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Freeport McRoran (NYSE:FCX) Misses Copper Production Estimates, Copper Crunch Continues

Freeport McMoran Inc. (NYSE:FCX) produced less copper than expected from its mines in the Americas in the last quarter, heightening concerns about a tight…



This article was originally published by Mining Feed
Close-up of an open-pit copper mine in Peru.

Freeport McMoran Inc. (NYSE:FCX) produced less copper than expected from its mines in the Americas in the last quarter, heightening concerns about a tight global market where prices have soared to record levels. Freeport produced 987 million pounds of the metal in the third quarter, the company said in a statement on Thursday, with production falling below Bloomberg analysts’ average estimate of 1 billion pounds. The slowdown was driven by lower-than-expected output at its mines in South America.

The stock has more than doubled in the last year, becoming one of the best performers among copper suppliers tracked by Bloomberg Intelligence. The production shortage at Freeport comes after the company posted a quarterly profit that beat analyst estimates as higher copper prices helped lift sales and operating profit to levels last seen in the same quarter a year ago. Adjusted earnings of 89 cents per share topped the average estimate of 82 cents. Freeport estimates that annual copper sales are 3.8 billion pounds this year, following sales of 1.03 billion pounds in July and September. Net cash costs for Freeport were $1.24 per pound in the third quarter, well above the average analyst estimate of $1.30 per pound. Rising costs are seen as one of the few headwinds to earnings growth for the copper mining giant.

Freeport’s results will be particularly interesting for traders navigating the wild swings in copper prices, with available stocks on the London Metal Exchange at their lowest level since 1974. The market had been banking on Freeport to ramp up underground production. The company said underground progress at its flagship Grasberg mine was progressing on schedule. While companies are moving quickly to bring more copper to market, growth in demand is seen to be outstripping supply over the next decade, with new projects needed to help balance the dynamic. 

Global shipping bottlenecks and energy bottlenecks in China and Europe have clouded the demand outlook for the coming year. But the immediate outlook for copper, supported by lower inventories and a shift to low-carbon energy sources, is rosier in the longer term.  Efforts to save electricity in China and to limit emissions have been a double-edged sword for mining companies with higher smelting fees wiping out some of the windfall. 

The China Conundrum

Coal provides much of the country’s electricity, but a combination of factors has recently led to electricity shortages. China’s coal production in 2021 will be unable to keep pace with rising electricity demand due to tighter safety regulations and an additional focus on environmental issues in Beijing, tight global coal markets, rising prices, and other factors, including weather delays. China is working out of a coal-fired power crisis that has sent shockwaves through its economy, but efforts to move to a low-carbon future are bringing additional risks to the country’s supply-demand balance. The shift has been too great, too fast, and the country is having trouble balancing its power needs with generating sufficient electricity using cleaner fuels. 

Copper is one of the desperately needed metals for that clean energy transition. It is used for energy storage which is critical to use with renewables that are not able to generate electricity consistently. China is and will be one of the biggest copper consumers in the coming years, and will contribute to how fast demand will be driven.

Solar power can only be generated for a certain period, and when the night sets in, countries will need to draw power from the excess generated and stored in batteries. The lithium-ion batteries used to store large amounts of power require copper to be manufactured, and copper is the primary material for electricity transportation as well. To get the electricity from the generation site to the storage site, copper wiring will be used. More will be necessary to deliver that electricity to homes and offices and the factories that need to keep running almost constantly. 

As China tries to shift to renewable energy, a severe drought has hit hydropower, especially in central Yunnan province. According to the National Development and Reform Commission, the water production in July and August fell by more than 4% year-on-year. Freeport’s production miss is significant because the producer accounts for so much of the global production, but the copper market remains strong. If anything, the lower production may only contribute to the supply crunch and rising copper prices.


The above references an opinion and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a licensed professional for investment advice. The author is not an insider or shareholder of any of the companies mentioned above.

The post Freeport McRoran (NYSE:FCX) Misses Copper Production Estimates, Copper Crunch Continues appeared first on MiningFeeds.

Author: Matthew Evanoff

Base Metals

Discovery Silver Reports Cordero PEA with US$1.2B Post-tax NPV, 38% IRR & 2.0 Year Payback

Discovery Silver Corp. (TSX-V: DSV, OTCQX: DSVSF) (“Discovery” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce…

Discovery Silver Corp. (TSX-V: DSV, OTCQX: DSVSF) (“Discovery” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce results from its Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA” or “the Study”) on its 100%-owned Cordero silver project (“Cordero” or “the Project”) located in Chihuahua State, Mexico.

