$6 million greenfields exploration programme, and further exploration at the Yandal project. Recently, a revised bankable feasibility study for the stage-one development of the Yandal project outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of A$172 million.

In May, Nevada Copper Corp. was aiming to raise C$40 million from a public offering and a private placement for its Pumpkin Hollow underground copper project in Nevada. Proceeds will be used partially to fund a US$26.4 million cost overrun facility and satisfy the minimum equity-to-debt funding requirement under a US$115 million credit facility the company recently secured for Pumpkin Hollow. Funds will also be used for project construction and acceleration of an exploration program at its newly staked claims.

Myanmar Metals Ltd announced in May that it was planning to raise A$30 million through a share placement and an entitlement offer for its flagship Bawdwin lead-silver-zinc joint venture in Myanmar. The company said it will use the proceeds for a definitive feasibility study, drilling, early capital works, ongoing project maintenance, approvals and permitting, and for working capital purposes.

Lynas Corp. plans to invest A$500 million by 2025 to increase production as well as build an initial processing plant in Western Australia. The producer also plans to invest in its processing facility in Malaysia, where it is facing regulatory issues over the removal of radioactive residue from its Gebeng rare earths plant.

Venture Minerals Ltd was raising A$5.7 million in May through a placement and a rights issue to fast-track the restart of the Riley iron ore mine in Tasmania, Australia. Proceeds will be used to complete an updated feasibility study on Riley, which was suspended in 2014 due to delays caused by appeals against its approval. The Federal Court eventually gave a final go-ahead and dismissed the appeals.

Teck Resources Ltd said on May 30 that it had signed a 12-year, US$2.5 billion limited recourse project financing facility from a consortium of banks. The funds will be used to develop phase two of the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in Chile.

West Africa-focused African Gold Group Inc. was raising up to C$5 million in June via a non-brokered private placement of up to 23.8 million units. The company said on May 29 that it will use the proceeds to continue development at its Kobada gold project in Mali and for general corporate purposes.

In early June, Russian fertiliser producer PJSC Acron agreed US$1.7 billion of financing for its Talitsky project in Perm Krai with a trio of Russian state-owned banks after years of negotiations. With financing from PAO Sberbank of Russia, Gazprombank and Vnesheconombank now agreed, the potash miner will accelerate construction of the mine, which is set to begin production at the end of 2022. The Talitsky mine will have an eventual capacity of 2.6 Mt/y of potassium chloride.

Southern Copper Corp. plans to invest about US$8 billion in several copper mining projects in the next seven years, said CFO Raul Jacob at the start of June. The investment portfolio includes the US$1.4 billion Tia Maria mine, the US$2.8 billion Los Chancas mine, and the US$2.5 billion Michiquillay mine, all in Peru.

Peel Mining Ltd has received commitments to raise A$7 million to advance its Wagga Tank-Southern Nights zinc and Mallee Bull copper deposits in New South Wales, Australia. Funds will go towards scoping studies at Wagga Tank-Southern Nights and to continue predevelopment studies at Mallee Bull. It will also be used to explore for new mineralisation at Wagga Tank-Southern Nights, continue work programs with joint venture partner JOGMEC and advance exploration at regional targets.

In early June, Titan Minerals Ltd received firm commitments to raise A$20 million by issuing 1,333 million shares. The company said it will use the funds for exploration and development of its Dynasty Goldfield project in Ecuador, including exploration at Copper Duke and Linderos, and for general working capital purposes.

Salt Lake Potash Ltd announced plans to raise about A$20.3 million in June after receiving binding commitments from investors for a placement of 37.5 million shares. Proceeds will fund the construction of the Lake Way potash project in Western Australia.

Kore Potash Plc aims to raise about US$13 million through an offering of new shares to advance its flagship Sintoukola potash project in the Republic of the Congo. Proceeds will be used to progress the first phase of optimisation of the project, carry out work to satisfy a pre-feasibility study for the property's Dougou extension and for working capital. A January definitive feasibility study for the Kola deposit outlined an NPV of US$1.45 billion, at a 10% discount rate. Meanwhile, an April 2019 scoping study on Dougou generated an NPV of US$220.9 million, using a 10% discount rate.

Deep Yellow Ltd raised A$9 million in June from a share placement. The funds will be used to expand the existing uranium resource at its Namibian projects and advance its project acquisition growth strategy.

Mako Mining Corp. said it intends to raise C$27 million through a rights offering to advance the San Albino gold project in Nicaragua.

TNG Ltd said June 11 that it will use the proceeds from a recent financing to progress predevelopment activities including design, engineering and permitting for the Mount Peake vanadium-titanium-iron project in Australia's Northern Territory.

Ark Mines Ltd and Chan Investments Ltd have agreed to amend a forbearance and settlement deed allowing the former company to pursue mining at its Glencoe gold project in Australia's Northern Territory and pay down its debt to the latter.

In late June, Resource Generation Ltd announced that it had secured funding of R4.2 billion after a third member of a lending syndicate confirmed its participation to finance the construction of the company's Boikarabelo coal mine in South Africa. Meanwhile, negotiations for a R750 million funding package to construct a 44 km railway linking the mine to the Transnet main line are reported to be at an advanced stage. The company will also need to raise working capital of about R500 million in the lead up to mine commissioning.

