Orion preps Prieska as funding process advances

Orion Minerals is busy prepping the Prieska project so when funding is eventually secured it can bring the historical copper-zinc mine in South Africa back into production ...
21st February 2020
Resources Rising Stars

Orion Minerals is busy prepping the Prieska project so when funding is eventually secured it can bring the historical copper-zinc mine in South Africa back into production as quickly as possible (reports Mining Journal).

At the top of CEO Errol Smart's to do list on site is de-watering the 30-year old mine shaft, which has flooded to 300m below surface. Orion's original bankable feasibility study said it would take 14 months to drain, but as Smart said on a site tour to Prieska just before the Mining Indaba 2020 conference, new techniques could whittle the window down to just 10 months - a time saving which could translate to significant revenue gains.

"You're looking at A$30 million dollars a month of revenue - every month you bring your revenue forward is critical in the life of a mine," Smart said.

"So it might cost us an extra $12 million [to implement the new process], but with the water out, we'll be in production four months earlier, and making $120 million more revenue. So that's the kind of impact you're speaking about; it's got an NPV value."

Orion has hired an independent water treatment firm, which arrived six months ago to build a pilot treatment plant. Rather than evaporating the entire contents of the mine - which was the original plan - a proportion of the water will now be treated and filtered to a higher standard than drinking water, before being discharged.

The presence of water in the shaft led some observers to believe the steel structure would be an issue, while the scoping study assumed 30% of the steelwork would need to be replaced - but Smart said he was relieved to discover the shaft has lost less than 8% of its structural integrity.

"It was designed at probably more than 100% over-design, because in the old days they didn't have the modelling capability that modern engineers have, so instead of spending months and months studying it, they said: well, it should be this; let's just double it," said Smart.

With the water and shaft issue in hand, Smart has been focusing on plant optimisation, because he said the original design done for the BFS "felt a bit inefficient and clunky".

"We immediately got going and did further test work; took some bulk samples, did sampling test work - [and the] sampling that came out was fantastic," said Smart.

Orion also bought two new mills earlier this month, which Smart said had been ordered for a new mine site that was cancelled.

"They were immediately available and we bought them for about half the cost," said Smart.

The CEO said Orion had put down an option and the company now had until the end of the year to pay the balance.

Below ground, while the mine is in excellent order, the scale of Orion's planned operations means 40-50km of new underground roadways will need to be developed.

Read more at https://www.miningnews.net/site-visits/news/1381106/orion-preps-prieska-as-funding-process-advances

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