An incident occurred on site at the copper cathode producing facility of Central Asia Metals’ Kounrad Copper Project on Friday, June 26, which will impact on production guidance for 2015 of 13,000 tonnes. No one was injured in the incident.

During normal production activity a problem occurred in the solvent extraction (SX) section of the SX-EW plant which resulted in a significant quantity of the organic inventory being lost to the dumps within a very short time frame.

After inspection, it was identified that one of nine weir plates in the recently commissioned SX mixer settler had fallen out of position, resulting in the ability of the organic inventory to escape from the circuit via the raffinate and onto the dumps. The reasons for the failure of the weir plate are being investigated by site management.

The problem was rectified the following day and the plant was started again but at a much lower flow rate. This was due to continue for several more days until the site team could stabilize the plant and determine the full extent of the loss of organic inventory, any impact on the pipeline infrastructure and the duration of time that the plant will need to operate at reduced production capacity before the organic inventories can be replenished.

At present, the SX-EW plant is running at only 45% capacity and although the relevant new parts have been ordered, the company’s best estimate is that the overall circuit won’t get back to running at design capacity till early September.

Although the impact on full-scale production at Kounrad is temporary, the company has now revised down its overall production target for 2015 from 13,000 tonnes of high quality copper cathodes to 12,000 tonnes. Despite the revision, the company still looks set to beat the 11,136 tonnes of production delivered in 2014.

In the six months to June 30 production at Kounrad was 7% better than the corresponding period a year ago. In the second quarter of 2015 the project produced 3093 tonnes of cathode copper, bringing total production for the first half up to 5444 tonnes.

Last year Central Asia completed an expansion of its boiler house capacity, enabling it to treat higher volumes of copper in solution during the winter months in Kazakhstan, which can be particularly severe.

Chief executive Nick Clarke points out that the incident is “the first such interruption in the plant’s production”.

Central Asia Metals, an AIM-listed UK company based in London, owns 100% of the Kounrad SX-EW copper facility in Kazakhstan.

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