Study highlights include (all figures are in USD unless otherwise noted):

  • Excellent project economics: Base Case after-tax NPV5% of $1.2 B (C$1.5 B) and IRR of 38% (Ag – $22.00/oz, Au – $1,600/oz, Pb – $1.00/lb and Zn – $1.20/lb).
  • Exceptional silver price leverage: Upside Case after-tax NPV5% of $1.9 B (C$2.4 B) and IRR of 55% (Ag – $27.50/oz, Au – $1,880/oz, Pb – $1.10/lb and Zn – $1.45/lb based on one-year trailing 90th percentile prices).
  • Large-scale, high-margin, long mine life asset: 16-year mine life with average annual production of 26 Moz AgEq at an AISC of $12.35/oz AgEq.
  • Low capital intensity: initial development capex of $368 M; attractive NPV-to-capex ratio of 3.2x.
  • Rapid payback: post-tax payback of 2.0 years for Base Case and 1.4 years for Upside Case.
  • Technically robust study: 99% of tonnes processed in the PEA mine plan are in the Measured & Indicated category; process design and metallurgical recovery estimates are based on the Company’s comprehensive 2021 metallurgical testwork program.
  • Silver-dominant revenues: silver represents +60% of the net smelter return in the first five years of the mine life and +50% of the net smelter return over the life of mine, in-line with the senior/mid-tier silver producer group.

Taj Singh, President and CEO, states: “With annual AgEq production averaging more than 26 Moz over a +15-year mine life we believe this PEA clearly positions Cordero as a Tier 1 silver asset. This impressive scale of production is achieved through modest development capex of $368 M and returns excellent margins with AISC averaging less than $12.50/AgEq oz over the life of the mine. These costs highlight the benefits of existing local infrastructure, excellent metallurgy, and a straight-forward open pit mine with excellent grades and a low strip ratio.

“Importantly, the outstanding metrics demonstrated in the PEA are supported by a mine plan with more than 99% of tonnes in the Measured and Indicated category, and a simple and conventional process design based on our detailed metallurgical testwork program completed earlier this year. This provides us with a huge head start as we look ahead to the delivery of a Prefeasibility Study on Cordero in 2022.


Study support:

  • The Study is based on the updated Mineral Resource Estimate (“Resource”) press released on October 20, 2021 (see Appendices for Resource details), and the Company’s comprehensive metallurgical testwork program described in our press release dated September 7, 2021.
  • The PEA project team was led by Ausenco Engineering Canada Inc. (“Ausenco”), an industry leader in cost-effective design and construction. Ausenco was supported by AGP Mining Consultants Inc. (“AGP”) and Knight Piésold and Co. (USA) (“Knight Piésold”).

Project Economics:

Sensitivity of the Project’s expected after-tax NPV, IRR and payback at different commodity price assumptions is outlined in the table below:

  • Base Case price assumptions: Ag = $22.00/oz, Au = $1,600/oz, Pb = $1.00/lb, Zn = $1.20/lb
  • Upside Case price assumptions: Ag = $27.50/oz, Au = $1,880/oz, Pb = $1.10/lb, Zn = $1.45/lb based on one-year trailing 90th percentile prices

After-Tax Free Cash Flow:

Production & Costs:

Annual production over the LOM is expected to average 26 Moz AgEq with production averaging over 33 Moz AgEq when fully ramped up (Years 5 – 12); this positions Cordero as one of the largest silver mines globally.

LOM Production & AISC:

Note – Au/Pb/Zn production is shown on an AgEq basis based on: Ag = $22/oz, Au = $1,600/oz, Pb = $1.00/lb and Zn = $1.20/lb



The mine plan incorporates accelerated stripping as well as stockpiling of low-grade material in order to optimize the grade profile over the LOM.

  • The mine plan was completed by AGP and is based on a detailed mine design that incorporates mining dilution, safety berms and haul roads.
  • Mining rates over the life of the mine are relatively steady at 60 to 70 Mtpa.
  • The ultimate pit contains 719 Mt in total consisting of 228 Mt of mill feed and 491 Mt of waste for an average strip ratio of 2.2:1. The strip ratio is relatively even over the LOM.
  • Pit slope designs were based on an assessment by Knight Piésold that was supported by two geotechnical coreholes in the North Corridor and logging of core from two exploration coreholes in the South Corridor.


