Bluestone Resources has come out with a new open-pit mining plan for its Cerro Blanco project in south-eastern Guatemala that effectively doubles production and triples the potential investor returns from the gold-silver asset.
The preliminary economic assessment on Cerro Blanco, which comes just under 11 months after entering into an agreement with G Mining Services covering basic engineering and overall project optimisation efforts for the project, outlines a project able to produce 231,000 oz of gold at an all-in sustaining cost of $642/oz Au over the 11-year life of mine. This is based on a 15,000 t/d operation with a $548 million initial capital expenditure bill.
Using a base case gold price of $1,550/oz and silver price of $20/oz, an after-tax net present value (5% discount) of $907 million was calculated.
The numbers are significantly different from what the company outlined in a previous feasibility study on Cerro Blanco, completed by a consortium of independent consultants led by JDS Energy & Mining. This showed an average output of 113,000 oz/y of gold at an all-in sustaining cost of $579/oz and a capital cost of $196 million (including contingency).
Using a base case of $1,250/oz gold and $18/oz silver, this underground project was estimated to generate a post-tax net present value (5% discount) of $241 million.
Bluestone said on the PEA publication: “The recent completion of advanced engineering and optimisation work has significantly enhanced the understanding of the project and presented an opportunity to capitalise on its near-surface, high-grade mineralisation through an open-pit development scenario. This is a major change to Bluestone’s corporate strategy that will fully maximise the value of the Cerro Blanco gold project for all stakeholders.”
David Cass, Vice President of Exploration, added: “The pivot to surface mining is a culmination of our increased understanding of the geology and grade distribution that will realise the full potential of the Cerro Blanco low-sulphidation mineralisation. The inverted wedge shape of the deposit with its upper half forming the Cerro Blanco hill lends itself to surface mining with a low strip ratio.”
The project currently hosts 3 Moz of gold in the measured and indicated resource category and 250,000 oz of gold in the inferred mineral resource category.
The open-pit mining scenario envisages an owner-operated mining fleet using 65-t trucks matched with 7 cu.m hydraulic shovels supported by 8.2 cu.m wheel loaders. Mill feed will be trucked to a primary crusher located to the east of the main pit. Waste totalling 123.5 Mt will be placed in a waste storage facility.
In terms of processing, the PEA looks at treating 5.04 Mt/y of mineralised material at an average feed grade of 1.6 g/t Au and 7.26 g/t Ag through a conventional cyanide leach process plant to produce doré. The flowsheet is very similar to the previous underground mine option and includes primary crushing, single train SAG mill and ball mill to produce a target grind size of 80% passing 53 microns, atmospheric pre-oxidation, 48-hour cyanide leach, carbon-in-pulp carousel adsorption circuit, Zadra elution circuit, gold room and filtered tailings. Based on PEA metallurgical test work, the expected recoveries are 91% for gold and 85% for silver.
Filtered tailings will be configured in a dry-stack facility and eliminate the need for the construction and operation of a traditional tailings impoundment, the company says.
“The adoption of this technology (dry stacking) puts the Cerro Blanco project at the forefront of responsible mining practices being adopted for the future of sustainable mining globally,” it added.