Miner set to operate leach testing plant in Zambales
AUSTRALIAN MINER Rusina Mining N.L. will start commissioning its $1.3-million heap leach testing plant in central Luzon this month, the company’s top executive said yesterday.
"We have finished building [the test plant]. Mechanical completion will be this month so we will be crushing ores," Robert G. Gregory, chief executive and managing director of Rusina, said in a phone interview.
On its Web site, the miner said "the trial heap will be constructed at the same height as the full commercial operation and is designed to prove the heap percolation and leach rates on a full-scale basis."
The trial facility will also highlight the safety of the technology to be used for the 3,765-hectare Acoje nickel mine in Zambales, which is a joint venture between Rusina, European Nickel Plc, and locally listed DMCI Holdings, Inc.
Heap leaching is a mining process where nickel is extracted from crushed and mined ores by adding a solution that will dissolve valuable minerals, which will be collected at the bottom of the heap and sent to a metal recovery circuit.
"This is what the Philippines needs ... value-added technology and not just shipping overseas. It is more economic," Mr. Gregory said.
He said partner European Nickel has been using the heap leach technology for about five years in its Caldag nickel project in Turkey.
The testing plant will crush and extract nickel from about 3,000 metric tons of ore in 10 months.
The miners expect to extract three million metric tons of nickel ore per year with 1.1% nickel grade from reserves of 29.1 million metric tons of ore, for 10 years.
The companies need to invest $498 million, $120 million of which would be for the nickel leach plant, to start commercial operations in 2011.
Early this month, the miners suspended their direct ore shipping venture given low metal prices.
Nickel prices for cash buyers yesterday closed at $7 per pound, up from the $4 per pound late last year but lower than the record $24 per pound early last year, data from the London Metal Exchange show. — Neil Jerome C. Morales - BusinessWorld