Processing was broken into two phases to optimize the capital efficiency of the project.

  • Phase 1 throughput (Year -1 to Year 4)
  • Oxides: mined during the preproduction period and are crushed through the Phase 1 crushing plant and stacked on the heap leach from Year -1 to Year 3 at a throughput rate of 5 Mtpa. After Year 3 the Phase 1 crushing plant is dedicated to processing higher-value sulphide material with remaining oxide material processed as uncrushed ‘run-of-mine’ (“ROM”) material via heap leaching.
  • Sulphides: crushing, grinding and flotation circuit is constructed in Year -1 and processing occurs at a nameplate rate of 7.2 Mtpa from Year 1 to Year 4. During this period the mine plan focuses on high-grade material from the Pozo de Plata zone.
  • Phase 2 throughput (Year 5+)
  • Sulphides: two identical crushing, grinding and flotation circuits from Y5 onwards with total throughput of 14.4 Mtpa

  • Process design
  • Oxides: three-stage crushing (targeted crush size of 8 mm), agglomeration, heap leaching and refining in Year -1 to Year 3 and ROM dump leaching and refining in Year 4 to Year 6 to produce Ag-Au doré bars
  • Sulphides: three-stage crushing, grinding (targeted grind size of 200 micron) and flotation to produce Pb and Zn concentrates

Head grades:

The mine plan focuses on feeding higher grades to the mill earlier in the mine life:

  • Year 1 – 4: processing of higher-grade oxide material from the South Corridor and sulphide material predominantly from the Pozo de Plata zone
  • Year 5 – 12: processing of higher-grade sulphides from the NE Extension and the South Corridor

Year 13 – 16: processing of lower-grade material stockpiled during Year 1 to Year 12

Note – Phase 1 and LOM Oxide tonnes/grades include tonnes processed on the heap leach in Year -1


  • Oxides: recoveries were based on coarse bottle roll tests and preliminary results from column leach tests completed in 2021. Recoveries average 56% for Ag and 63% for Au for crushed feed and 36% for Ag and 35% for Au for uncrushed ROM feed.
  • Sulphides: recoveries were based on the 2021 metallurgical test program which included lock-cycle tests and examined metal recoveries to the silver-lead concentrate and the silver-zinc concentrate at varying head grades for each of the major geological rock types at Cordero. Metal recoveries to the two concentrates are summarized below:

Tailings Management Facility (TMF):

  • The TMF design was completed by Knight Piésold and is based on a conventional thickened tailings dam facility of downstream construction type.
  • The TMF is located directly west of the open pit. The design incorporates five dam lifts over the LOM.
  • Total capacity of the TMF is 179M m3 (252 Mt); this is significantly greater than the estimated volume requirement of 142M m3 based on the PEA mine plan.
  • An evaluation of using a dry-stacked tailings facility will be completed as part of pre-feasibility work.


Metal Payable:

  • Cordero is expected to produce clean, highly saleable concentrates with minimal penalty elements as established in the 2021 metallurgical test program.
  • Industry standard payables and deductions were applied to the Pb and Zn concentrates as per the table below. A metallurgical balance summary is included in the Appendices.
  • Approximately 85% of the Ag reports to the Pb concentrate where higher payabilities are received.

Treatment/Refining Charges:

  • Treatment and refining charges were based on a review of spot and recent benchmark pricing and are summarized as follows:

Concentrate Transportation:

  • Transportation costs assume trucking of the concentrate via containers to the international port at Guaymas, Sonora, and then shipping via ocean freight to Asia.
  • Estimated transportation costs (trucking, port handling and ocean freight) are $128/wmt for Pb concentrate and $116/wmt for Zn concentrate.


Initial Capital (for parallel processing of crushed oxides and sulphides)

  • Year -2: construction of on-site infrastructure, power line and the heap leach circuit with capacity of 5 Mtpa to process oxide/transition material (includes a three-stage oxide crushing circuit, heap leach pad/ponds and Merrill Crowe plant).
  • Year -1: first sulphide circuit with a capacity of 7.2 Mtpa (includes sulphide crushing circuit, ball mill and flotation plant) and construction of the TMF including the initial dam lift.

