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Copper 360’s underground copper mine set to open three months ahead of schedule

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

6th May 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Last month copper mining company Copper 360 surprised on the upside by producing its first copper concentrate from surface material well ahead of schedule.

Now, this month, it is doing the same on the underground mining front in that it will be opening its Rietberg underground copper mine three months ahead of schedule.

It both instances, this Johannesburg Stock Exchange AltX-listed company, headed by CEO Jan Nelson, is helping to return South Africa’s Northern Cape to being the substantial copper mining hub that it was two decades ago.

“All the credit has to go to our team,” an upbeat Nelson told Mining Weekly in a Zoom interview. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

Copper 360 has already derisked itself from having only one processing plant to more than one plant and Rietberg is now providing more ore, which derisks the business still further.

Moreover, the company is building up to generate cash flow, which is important for a mining business.

“We’ve spent close to R800-million on capital expenditure to get here and now it's time to make some money and give the shareholders their return and cash flow is now happening,” said Nelson.

Rietberg's first development underground is now scheduled to take place in the first half of this year, amid instalment sale agreements having been entered into for the financing of dedicated underground equipment for the mine.

The equipment is financed with instalment sale agreements, payable over a period of 36 months.

The agreement entered into for the procurement of underground mining equipment is with Epiroc Financial Solutions AB and it will facilitate the extraction of sulphide ore.

Delivery of the equipment will take place in phases and will consist of a fleet of Epiroc and AARD underground equipment, ranging from loaders, haulers, drill rigs, scissors lifts, scalers and a grader.

Another twin boom drill machine is also on the way as part of the first sequence and then in two to three months, a similar flow of equipment will again be received.

Mining Weekly: What do you expect the initial production output to be at Rietberg once mining commences and what will a steady state potentially look like?

Nelson: Initially, we will ramp up from about 15 000 t to 35 000 t and eventually over a three- to four-month period that will go to close to 50 000 run-of-mine tonnes per month from the mine.

How much copper does the total Rietberg resource contain and what are its grades like?

At the moment, the reserve is estimated at just over 1.2-million tons of copper metal and that gives us a life well in excess of eight to nine years, but we've still got significant upside to drill out. The grades that we’re looking at are between 1.2% to 1.6% copper in situ. But the thing to remember there is that we’re dealing with considerable widths. This orebody is about 40 m to 50 m wide and continues for about 400 m in length, so it's an extremely wide orebody that runs over its whole width at 1.2% to 1.6% copper.

Indications are that your timing is fortuitous – copper futures are on an upward trend and the trading price of copper is up over 20% since January. Where do you see it heading? Any further North?

From the reports we've gained and looking at certain market analysis, we do think that the copper price is going to move to about $15 000/t. I can't tell you exactly when but you've seen that it has started moving in the right direction, and we're very happy with that.

When do you expect the first copper metal to arise from underground material?

Within the first half of this year, and that will also be the first time that a purely copper-focused mine in this area has started up in over 21 to 22 years, which is a significant milestone for the area and the company.

Is there anything new to report on the renewable energy generation front?

Not yet, but watch this space.

LARGE RESOURCE

As was reported by Mining Weekly earlier this year, the total resource of contained copper at Rietberg has rocketed by 220% to 81 200 t from 25 275 t in 2022, with the maiden and indicated resource of 60 800 t of copper declared.

That exceeded expectations and the company is now looking at about R12-billion to R15-billion worth of copper in the ground.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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