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BCL pushes to extend mine's life

Staff Writer
SELIBE-PHIKWE: The General Manager of BCL Mine, Montwedi Mphathi, says they are pushing ahead with plans to diversify the mine and extend its life to 2020.

Speaking at the launch of the mine's new corporate values held at Phokoje Bush Lodge last Friday, Mphathi said BCL has developed a roadmap towards becoming a globally credible diversified base metal and related products' development, services and supply business.

Through the roadmap, the mine will increase ore resources and reserves. The key objective is to find new resources to enable the life of the mine to be extended to at least 2020.

"Targets for the exploration programme was to come up with at least nine million tonnes of new resources in extensions to current ore bodies and a further 31 million tonnes from new ore bodies within the concession area," said the general manager.

To date, Mphathi added, an estimated total of 31.5 million tonnes at 0.57 percent copper has been discovered within the concession area. A scoping study to assess economic viability of the new find has been completed. "The study was positive and we are now progressing with the pre-feasibility study," he said.

The mine will also increase levels of ore production. Mphathi noted that in 2008, ore production volumes bottomed out at 2.32 million tonnes and that a long-term target was set to improve the levels of ore production to circa 3.5mtpa by 2012.

"The 2010 budget was set at 2.8 million tonnes," he said. "The forecast production for 2010 now stands at 2.7 million tonnes. While an increase has now been achieved, its quantum is below expectations mainly due to shortfalls in the first quarter. Performance

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for the rest of the year has been trending up."

He said the mine shall also increase concentrator and smelter capacity utilisation and that the concentrator has not been stretched over the last few years due to low deliveries of ore. However, Mphathi said, increased ore deliveries in the last quarter of 2009 exposed the plant's weaknesses.

"The target was to de-bottleneck the plant and increase its capacity to be able to mill at least 3.0mtpa by 2011," he explained.

He emphasised that structural integrity work has been completed, major bottlenecks removed and accumulated stockpile depleted. On the smelter, the long-term objective is to improve capacity to 1.1mtpa of concentrate smelted by 2012.

"This will increase our tolling capacity," Mphathi said. "Work has commenced to prepare for the 2011 and 2012 shutdowns when most of the integrity improvements will be effected. Significant improvement in the availability of the main smelting furnace with no hearth failure of note since the furnace operating philosophy was modified at the beginning of the second quarter."

BCL's plan is to carry out feasibility studies in 2009, then seek partners to execute identified viable projects going forward.

Mphathi said studies on sulphuric acid production and own refinery have been initiated through European Union (EU) funding. He said several parties have expressed interest in partnering with BCL in re-treatment of the slag dump and a firm proposal has now been put forward.

"An agreement has now been signed and a bankable feasibility study is underway," he noted.



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