THE preliminary feasibility study for a nickel matte smelter at the Ban Phuc Nickel-Copper Project of Asian Mineral Resources (AMR) is nearing completion and results are expected shortly. The smelter is expected to significantly enhance the economics of Ban Phuc by reducing export tariffs from 20% on nickel concentrate to 5% on nickel matte.

Processing facilities at the Ban Phuc Nickel-Copper Project in northern Vietnam. Processing facilities at the Ban Phuc Nickel-Copper Project in northern Vietnam.

Meanwhile, in early January the second lift on the tailings dam remained on track at 78% complete, 9% ahead of planned volumes. Final completion is scheduled for the second quarter. This lift will provide sufficient storage capacity for the remaining life of mine.

AMR achieved record production and sales during the December quarter at Ban Phuc. The production record was aided by above target mill recoveries of 86.4% nickel and 94.6% copper as the operations continue to be optimized. There was 2260 tonnes of nickel milled production during the quarter which resulted in a 2015 total of 8133 tonnes while there was 1014 tonnes of copper milled production in the quarter for a 2014 total of 3776 tonnes.

The company produced 1958 tonnes of payable nickel metal, 960 tonnes of payable copper metal and 66 tonnes of payable cobalt metal in concentrate in the quarter. These production levels reflect the ramp-up in operations from previous quarters and are expected to remain relatively stable going forward. Full-year production for 2014 was 422,456 tonnes, 12% higher than the forecast of 375,000 tonnes.

Three product shipments were completed in the quarter in line with expectations, for a total of 22,948 tonnes dry concentrate. The average realized nickel price for the quarter was US$7.09 per pound. In 2014 AMR sold 71,195 tonnes of dry concentrate.

Unit C1 (all in) operating cash costs in the quarter were reduced in line with the ramp-up operations to US$5.09 per pound. The company has established production guidance for 2015 of 6900-7300 tonnes of payable nickel production and 3000-3250 tonnes of payable copper production with unit operating C1 cash costs net of by-product credits of US$5.30-5.70 per pound.

CEO Evan Spencer says, “We are extremely pleased with performance for the quarter and for 2014 as a whole. The ramp-up is complete and has resulted in record production and sales. With robust plant performance and cost management, AMR is generating solid and consistent levels of cash flow, from which it will be able to focus on the continued growth of the company as the leading nickel platform in the region.”

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