Expansion Capital (to expand plant to 14.4 Mtpa sulphides only)

  • Year 3: addition of second sulphide circuit to expand processing rate to 14.4 Mtpa by the addition of a ball mill and flotation circuit creating two parallel sulphide circuits. The crushing circuit previously used for oxides will be dedicated to sulphides from Year 4 onwards and will not require repurposing.
  • Year 8: expand flotation circuit with additional flotation cells, cyclones, filters and thickeners to accommodate the higher zinc grades from Year 9 to Year 11.

Sustaining Capital

  • TMF: the tailings dam will be completed in five lifts over the LOM at a total capital cost of $110 M ($15 M initial capex plus $95 M of sustaining capex).
  • Other: additional sustaining capex totals $113 M over the LOM and includes sustaining capital for the process plant and mobile equipment and replacements/refurbishments of infrastructure assets.



  • Mining is assumed to be completed by contract mining; estimated mining costs were based on contractor quotes for Cordero received by AGP

Processing and G&A Costs:

  • Processing costs for the heap leach and mill/flotation, and G&A costs were developed by Ausenco from first principles.
  • Sulphide processing costs benefit from a conventional flotation process design and low power costs. The targeted coarse grind size of 200 micron alleviates the need for a SAG mill.
  • G&A costs estimates are based on a small camp and administration office at site. The majority of the work force will be Mexican nationals commuting daily from the local town of Parral. Parral is 25 km south of Cordero and has a population of approximately 100,000. It is the regional government centre in the southern part of Chihuahua State and has a well-established service industry that supports numerous local mining operations.


Work completed during the preparation of the PEA outlined a number of opportunities that have the potential to improve the economic and ESG performance of the project:

  • Mine life extension: there are over 300 Mt of Sulphide Resource that sit outside the PEA design pit but within the Resource pit shell. These resources as summarized below have the potential to extend the mine life and/or increase production levels at higher commodity prices.
Note – the full Resource is provided in the Appendix; further details can be found in the Company’s October 21, 2021, press release.
  • Coarser grind size: metallurgical test work suggests higher recoveries may be achieved at coarse grind sizes (greater than the 200 micron used in the PEA). An evaluation of coarse particle flotation will be completed as part of the 2022 Prefeasibility Study (“PFS”). Coarse particle flotation has the potential to further reduce operating costs and water consumption.
  • Dry stack tailings: an evaluation of using dry stacked tailings to improve ESG performance will be completed as part of the PFS.



The full release and accompanying appendix with the following supporting information can be found on the Company’s website at

Appendix A – Mineral Resource Estimate

Appendix B – After-Tax NPV/IRR/Payback Sensitivities

Appendix C – Pit Optimisation Parameters

Appendix D – LOM Mine Plan Summary

Appendix E – LOM Process Throughput Summary

Appendix F – Simplified Process Flowsheets

Appendix G – Metallurgical Balance Summary

Appendix H – Long Sections / Cross Sections

Appendix I – Site Layout

Appendix J – LOM Production & Cash Flow Schedule

About Discovery:

Discovery’s flagship project is its 100%-owned Cordero project, one of the world’s largest silver deposits. The PEA completed in November 2021 demonstrates that Cordero has the potential to be developed into a highly capital efficient mine that offers the combination of margin, size and scaleability.  Cordero is located close to infrastructure in a prolific mining belt in Chihuahua State, Mexico. Continued exploration and project development at Cordero is supported by an industry leading balance sheet with cash of over C$75 million. Discovery was a recipient of the 2020 TSX Venture 50 award and the 2021 OTCQX Best 50 award.

On Behalf of the Board of Directors,

Taj Singh, M.Eng, P.Eng, CPA,

President, Chief Executive Officer and Director

For further information contact:

Forbes Gemmell, CFA

VP Corporate Development & Investor Relations

Phone: 416-613-9410
Email: [email protected]

Qualified Person

The PEA for the Company’s Cordero project as summarized in this release was completed by Ausenco with support from by AGP and Knight Piésold. A full technical report supporting the PEA will be prepared in accordance with NI 43-101 and will be filed on SEDAR within 45 days of this press release. The scientific and technical content of this press release was reviewed and approved by Taj Singh, P Eng., President & CEO, who is a “Qualified Person” as defined by National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (“NI 43-101”).



Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

This news release is not for distribution to United States newswire services or for dissemination in the United States.

This news release does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy nor shall there be any sale of any of the securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful, including any of the securities in the United States of America. The securities have not been and will not be registered under the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “1933 Act”) or any state securities laws and may not be offered or sold within the United States or to, or for account or benefit of, U.S. Persons (as defined in Regulation S under the 1933 Act) unless registered under the 1933 Act and applicable state securities laws, or an exemption from such registration requirements is available.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This news release may include forward-looking statements that are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties. All statements within this news release, other than statements of historical fact, are to be considered forward looking. Although Discovery believes the expectations expressed in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, such statements are not guarantees of future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements include fluctuations in market prices, including metal prices, continued availability of capital and financing, and general economic, market or business conditions. There can be no assurances that such statements will prove accurate and, therefore, readers are advised to rely on their own evaluation of such uncertainties. Discovery does not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements except as required under applicable laws.

Author: Resource World

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Base Metals

Vale adapts iron ore processing route to make sand product for construction sector

After seven years of research and investment of about BRL50 million ($8.9 million), Vale says it has developed a process for producing sand from its production…

After seven years of research and investment of about BRL50 million ($8.9 million), Vale says it has developed a process for producing sand from its production processes with applications in the construction market.

After adaptation in the state of Minas Gerais’ iron ore operations, the sandy material, previously disposed in piles and dams, is now being processed and transformed into a product, following the same quality controls used in the production of iron ore. This year, around 250,000 t of sand has been processed and destined for sale or donation to be used in concrete, mortar, cement and road pavement.

According to Marcello Spinelli, Vale’s Executive Vice President for Iron Ore, the development of this product is the result of more sustainable operating practices.

“This action promotes a circular economy within our units and reduces the impact of tailings disposal for the environment and the society, in addition to being a reliable alternative for the construction industry, where the demand for sand is high,” he said.

Sustainable sand stock yard at Brucutu

Vale’s Sustainable Sand is considered a co-product of the iron ore production process. The material extracted in the form of rocks undergoes several physical processes in the plant, such as crushing, classification, grinding and concentration, until iron ore is obtained.

The innovation introduced by Vale lies in the concentration stage where the by-product of the iron ore processing is once more processed until it reaches the necessary quality to become sand for commercial use. In the traditional method, this material would become tailings and be destined to dams or piles. Every tonne of sand produced represents one less tonne of tailings being generated.

The sand resulting from the iron ore treatment is a 100% certified product, with high silica content and very low iron content, in addition to high chemical and granulometric uniformity.

According to Jefferson Corraide, Executive Manager of the Brucutu and Água Limpa Complex, the sand does not have hazardous characteristics in its composition.

“The mineral processing to obtain the sand is essentially physical, not altering the composition of the materials, so the product is not toxic,” Corraide said.

Recently, Vale’s sand had its application in concrete and mortar certified by three specialised laboratories in Brazil: Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas, Falcão Bauer and ConsultareLabCon.

The properties of Vale sand are also being analysed by an independent study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (Australia) and the University of Geneva (Switzerland), who are investigating whether alternative construction materials produced from mineral ores could become a sustainable source of sand while significantly reducing the volume of waste produced by mining. These researchers introduced the term “ore sand” to refer to this type of processed sand sourced as a co-product or by-product of mineral ores.

Precast concrete produced with Vale’s Sustainable Sand

Production scale

Vale has already committed to allocating more than 1 Mt of sand for sale or donation in 2022. Buyers are companies operating in four different regions in Brazil: Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, São Paulo and Brasília. It is estimated that, in 2023, production will reach 2 Mt.

Rogério Nogueira, Director of Ferrous Marketing, explained: “We are getting ready to scale up the sand destination even more from 2023. For this purpose, we have a team of professionals dedicated to this new business and adapting our operations to meet the market needs.”

Currently, Vale is producing sand for sale and donation at the Brucutu Mine, in São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo (Minas Gerais).

Other mines of the company, also located in Minas Gerais, are in the process of obtaining environmental and mining approvals for sand production.

