Tschudi mine on schedule
Weatherly International Plc this week announced steady progress at its Tschudi copper mining project. According to Chairman, John Bryant, Tschudi is on track to commence production in the second quarter of this year. “On Friday 19 December 2014, 2000 tonnes of ore were run through the crushing and agglomeration plant as a pre-commissioning test with the plant achieving the desired throughput rates. A second 2500 tonnes were crushed and agglomerated on Friday 2 January, this time focusing on achieving the required agglomerate quality under full throughput. This has resulted in some minor modifications that are expected to be completed by the end of the week,” he said. While he added that the Leach Panels One and Two are close to completion and will be ready to receive ore once the crushing plant is in operation.
The raw water and raffinate ponds have been completed and were filled with water over the Christmas break. Work on the pregnant leach solution pond is ongoing and is expected to be completed next week. Bryant said that the, the first acid road tankers arrived from the Rössing Uranium Mine in December last year and began unloading into the newly commissioned acid storage tank, with approximately 650 tonnes delivered. “Originally, acid was to be sourced from the adjacent Tsumeb smelter, but construction of the smelter’s acid plant has been delayed. As an interim move, Weatherly has signed a one year contract with Rössing Uranium to import acid through the port of Walvis Bay. Imported prices are currently lower than those offered by the smelter and, as a result, the contract (with Dundee Precious Metals) is being re-negotiated,” he said. In December last year, NamPower signed off on the high voltage installation, enabling the site to switch to the main grid supply when read and, replacing the temporary generating sets that have been used for much of the commissioning work.
Weatherly Mining also said that the recruitment of the Weatherly workforce is complete and operators are currently undergoing training under the supervision of the specialist commissioning group, PPM Global. The commissioning plan has been agreed, with crushed/agglomerated ore expected to be loaded onto the first panel early in the month, and for irrigation with acid to begin a week later, allowing the agglomerated ore sufficient time for curing. Commissioning of the SX-EW will commence as soon as there are sufficient stocks of pregnant leach solution available at the required grade. The company also reached another milestone when it made its final payment under Tranche A of its loan facility with Orion in December 2014. Tranche A related to the original US$7 million loaned by Louis Dreyfus to restart the underground mines. The discharge of the loan means the underground mines are now debt free going into 2015. At the end of the year (2014), the company had drawn down US$73 million of its US$80 million (Tranche B) facility with Orion. The loan is expected to be fully drawn by the second quarter of 2015 with the first quarterly repayment (expected to be approximately US$4.5 million) scheduled for November 30, 2015. “Progress on the Tschudi project has been impressive with large sections of the plant commissioned in advance of the Christmas break. We have made excellent progress with mining, our crushing and processing plant, acid delivery and the connection to grid electricity. We have completed the recruitment of our workforce and the plan for commissioning our plant has been agreed. We are ahead of schedule and looking forward to being in production in the second quarter of 2015,” said Weatherly Mining International Chief Executive Officer Rod Webster. Mining at Tschudi has been underway since July 2014 and ore continues to be stockpiled in readiness for the crushing plant to come on line.