CENTRAL Asia Metals has increased production capacity of the solvent extraction and electro-winning (SX-EW) plant by 50% at Kounrad Copper Project in Kazakhstan. The additional capacity has been commissioned and the company is on track to achieve its 2015 production target of 13,000 tonnes.
The stage one expansion was completed ahead of schedule and within budget. The internally funded $13.4 million program included construction and equipment installation with all work undertaken by company personnel.
An extra mixer-settler tank has increased the plant’s solution treatment capacity by 33% to 1200 cubic metres per hour and an additional 24 electro-winning cells have increased the daily plating capability by 42% to 50 tonnes. The infrastructure upgrade also included installation of an additional 10MW transformer substation.
The stage 1 expansion and additional 5.6MW boiler capacity installed towards the end of 2014 have increased the plant’s annual name-plate capacity from 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of cathode copper. The company expects to produce 15,000 tonnes in 2016.
Central Asia Metals’ CEO Nick Clarke says, “The completion and successful commissioning of the expanded plant at Kounrad is another important milestone achieved by the company in its development of the project. The credit for this noteworthy achievement is principally due to our dedicated team in Kazakhstan whose hard work, diligence and expertise made it possible to accomplish the expansion on time and within budget.
“The company’s main focus is now on implementing the stage 2 expansion program, the approvals process for which is proceeding as scheduled, and on continuing to actively seek growth opportunities in Central Asia and other regions,” he said.
The next major investment will be on the western dumps to provide the next 15 years of material. The project is likely to cost US$18-19 million to complete and will go live in 2017.
Kounrad doesn’t fit the template for a traditional mining operation as its reserves are held in mineralized dumps from an open pit worked from 1936 to 2005 when waste dumps of oxides and low-grade sulphides of copper were formed.
The company uses in situ leaching that relies on a 2300km network of plastic pipes to run weak acid solution through this waste material that picks up copper as it percolates through the piles. The solution then emerges into trenches, which lead to collector ponds that feed an SX-EW plant where the copper is extracted using a simple process of running electricity through the mineral-rich mix.