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New project to boost Weatherly mines

Weatherly Mining Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Craig Thomas, discussing the future of the copper miner. (Photograph by Melba Chipepo)

Weatherly Mining Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Craig Thomas, discussing the future of the copper miner. (Photograph by Melba Chipepo)

Copper production is set to pick up said Weatherly Mining Managing Director Craig Thomas. Speaking during a tour of the Otjihase Mine where a group of British delegates visited the mine together with the Economist, Thomas said the mining company is looking to increase its copper production with the new N$90 million Tschudi mining project. The project is situated 20 km west of Tsumeb and will allow for the mine to bypass the smelting process of the copper.
The copper will be extracted with the use of acid, unlike the flotation method used at Matchless and Otjihase mines. This technique uses heap leaching, solvent extraction and electrowinning meaning that the copper will be dissolved out of the rock and then recovered from the solution. The final product is refined copper metal which does not need to go to a smelter or a refinery. This process will help the company cut costs as they will not use the the Tsumeb Copper Smelter which Thomas said is expensive to use. The smelter is operated by Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb.
The development of Tschudi will create 800 jobs during the construction phase and 500 more jobs  with an initial cost of N$750 million. The project will add to the economic growth of Tsumeb, and increase copper production for the country which saw some decline in the past five years but is now firmly on the road to recovery.
Weatherly Mining owns the Otjihase mine which was reopened in 2012. Production has been slow  reaching 25,000 tonnes ore this month from a normal production of 45,000 to 65,000 tonnes per month said Thomas. He noted taxes as one of the challenges that the mine faces. “The Withholding tax affects the decisions we make, and makes it hard to find investors”. Despite the current and past challenges they look to the future with more than a glimmer of hope. There is a rise in underground mining skills at the mine and they are currently in the process of amending their safety regulations.
At Tschudi, the front-end engineering and design have been completed and once operational, it will add 17,000 tonnes of copper metal a year to the company’s production which currently stands at 5500 tonnes. Thomas also said that with the expansion of Matchless mine, up to 10,000 tonnes of copper may also be produced each year from the underground mines.

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