André Vilhena, Manager of New Businesses at Vale, said: “Our mines provide a sandy material that is rich in silica, which can be used in different industries. We are working with several institutions, including universities, research centres and Brazilian and foreign companies, to develop new solutions to give new destinations to iron ore tailings.”

In addition to using the existing infrastructure in the iron ore mines, Vale also has a railway and road network to transport the sand to markets in several Brazilian states. “With this activity, our main focus is on the sustainability of our iron ore operations, minimising the environmental liabilities, in addition to seeking to promote employment and income by means of new businesses,” Vilhena said.

Eco products

Vale has been carrying out tailings application studies since 2014. Last year, the company inaugurated the Pico Block Factory, the first pilot plant for construction products whose main raw material is tailings from mining activity. Installed at the Pico Mine, in the municipality of Itabirito (Minas Gerais), the factory promotes a circular economy in iron ore processing operation.

The Federal Center for Technological Education of Minas Gerais (CEFET-MG) provides technical cooperation with the Block Factory. Ten researchers from the institution are working on site during this period, including professors, laboratory technicians and graduates, undergraduates and technical course students. During the R&D period, the products will not be sold.

Another research initiative aims to develop the use of sand in pavement solutions in partnership with Itabira’s campus of the Federal University of Itajubá (Unifei). The focus is on the donation of sand for the pavement of local roads.

More sustainable mining

In addition to the Eco products line, Vale has other initiatives to make its mining more sustainable and reduce the generation of tailings. The company has been developing technology to increase the dry processing of its ores, which does not require the use of water. Currently, around 70% of Vale’s production is dry processed and this shall remain at this level when the production capacity of 400 Mt/y is reached and after the start-up of new projects. In 2015, this figure was 40%.

In Carajás, as the iron content is already high (above 65% Fe), the material is only crushed and screened to be classified by size (granulometry).

In Minas Gerais, in some mines, the average content is 40% Fe. By the conventional method, the ore is concentrated by means of processing with water to increase the iron content, with most of the tailings deposited in dams or pits. This is where another technology under implementation at Vale stands out: FDMS (Fines Dry Magnetic Separation). This technology sees the magnetic concentration of ores of low iron grade with no use of water, and therefore, with no need for dams.

Developed in Brazil by New Steel, a company acquired by Vale in 2018, this technology is already in use in a pilot plant in Minas Gerais. In 2023, the first commercial plant will start up in Vargem Grande, with a production capacity of 1.5 Mt/y and investment of up to $150 million.

Another technology which reduces the need of dams is tailings filtration and subsequent dry piling. Once the capacity of 400 Mt/y is reached, more than 60 Mt/y (or 15% of this total) will be processed in plants, where most of the tailings will be filtered and piled this way.

Vale has already opened a filtration plant in Vargem Grande and three more will be commissioned in the March quarter of 2022: one in Brucutu and two in Itabira. Only 15% of the production will continue to be processed by the conventional method, with wet concentration and disposal in dams or deactivated mine pits.

The post Vale adapts iron ore processing route to make sand product for construction sector appeared first on International Mining.

Author: Daniel Gleeson

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Lunnon Metals charts path to success in world-class nickel domain after transformative year

Special Report: While the world is on the lookout for nickel sulphide deposits anywhere they can be found, Lunnon Metals … Read More
The post Lunnon…

While the world is on the lookout for nickel sulphide deposits anywhere they can be found, Lunnon Metals chief Ed Ainscough maintains there’s no place like Kambalda.

The mining town 50km south of Kalgoorlie in WA has produced 1.6Mt of the stainless steel and now lithium ion battery ingredient since 1966, when WMC driller Jack Lunnon punched the discovery hole and gave birth to Australia’s first nickel boom.

Since listing in a $15 million IPO in June, Lunnon (ASX:LM8) has continued Kambalda’s rich legacy of delivering high grade nickel.

Lunnon owns the Foster and Jan nickel mines from which WMC produced more than 90,000t of nickel metal from the 1975 to 1994, operations that missed the early 2000s nickel revival that proved the making of ASX success stories Mincor, IGO and Panoramic.

Lunnon already boasts 39,000t in resources at typical Kambalda nickel grades of 3.2% and drilling since its float is already delivering high grade results.

These have confirmed historical results from kilometres of old WMC drill core logged by Lunnon at the Kambalda coreyard and backed the Lunnon team’s conviction in the quality of the Foster and Jan assets.

