With gold and copper production dropping and costs increasing, the Red Chris mine, in British Columbia, Canada, is set for a number of improvement initiatives, according to 70% owner Newcrest Mining.
In the company’s September quarter results, Newcrest said Red Chris gold and copper production came in at 12,636 oz and 7,050 t, respectively, during the three-month period. This was down from the 15,440 oz of gold and 8,401 t of copper registered in the June 2020 quarter.
Newcrest said the circa-3,000 oz drop in gold output reflected a higher proportion of lower-grade stockpile material being fed to the mill due to unseasonal rainfall hitting the availability of higher grade ex-pit material.
This lower-grade mill feed adversely impacted recovery rates, partially offset by a 13% increase in mill throughput following process control improvements and a higher proportion of stockpiled material with “characteristics that enabled increased processing rates”, it said.
Red Chris’ all-in sustaining cost of $2,621/oz in the September quarter were significantly up on the $1,536/oz seen in the previous quarter. This was driven by increased sustaining capital expenditure, higher operating costs due to “seasonal benefits allowing increased activities to be scheduled”, together with the impact of a strengthening Canadian dollar against the US dollar and lower copper sales volume, it said. These factors were only partially offset by the benefit of a higher realised copper price.
With one quarter of Newcrest’s 2021 financial year down, the company said it is planning to put in place a number of additional improvements across the site. Included in this is a new fleet management system, the replacement of the conventional Cat 793 truck trays with “high-performance trays” to realise payload benefits, and several throughput and recovery-related projects.
The company has 45,000-55,000 oz of gold and 25,000-30,000 t of copper production slated for Red Chris in its 2021 financial year.
Upon announcing the acquisition of a majority stake in the asset in 2019, Newcrest Managing Director and CEO, Sandeep Biswas, said there was potential to turn the Red Chris orebody into a Tier 1 operation.
It also outlined a two-stage plan to deliver value from the $806.5 million acquisition. This included applying its “Edge transformation approach” to the existing Red Chris open-pit mine and processing plant, and potentially leveraging industry leading mining methods and technology such as block caving, coarse ore flotation and ore sorting.