Dual-listed Atalaya Mining has achieved a new production record of 55 890 t of copper in 2020, with the year’s guidance met, notwithstanding the operating challenges and mandatory stopping in April as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
Copper production in the fourth quarter exceeded the guidance with output of 14 332 t, an 8.5% increase on the same quarter in 2019. This marks the second highest quarterly copper production and represents the fourth consecutive quarter where copper production exceeded 13 000 t.
Overall, 3.9-million tonnes of ore were processed in the fourth quarter in 2020, which Atalaya said was “mainly attributable to higher ore milled and better metallurgical recoveries”.
Despite Covid-19, mining operations for Atalaya continued normally with enough equipment on site to maintain the higher production levels required for the full operation of the expanded plant.
On-site concentrate inventories at the end of the fourth quarter were about 12 180 t, and all concentrate in stock at the beginning of the period and produced during the period was delivered to the port at Huelva, in Spain.
Copper prices also increased with an average realized price per pound of copper payable of $2.99/lb in the fourth quarter, compared with $2.72/lb in the previous quarter. The average copper spot price during the quarter was $3.25/lb.
Cash operating costs for the period, meanwhile, are expected to be towards the upper end, or slightly above, the 2020 cost guidance provided owing mainly to the Euro strengthening against the US dollar.
Atalaya has set a guidance of 52 000 t to 54 000 t for 2021.
The grade mined during 2021 is expected to be slightly lower than in 2020 owing to pit sequencing and lower cut-off grades resulting from higher copper prices. However, the plant optimisation is expected to allow higher throughput to compensate for lower grades and maintain copper production.
Atalaya has yet to receive formal communication from the local government in Galicia rejecting the plan to develop Proyecto Touro. However, the company is expecting the communication during the first quarter of 2021, and once received, Atalaya will evaluate its options to address the feedback from the Xunta de Galicia.
The company continues to be confident that its “world class approach” to Proyecto Touro, which includes fully plastic lined tailings with zero discharge, will satisfy the most stringent environmental conditions that may be imposed by the authorities prior to the development of the project.
Meanwhile, work at Masa Valverde has started, and will continue through 2021, on general permitting and new geophysical surveys. Additional drilling will continue and first scoping studies are also planned during the year.