BioteQ plants multiply and make progress

BioteQ (IM March pp.224-25) reports good progress at its plants around the world. The Raglan plant, in Northern Quebec at the Raglan mine owned by Falconbridge, was shut down in November as planned after treating over 500,000 m3 of water during the 2005 operating season.  The plant was upgraded last year, resulting in a 50% increase in treatment capacity, to meet higher water treatment demands anticipated this year.  BioteQ employees have been on site since late March and the plant was re-started in April as weather permitted.  It started discharging treated water in early May, about a month earlier than last year. The treatment objective is 700,000 m3 of water during the 2006 operating season.

At Bisbee in Arizona, there has been a retrun to normal operation, following disappointing results in the third and fourth quarters of 2005, due to equipment failures. Repairs were completed in late 2005 and early 2006 and the plant has returned to normal operating levels. After a slow ramp up during the first quarter following the prolonged shutdown the plant is now operating at the 2006 planned target of 5,500 lb/d of copper recovered, which is the current limit of the flow from the stockpile. Copper recovery continues to be high at over 99% and the copper content in the feed solution has remained steady at approximately 360 ppm.  The current operating availability is over 97%. The joint venture, with Phelps Dodge, is now focusing on reducing operating costs and increasing copper production.

Process improvements at the Caribou and Restigouche sites that were completed last year have allowed BioteQ to treat record volumes of water at both sites. The sites received record rainfall events late last year and to date in 2006 the Caribou plant has treated 30% more water than planned and Restigouche plant has treated more than double the historic water volume typical for the same period – while meeting all discharge regulations at both sites. Operations at Caribou were not profitable during the first quarter due to additional heating and labour costs associated with winter operations that were required to maintain safe operating water levels. BioteQ and Breakwater have agreed to an increase in the monthly fees charged by BioteQ to $99,000 per month, with an annual adjustment based on quantity and quality of water treated in the previous year.

The Blackwell plant, located in Oklahoma, was constructed in modules which were designed and fabricated in Vancouver and completed last year.  Final installation of the modules and plant commissioning is pending completion of certain site permits and infrastructure by Phelps Dodge. The plant has been designed to recover zinc and cadmium from a groundwater source, using BioteQ’s ChemSulphide process.

Under the final construction agreement with the Town of Breckenridge and the Board of County Commissioners of Summit County, Colorado for the construction and commissioning of the Wellington Oro water treatment plant, engineering is well advanced and equipment procurement has been initiated by BioteQ. The Wellington Oro project will use BioteQ’s ChemSulphide process, similar to that incorporated in the Blackwell project.

There is an agreement with Inco for an engineering study, conducted jointly, to determine the best process route to recover nickel from acid mine drainage at Inco’s North Mine, located near Sudbury.  The study was originally scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2006, however, additional site piloting was required to incorporate new site data.  The study is expected to be complete in June this year and will provide the basis for construction. Current engineering has confirmed the initial estimates of nickel production and that the process selected will be similar to BioteQ’s process used at Raglan. A patent is pending for the nickel recovery process operating at Raglan.

There was an agreement with Placer Dome for the development of a water treatment facility at Pueblo Viejo gold project in the Dominican Republic. Since the acquisition of Placer Dome by Barrick Gold, BioteQ has been working with Barrick and its consultants as part of the overall gold project feasibility that is in progress by Barrick. Additional pilot studies have been scheduled with Barrick to include BioteQ’s BioSulphider Process as part of the water treatment facilities at Pueblo Viejo.

In China, site due diligence has been completed for the Dexing copper project, in joint venture with Jiangxi Copper Corp.  Project engineering has now been initiated to define the capital and operating costs more accurately before the joint venture partners complete the final joint venture agreement. Plant construction is expected to begin later in 2006 with plant completion in 2007.

Preliminary engineering, including a site due diligence study and laboratory scale pilot testing, has been initiated on La Jojoba project in Mexico.  This project is a new application of BioteQ’s sulphide technology where cyanide can be regenerated for the recovery of gold in a conventional heap leach operation with concurrent recovery of copper from the cyanide solutions.  Plant construction is expected in 2007.