A scoping study has proven an attractive case for a $323 million mining and processing operation at the Walford Creek copper-cobalt project, 350km north-west of Mount Isa.
The study looked at conventional open-pit and underground mining of the project’s Vardy and Marley deposits over a mine life of about 11 years.
But project owner Aeon Metals says there is significant potential for expansion and mine life extension when its Amy zone mineral discoveries and further 2019 drilling results are included in the picture.
This will be incorporated into the prefeasibility study, now due for completion in the first half of 2020, Aeon says.
Highly attractive returns
Aeon managing director Hamish Collins said the company was very excited to release the scoping study results for Walford Creek.
“The analysis demonstrates that this world-class asset has the clear potential to deliver highly attractive financial returns from a technically undemanding and readily executable project development,” he said.
“The scoping study is based on the extensive infill drilling, geological modelling and metallurgical testwork that has been undertaken to date on the Vardy and Marley deposits.”
Mr Collins said the mine development and process facilities had been designed to maximise exploitation of the Walford Creek mineralisation.
The scoping study is based on 1.5Mtpa heap leach processing of lower-grade material combined with a 2Mtpa flotation process plant to treat higher grade material and bio-leaching of cobalt concentrate.
“The selection of commercially proven bio-leaching to treat the intermediate cobalt concentrate delivers high cobalt extraction levels at modest project operating and capital cost,” Mr Collins said.
“Base metals and silver output, equating to an average 42kt of copper equivalent production annually, is achieved at an attractive all-in-sustaining-cost of approximately US$1.56 per pound of copper.
“Estimated pre-production capital of approximately $323 million sees upfront capital intensity of around US$5,500/t of annual copper equivalent, a globally attractive level.”
He said Walford Creek product streams offered metal price leverage to both
conventional metal markets as well as the fast-growing EV battery and associated infrastructure space.
“In particular a high-value output such as cobalt sulphide is expected to be keenly sought after by downstream users and offers an attractive market entry opportunity for Aeon” he said.
“There are few base metals projects with an initial operating life of more than 10 years that can deliver a forecast internal rate of return in excess of 30 er cent post-tax.
“The scoping study demonstrates that a Walford Creek development has the potential to provide these attractive returns.”