“One of the benefits at Kambalda is that generally above a 1% cut off if you’re going to mine, it’s going to be in the high 2s or 3s,” Ainscough said.

“And it is very pleasing to not only reproduce the nickel where WMC was hitting it, but to be hitting it at the same level of mineralisation.

“I just think that speaks to the quality of the camp and that particular contact between the Kambalda Komatiite and the Lunnon Basalt.

“It’s a world famous contact, and nearly all the nickel in Kambalda is on or close to that contact, and it’s proven to be the case so far. You’ve got to persevere and be resilient because the rewards are definitely worth the effort.”

Lunnon Metals
Lunnon has hit high grades on the contact of the Kambalda Komatiite and Lunnon Basalt. Pic: Lunnon Metals

An option to play the Kambalda narrative

Kambalda is on the cusp of a revival.

Mincor Resources will open the first new nickel mine in the district since production at the Long mine ceased in 2018, when its Cassini operation starts production in 2022.

That will see BHP’s Nickel West division restart its Kambalda concentrator, just a few clicks from Foster/Jan, for the first time in four years.

Unfortunately for investors there are not a lot of options to play the Kambalda story, with what was a diverse field of ASX companies a few years ago whittled down to just Mincor and Lunnon after Panoramic sold Lanfranchi into private hands in 2018.

That’s where the opportunity lies, Ainscough says.

“Lanfranchi’s private now, so that’s been a big message I’ve been trying to sell – if you want to invest in Kambalda through the ASX it’s Mincor, and it’s a half-a-billion dollar company plus, or little old us at $50 million,” Ainscough said.

The key for Lunnon will be resource growth, which Ainscough said is a major aim in 2022 after its success with the drill bit in recent months.

“It’s a 10 times gap and the encouragement is that’s a big gap, but it’s a gap we feel we can make a big effort to fill next year,” he said.

“That will be filled by drill results and resource growth, but we’ve just got to get the runs on the board…  but what better place to be trying to do that than Kambalda?”

Lunnon Metals
Lunnon has hit high grades on the contact of the Kambalda Komatiite and Lunnon Basalt. Pic: Lunnon Metals

East Cooee resource drilling under way

One of the company’s priority targets outside its Foster and Jan mines is East Cooee, a prospect to the north-northwest of Jan consisting of known hanging wall nickel mineralisation that was underexplored when the mines were in WMC hands.

Since drilling began in July, assays from East Cooee have delivered a string of strong nickel grades, with Lunnon also recording a hit of 2m at 5.07% Ni in its first assays from the East Trough target in September.

Subsequent encouraging results at East Cooee have included 1m at 3.15% Ni, 2m at 2.44% Ni and a best hit of 9m (8.7m true width) at 1.66% Ni from 113m, including 1m at 7.44% Ni.

Contractors Blue Spec are now drilling the hanging wall prospect on infill drilling spacing of less than 40m x 40m to support the delivery of an initial Mineral Resource estimate.

East Cooee is just over 300m from a mothballed open cut gold pit mined by Lunnon’s major shareholder Gold Fields, providing a potential access point into a future underground development.

“That’s been a little bit of the surprise package because it’s so shallow and it’s so close to that existing gold open pit,” Ainscough said. “I hadn’t really considered  that we would have the ability so early to have a second centre on top of the resources in the Foster Mine.

“We’ve gone back there with the RC rig and we’re drilling that out probably better than 40m by 40m.

“It’s so shallow we can drill it pretty quickly, we can get that done before Christmas and then as and when we get the results back next year we should be able to put that into a maiden resource.”

Ainscough said the location of the gold mine relative to the shallow East Cooee mineralisation meant it wasn’t out of the question that study work could begin before underground drilling starts at Foster.

Lunnon Metals
East Cooee could be a second centre for Lunnon. Picture: Lunnon Metals

Warren, historical core also delivers the goods

The other areas where Lunnon is seeing success include the Warren channel, an underexplored nickel deposit which currently hosts 211,000 tonnes at 3.1% Ni for 6400t of nickel metal.

Located 1km to the northwest of Foster itself, Lunnon believes it has the potential to mirror that mine with assays from RC drilling up and down plunge of the known resource delivering impressive results.

They included a best hit of 4m at 3.44% Ni from 163m in the channel position at Warren.

“It was seen as part of Foster underground mine (by WMC),” Ainscough said.

