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Copper 360 on home straight to produce quite a bit of cash, CEO reports

Mining activity at Copper 360.

Copper 360 CEO Jan Nelson interviewed by Mining Weekly's Martin Creamer. Video:Darlene Creamer.

Mining activity at Copper 360.

13th June 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Copper mining and marketing company Copper 360 is on the home straight to produce quite a bit of cash by financial year end.

That was the main takeaway from Mining Weekly’s post-results Zoom interview with the head of the only pure copper play listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

“We’re cash positive on both plants and building up, within the next three months, to R70-million of monthly revenue, with a profit margin of 50%,” Copper 360 CEO Jan Nelson disclosed.

The JSE AltX-listed copper producer is advancing promisingly in South Africa’s well-endowed Northern Cape, which from 1935 to 1980 developed into one of the world’s major copper producing districts, until a copper price downturn resulted in mining in the district coming to a standstill by 2005. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

Interestingly, one of Copper 360’s 100%-owned subsidiaries is Okiep Copper Company, which US mining company Newmont established in 1937. Under Newmont, the Okiep Copper Company is said to have paid out about R30-million in dividends every year during the 25 years that it operated in the Northern Cape.

Today, Copper 360 is focused on processing historical mined copper rock dumps through a process of environmental clean-up, and mining surface and shallow copper resources.

It holds more than 19 000 ha with 12 orebodies that include Rietberg, Jubilee, Homeep, Klondike, Wheal Julia North, Whyte's West, Koeëlkop, Hoogkraal and Waaihoek, as well as some 60 exploration prospects.

Current focus is on Tweefontein, Homeep East and the satellite deposits next to them, with easily accessible orebodies enabling ongoing drilling.

As a consequence of the drilling, Rietberg, the first of the dozen resources to yield, turned out to be 220% greater than historical data indicated, resulting in a maiden and indicated resource of 60 800 t of copper already being declared.

The company has three copper processing plants that will produce within the next three months. The rock for these will come from both Reitberg and Jubilee, which provides flexibility.

Guided is positive revenue of R1.2-billion to R1.9-billion in the current financial year, which ends in February next year.

The Rietberg rock will go into the Nama plant and the solvent extraction and electrowinning, or SX/EW, plant, which are both gearing up. Then, in about two months, a third processing plant, the MFP1 plant, will have been constructed.

In terms of mining projects, resource estimates for Jubilee, Homeep East, and Tweefontein have been completed and mining engineers are doing mine optimisation studies.

Mining Weekly: Are the studies being done still pointing to Tweefontein being a possible Chile-type, DRC-type major mine  – but with much better grade?

Nelson: We’re currently seeing that there's potentially 1.2-million tons to 1.5-million tons of copper metal in the ground and we reckon that those mines can produce anywhere between 50 000 t to 100 000 t of copper metal a year, at grades of between 1.5% to 2.5% copper. They are the size of some of the mines that you see in the DRC. The sizes of the orebodies that we are busy delineating are significant. That’s why you'll see our growth profile also jumps from 20 000 t next year to 50 000 t the following year. It's because of these orebodies being able to feed into our production profile.

What looks like being the biggest eventual mine in the Copper 360 project pipeline?

Certainly, Tweefontein will be one of the biggest. It was historically the highest grade mine in the area and it certainly looks like it could potentially become the biggest mine in the group. Newmont mined at Tweefontein and it was one of the highest grade mines. At one stage, the grades were almost up to 10% to 15% copper. We're not seeing those grades. We’re seeing grades of between 1.5%, 2.5% and 3% copper but over significant widths, and there's still a lot of ore left.

How much copper tailings material does Copper 360 have on surface?

We've got about 60-million tons of tailings material on surface and we’ve entered into the joint venture (JV) partnership with DRDGOLD. They've completed their drilling, and they’re busy with the analysis of the samples in the laboratory at the moment, so we're waiting for the results. But at this stage, the JV is still pretty much alive, and I think the future will be guided by the assay results that we receive back. After that, one will have to do metallurgical testwork, and DRD is driving that. They're doing the sampling, then they'll do the testwork, and that will determine whether it's viable for us to process these dumps.

Will the studies, assays and testwork be completed this year?

They’ll definitely be completed this year. The testwork will probably take about another two months, or so. There's quite a lot of testwork one has to do and with these deposits, getting the capital profile right is important. You have to push quite a lot of volume on these projects. But those studies will be finished in the year.

CLUSTER MINING

Copper 360 intends deploying a cluster mining method. Newmont developed an underground mine that goes down 2 km.

The historical data inherited from Newmont and Gold Fields, includes more than 3 000 geophysical maps, 6 000 m of drilling and predeveloped orebodies.

Copper 360’s mining school in Concordia has taken cues from the highly successful Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall, UK. Interestingly, when early mining development took place in South Africa, it was Cornish mineworkers who came across from Cornwall to mine here initially. The Camborne School of Mines was established in 1888.

The school is intent on catering for the skills needed for its own mining and processing needs as well as the needs of the Namaqualand area, where there are close to half a dozen mines.

The students are learning about mining in a mining environment. When they open their doors after receiving theoretical instruction, they see that theory being put into practice.

Copper 360 was formed in November 2022 following a reverse takeover of Big Tree Copper and SHiP Copper.

The Northern Cape is the main area of copper-mining  focus, amid a significant global copper shortfall.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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