The transformation of Centamin’s Sukari underground mining operations looks set to continue, with the company having committed some $16 million of capital towards an underground fleet expansion in 2024 and 2025 as part of a push towards increasing mining rates.
Centamin issued a new life of mine plan for the asset in Egypt earlier this month, saying the plan would deliver long-term increased gold production, lower operational costs, reduced operational risk and significantly reduced carbon emissions, according to owner Centamin.
The underground operation, which the company transitioned to owner-operator status last year, is set to become a bigger contributor to the overall operation in future years. This will see underground output rise from 800,000 t/y in its 2022 financial year to 1.4 Mt/y.
This is a shade under the optimal mining rate of 1.5 Mt/y that came out of an underground expansion study completed in the December quarter of 2022, but Centamin said full engineering of this plan had provided opportunities to simplify the mine plan by removing the requirement to expand production by developing underground portals in the open pit, and therefore further reducing the delivery risk. Not only did this reduce the complexity of a potential expansion, it also brought the capital cost down to $16 million, from the $25-35 million previously mooted.
This capital will be deployed on a new equipment fleet for the operation, which includes three 63-t payload Caterpillar AD63 trucks, three 18.5-t payload Caterpillar R2900 XE diesel-electric loaders, one Sandvik DD421 face drill, two Sandvik DL421 longhole drills, one Normet Charmec emulsion charger, a Normet Spraymec concrete sprayer, two Normet Utimec material transporters and a Volvo L120F integrated tool carrier.
Earlier this year, a spokesperson for Centamin told IM that the company was assessing a staged approach from conventional diesel units to hybrid diesel-electric units in the interim at Sukari, with plans to move to full battery-operated loading and haulage units over the longer term.
The Caterpillar 2900 XE offers such an interim step, being a loader that features both a diesel engine and a switch reluctance electric drive system.