|DSO mining operations at the Agata Nickel Project in northern Mindanao|
AGATA Processing Inc (API), expected to complete a definitive feasibility study (DFS) by the end of 2014 for a nickel processing plant at the Agata project in northern Mindanao. The proposed nickel processing plant will use a proprietary and innovative combination of two proven technologies that aim to achieve maximum nickel recovery at low operating and initial capital cost.
Shipments of nickel direct shipping ore (DSO) from the Agata joint venture between Mindoro Resources and TVI Pacific’s Philippines subsidiary TVI Resource Development (Phils) Inc (TVIRD) began in October with shipments expected every three to four weeks.
The Agata nickel processing project is held by API, a joint venture company in which TVIRD has the right to earn a 60% interest from Mindoro by spending a minimum of $2 million within 12 months of the date of the Agata Processing Option and Joint Venture Agreement, signed on September 24, 2012, and completing a definitive feasibility study within 4 years of the date of the API agreement. As of September 30, 2014, TVIRD had completed its requirement to spend a minimum of $2 million and had earned 45% of the shares in API.
“We are extremely pleased with the progress being made by the API joint venture in nearing completion of the DFS,” Mindoro’s CEO Penny Gould said in late November. “Building on the current high iron/low nickel DSO operation, the proposed nickel processing plant would receive feed from the same mining site and produce an intermediate nickel product at low costs. We look forward to completion of the DFS by the end of the year and the significant value we believe it will add to Mindoro’s Agata project.”
Current DSO operations are focused on the upper zone of the Agata laterite ore body, which, consists of an upper ferruginous limonite zone (high-iron/low nickel), an intermediate limonite zone (high iron/medium nickel), and a lower saprolite zone (low iron/medium-high nickel). The proposed nickel processing facility would process ore from the lower limonite and saprolite zones to produce a mixed hydroxide product (MHP) with approximately 40% nickel content, which would be sold to the stainless steel market under offtake agreements.
The process technology TVIRD has been developing will revolutionize the way nickel laterites are processed in the industry. Currently, the most common technology used is high pressure acid leach (HPAL), a process which generally requires intense upfront capital expenditures of more than $1 billion. To avoid such high capex, TVIRD has engineered a two-stage process involving an initial atmospheric tank leach process and a secondary low pressure acid leach process. CAPEX is expected to range between $150 million to $200 million for this two-stage process in a modular plant capable of annually producing 7000 tonnes of nickel equivalent product.