Frontier Mining is working on trials and tests to find the optimal working parameters of processing operations at its Benkala Copper Project. Teething problems at the plant since it began operating have limited production and Frontier has earmarked production of between 1700 and 2100 tonnes of copper by the end of the year, which is some way short of the 3500 tonnes forecast.
Despite the issues, Frontier is confident of meeting the potential offered by Benkala, which has a resource of more than 360 million tonnes of mineable ore, with a strong chance of even more. It has good infrastructure, power and its own railway on site while its solvent extraction-electro winning (SX-EW) plant has been upgraded to annually process 10,000 tonnes, up from 7000.
There are also positives to be drawn from Frontier’s latest financial results, including low production costs, which stand at US$3625 per tonne of copper excluding general and administration costs. As production volumes grow, the fixed G&A costs will decrease per tonne of copper produced and there should be positive cash flows from operations.
One of the sticking points has been the high clay content within the ore, which the company has been laying on the leach pads, meaning the percolation of acid through to release the copper has been hindered. A technical consultant Adam Moroney has been brought in tasked with improving these sorts of issues and Frontier says progress is being made.
In a new development, the requirement to list in Kazakhstan may provide Frontier with some scope to raise additional funds, which will assist in continuing the ongoing optimization work as well as in carrying out further exploration and development with the South Benkala and Baitemir projects in the pipeline.
Frontier’s chairman and chief executive Yerlan Aliyev says, “Since commencing production in 2013, both management and operational teams are working hard and carrying out trials and tests to find the optimal working parameters at Benkala. We have an understanding that the resource size, type of ore, available utilities and infrastructure we put in place enable us to reach required levels of production.
“Baitemir continues to offer significant potential that allows the management to be confident about the future of the company. We were highly encouraged by the findings of an independent expert report, which we commissioned during the first half and published results from in mid-July.
“Like any production company going through a commissioning phase, we face challenges such as cash flow, often incredibly hostile environmental conditions, geographical remoteness and unproven equipment. The qualification of the team and support of our partners equip us well to meet these challenges, and drive this company towards becoming an established copper producer in the region, achieving long lasting profitability.”