“Where they could they tried to drill it from Foster so the drill angles are pretty horrible.

“So I think next year for us with Warren is the ability to try and demonstrate that channel is a channel in its own right and has the ability to be as long and as prospective as Foster main.

“That’s all about resource growth.”

The analysis of historical WMC core is also paying off for Lunnon, with re-assayed samples from the unmined N75C area at Foster delivering 15.75m at 2.76% nickel at an estimated 10.7m true width.

This compared well to WMC’s result for the same hole (CD 54) of 16.52m (11.2m true width) at 3.05% Ni from 268.22m.

In 2022 a deep drilling program is also planned beneath the historical Jan mine and a government-supported hole at the new Kenilworth target is due to be drilled.

“I think we’ve set the groundwork in the last six months of the year to really have a big year in 2022, hopefully leading into a buoyant nickel market,” Ainscough said.

Lunnon Metals
Owned by gold miner Gold Fields at the time, the Foster and Jan mines were among the only former WMC mines to miss the last nickel boom. Pic: Lunnon Metals

Nickel market on the up

Led by former Donegal Resources boss and now Lunnon non-executive director Ian Junk, Lunnon initially moved into the Foster and Jan projects in a joint venture with Gold Fields back in 2014.

Back then nickel was looking on the up, hovering around the US$20,000/t mark before slipping into a long bear market.

But with excitement around the use of nickel in batteries and electric vehicles and shifting supply-demand dynamics, it recently peaked above US$21,000/t, hitting a seven-year high.

Ainscough said being in Kambalda, Lunnon is seeking to outline high grade resources that are not dependent on booming nickel prices, but believes the broader market is looking positive.

“I think there is a natural rhythm to the nickel price and we’re entering into that next cycle, but the whole electric vehicle story, the energy transition, that’s all just a fantastic macro backdrop to the nickel price,” Ainscough said.

“I try not to pontificate too much about the nickel price.

“My firm belief is that wherever it gets to, being in Kambalda and mining at the grades that Kambalda delivers – I won’t say it doesn’t matter what the nickel price is but I’d certainly rather be mining in Kambalda regardless of the nickel price.

“I think there’s a momentum now to the whole electrification of everything that we’ll just see a new floor develop in the nickel price. Where that is, I don’t know.”

Q&A Time

Lunnon’s 2021 highlights

  • Acquiring 100% of the Kambalda Nickel Project.
  • Fully underwritten, oversubscribed, successful $15M IPO.
  • Drill rigs turning within a month from a standing start.
  • HIT NICKEL – confirming WMC historical data.
  • East Cooee shaping as second centre of mineral resource growth.

“Our goal is to replicate the success of those ASX companies that bought assets from WMC before the last nickel boom. Each one of the above milestones is a key step to demonstrating we are on that trajectory and can offer investors a similar growth story leading into the next nickel cycle.”

Where is the nickel market heading?

“LM8 sees the macro setting for nickel as extremely positive; there are generational shifts under way at country, government, city and corporate levels regarding the push to achieve net zero goals that all tie in with the energy transition away from fossil fuels.

“These are all strongly in favour of nickel being an important, sought after and in demand metal.

“Covid-19 has also highlighted the issue of supply chain sovereignty and having nickel assets in one of the world’s best nickel camps in a Tier 1 country offers the sort of sustainable supply chain that governments and downstream businesses will value highly in the future.”

What is the upside for Lunnon and why will it be a good investment in 2022?

“We tell investors if you want to be exposed to nickel in Kambalda (and why wouldn’t you want to be exposed to one of the world’s most famous nickel camps against the backdrop described above?), you really only have two choices on the ASX.

“Mincor, who have done an amazing job of restarting their operations in Kambalda and Widgie with Nickel West planning to open up the Kambalda Concentrator, and Lunnon Metals.

“We are just starting out on the same growth journey as Mincor. Kambalda has three key advantages: The grade is high (often >3%), Nickel West’s concentrator offers a ‘capital light’” restart solution and the nickel assets themselves are renowned for delivering extensional growth year after year.

“We are expecting a big year in 2022 for all of these reasons.”




This article was developed in collaboration with Lunnon Metals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.



The post Lunnon Metals charts path to success in world-class nickel domain after transformative year appeared first on Stockhead.

Author: Special Report

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