Emerald Resources NL has secured a US$60 million facility from Sprott Private Resource Lending II LP to fund development of its Okvau gold project in Cambodia. Sprott also offered the company an additional facility of up to US$100 million to fund future project development and acquisition opportunities.

Sheffield Resources Ltd has mandated Taurus Mining Finance Fund and Taurus Mining Finance Annex Fund to provide a US$10 million bridge facility to finance a bankable feasibility study for its Thunderbird mineral-sands project in Western Australia. The company said June 25 that the 18-month facility will allow it to complete the updated study, anticipated in the third quarter, while continuing to work on securing a strategic partner.

As the quarter closed, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd is raising US$5 million for operational costs associated with its Pebble copper-gold project in Alaska. The company said the funds will help it continue a field programme to complete the permitting process for an environmental impact statement in 2020. It continues to work on securing long-term funding to finalise permitting and start development.

Early-Stage Indicators

Myriad resource announcements (see table below; in reverse date order, most recent first) and preliminary economic assessments were announced during the three months to end-June. These early-stage business-development signals included news at the start of April that Sandfire Resources NL had received a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its Black Butte project from Montana's Department of Environmental Quality. Sandfire also said that it had recently completed the project's winter drill program that will support a feasibility study and increase the confidence in the projected initial mining zones.

Alacer Gold Corp. said on April 3 that it is moving toward a feasibility study for the Gediktepe gold project in Turkey after an updated pre-feasibility study had outlined an NPV, discounted at 5%, of US$252.5 million. Alacer Gold owns 50% of Gediktepe, and project operator Lidya Madencilik AS holds the rest. Initial capital expenditure is projected at US$164 million, with an additional US$71 million required for a sulphide ore flotation plant and related infrastructure. The mine is expected to produce 345,000 oz of gold, 8.1 Moz of silver, 254 Mlb of copper and 626 Mlb of zinc (or 1.6 Moz gold equivalent).

In April, Nevada Copper Corp. released a pre-feasibility study for an open pit at its Pumpkin Hollow copper project in Nevada. This showed a fall in the NPV to US$829 million, at a 7.5% discount rate, compared with US$927 million in the September 2018 preliminary economic assessment. Initial capital expenditure has increased to US$672 million. The company expects peak annual copper production of 111,000 t, and it continues to focus on low operational risk, including traditional mining methods and dry stack tailings.

Xanadu Mines Ltd will progress its 76.5%-owned Kharmagtai copper-gold project in Mongolia to the pre-feasibility stage on the recommendation of a positive scoping study. The Australia- and Canada-listed explorer said April 11 that it will undertake more drilling to upgrade resources and will work toward the pre-feasibility level to define reserves and improve the reliability of the project's economic assessment. The scoping study defined initial capex of US$484 million and sustaining capex of US$194 million, for an open-pit operation processing ore at a rate of 20 Mt/y to produce copper-gold concentrates.

Silvercorp Metals Inc. has updated the NI 43-101 resource at its Baiyunpu gold-lead-zinc property in China's Hunan Province. The gold area hosts measured and indicated resources of 4.3 Mt at 3.1 g/t gold containing 418,000 oz.

At the start of May, a preliminary economic assessment for the El Domo deposit within Salazar Resources Ltd's polymetallic Curipamba property in Ecuador defined an NPV of US$288 million using an 8% discount rate.

An optimised development plan for Renascor Resources Ltd's Siviour graphite project in South Australia has outlined a four-fold increase in the production profile of the stage-one processing capacity under the previous pre-feasibility study, while providing for the construction of a similar-sized processing plant in stage-two.

Also in May, a preliminary economic assessment for NRG Metals Inc.'s Hombre Muerto North lithium project in Argentina defined an NPV of US$217 million, using an 8% discount rate.

At the end of May, URU Metals Ltd announced that it intends to apply to extend its mineral rights at its Zebediela nickel project in South Africa for a further 30 years. The company said it will conduct an environmental impact assessment as part of the application process, and the mining right will allow the project to advance toward production.

ASX-listed Talga Resources Ltd's preliminary feasibility study for its Vittangi graphite project in Sweden estimated an NPV, discounted at 8%, of US$1.06 billion. The study proposed a two-stage conventional open-pit mining operation with an on-site concentrator and a coastal anode refinery to produce about 19,000 t/y of Talnode-C over a 22-year mine life. Capex is estimated at US$27 million for the first stage, and US$147 million for the second stage.

Lithium Australia NL said May 22 it outlined a maiden inferred resource at its Youanmi complex in Western Australia of 185 Mt grading 0.33% vanadium pentoxide.

