Nevada Copper recently announced its Q1 2022 financial and operating results as well as recent milestone achievements and updates on key development initiatives for its Pumpkin Hollow underground mine and open pit project. Notably the underground mine paste plant began wet commissioning and filling of the first stope with paste backfill in April 2022. Paste plant commissioning activities are ongoing with initial throughput capacity expected to be realised by the end of June 2022. It is expected that the implementation of paste backfilling will result in quicker stope turnover leading to improvements in hoisting and production rates going forward.
Underground production continues to ramp up with hoisting rates of a combination of stope ore and development material expected to increase to approximately 3,000 t/d in Q2 2022 and then further increasing to 4,000 to 4,500 t/d during Q3 2022. The dry commissioning of the surface ventilation fans was completed in early April. Initial excavation of the third ore pass is complete with construction activities scheduled for completion in Q3 2022.
During Q1 2022, the company hoisted approximately 97,518 t of material, a 66% improvement over Q4 2021. Included in the material hoisted was approximately 32,025 t at an average grade of 1.3% copper mined from three stopes including ore mined from stopes in the Sugar Cube zone. Lateral development rates improved 31% in Q1 2022 compared with Q4 2021, with 3,126 ft developed. Two additional loaders were lowered underground in April 2022 further increasing mucking capacity and an additional haul truck is scheduled to be hoisted in May 2022. Ore tons mined from development during Q1 2022 were 65,493 t, at an average grade of 0.7% copper.
Nevada Copper continues to advance across a water-bearing dike structure with the first crossing being completed and grouting activities underway on the second crossing to be followed by advancing development under steel sets through the dike. “While there have been some challenges due to highly variable ground and water conditions, the company is advancing development from Ramp 01 on the other side of the dike to maintain the production schedule. The company expects to complete the second crossing in Q2 2022.”
Moving to the open pit mine progress, the 2022/2023 drill program commenced with one drill arriving on site in late April and a second drill planned to arrive during the second quarter. The primary goals of the planned approximate 25,000 ft drill program are upgrading in-pit inferred mineral resources that are currently considered as waste in the 2019 Technical Report, to a minimum of an indicated resource, and expanding mineral resources previously inaccessible for drilling. Drilling will also be used to advance the geotechnical and metallurgical understanding of the deposit. Condemnation drilling will be completed in areas planned for major infrastructure. Several holes are also planned to follow up geophysical and surface work and test the nearby Tedeboy porphyry target.
The open pit project PFS update is progressing well and is expected to be completed in Q3 2022, as planned. The PFS will include updated mineral reserves and resources and economics based on current metals prices, costs, project development strategy and the contemplated solar project, which is expected to have a positive impact on the long-term price expectations for power. The results of the drill program currently underway will not be included in the PFS, however, they are expected to be included in an open pit feasibility study planned for the second half of 2023. The open pit project has all the material permits required at this time for mine construction and operations and proven and probable mineral reserves, as estimated in the 2019 Technical Report, were 3,590 Mlb of copper (385.7 Mt grading 0.47% copper).
Randy Buffington, President & CEO stated: “I am very pleased with the progress we are making on several fronts at Pumpkin Hollow. We have completed a number of key projects at site that are aimed at improving productivity, stope availability and equipment reliability for the underground mine. The prefeasibility study update for the fully permitted open pit project is well underway and will include important sustainable initiatives such as the solar project. In addition, the commencement of our exploration program is an important step towards our longer-term growth strategy. We are laying the groundwork necessary to demonstrate the potential for this significant copper operation and assembling the right team to execute on these plans for the long-term benefit of our stakeholders.”