Salt Lake Potash Ltd's scoping study for a commercial scale sulphate of potash development at its Lake Way project in Western Australia outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of A$381 million. The Lake Way project is expected to produce 200,000 t/y of premium grade sulphate of potash during a 20-year mine life. Capital costs are estimated at A$237 million. A bankable feasibility study for the Lake Way project is expected to complete in the third quarter to support project financing, and Salt Lake expects plant commissioning in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Red 5 Ltd's contained gold resource at its King of the Hills gold project in Western Australia now hosts JORC-compliant resources of 66.0 Mt at 1.5 g/t gold containing 3.11 Moz (although 76% of the resource is classified in the indicated category). The resource will form the basis of an ongoing pre-feasibility study, which is scheduled to be completed in the September quarter.

SolGold Plc's preliminary economic assessment for the Alpala copper-gold-silver deposit, part of its 85%-owned Cascabel property in Ecuador, outlined a minimum NPV of US$4.1 billion, discounted at 8%. This estimate is based on mine production of 40 Mt/y. Preproduction capital expenditure is estimated at US$2.4 billion. A pre-feasibility study for Alpala is expected in December, with a definitive feasibility study scheduled by the end of 2020.

BCI Minerals Ltd has optimised the pre-feasibility study for its Mardie salt-potash project in Western Australia based on a new development case, which includes increasing production of salt and sulphate of potash, as well as developing an export facility at the site. The optimised study outlined an NPV, discounted at 10%, of A$560 million. The company said May 17 that it had started reviewing optimisation opportunities as part of the initial planning activities for a definitive feasibility study, due for competition in the December quarter. The capital cost estimate has risen to A$498 million, with sustaining capex of A$6.0 million per year.

Torian Resources Ltd said May 16 that the positive outcomes of the scoping study for an open-pit mining operation at its wholly-owned Mount Stirling gold project in Western Australia justifies moving to the next stage of development. The scoping study was based only on open-pit mining within the existing JORC-compliant inferred mineral resource of 981,000 t at 1.6 g/t of gold. The company announced that it was "reviewing options to monetise the project".

Theta Gold Mines Ltd announced a positive feasibility study for its Theta gold project in South Africa following an increase in mineral resources. The feasibility study estimated an NPV, discounted at 5%, of US$49.6 million. Production is estimated at 200,905 oz over a five-year life of mine at all-in sustaining costs of US$764/oz. Total capex is estimated at US$34.3 million.

At the end of May, Caravel Minerals Ltd said it will proceed to a pre-feasibility study at its namesake copper project in Western Australia after a scoping study estimated an NPV, discounted at 7%, of A$705 million. The study envisions initial open-pit mining of 16 Mt/y for the first five years, ramping up to 30 Mt/y thereafter. Initial capex was given as A$481 million.

A preliminary economic assessment on Sandspring Resources Ltd's Toroparu gold project in Guyana has reduced preproduction capital expenditure to C$378 million from the C$501 million estimated in a 2013 pre-feasibility study. The latest study also outlined an NPV, discounted at 5%, of C$495 million. The study is based on mining from three open pits allowing for the production of 4.5 Moz over a 24-year life.

In mid-June, European Metals Holdings Ltd announced that an updated pre-feasibility study had more than doubled the NPV of its Cinovec lithium-tin project in the Czech Republic to US$1.11 billion, at an 8% discount rate. The revised project will require a higher capital expenditure of US$483 million, rather than the US$393 million estimated previously. The estimated mine life remains unchanged at 21 years, processing an average of 1.68 Mt/y of ore.

Towards the end of the June quarter a pre-feasibility study for Havilah Resources Ltd's Kalkaroo copper-gold project in South Australia highlighted an NPV, discounted at 7.5%, of A$357 million. Pre-production capital expenditure is given as A$332 million.

At the end of June, Standard Lithium Ltd issued a preliminary economic assessment for its Lanxess project in Arkansas. The study outlined an NPV, discounted at 8%, of US$989 million. The project will produce 20,900 t/y of battery-quality lithium carbonate during a 25-year mine life. The total capital cost is estimated at US$437 million, including a 25% contingency, with operating costs of US$90.3 million per year.

A pre-feasibility study on Bluejay Mining Plc's Dundas ilmenite project in Greenland estimated an NPV of US$83.1 million, discounted at 5%. The base case in the analysis outlined an initial nine-year operation producing 440,000 t/y. Capital expenditure was given as US$245 million including mining, processing, storage of dried finished product and a near-shore direct ship-loading facility. The study includes an initial JORC-compliant reserve estimate of 67.1 Mt grading an average 3.45% titanium dioxide (7.3% ilmenite in situ), using a 1.6% titanium dioxide cut-off.

As the quarter ended, Orvana Minerals Corp. issued a preliminary economic assessment for its Taguas gold property in Argentina (recently optioned from Compañía Minera Taguas SA). The study showed an NPV, discounted at 8%, of US$37.8 million. Initial capex is estimated at US$92.8 million.

Source: All material is taken from S&P Global Market Intelligence's Metals & Mining database.

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Chris Hinde

Chief Commentator, Mining Beacon

Previously editorial director of Mining Journal, and more recently head of S&P Global Market Intelligence's metals and mining team, Chris is now Mining Beacon's editor-in-chief and lead commentator. He posts two blogs every week, one on Monday reviewing market conditions over the prior week, and a second on Thursday looking at issues on the global mining scene. There is also a quarterly blog on business opportunities in the sector.

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