Australian firm Sandfire Resources has secured a mining licence from the Botswana Government for its $279m (A$364m) Motheo copper mine in the Kalahari Copper Belt.

The approval marks the final major permitting milestone need for the start of full-scale construction of the project, which is planned to be developed over a two-year period.

Sandfire plans to start mining work at the Motheo project in early CY2022 with first production scheduled in early 2023.

Having already placed orders for all key process equipment and long-lead items, the company will now start construction of the process plant and other infrastructure at the site.

The definitive feasibility study of the T3 pit at Motheo mine confirmed strong technical and economic outcomes from an initial 3.2 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) processing capacity and T3 deposit development, the firm said.

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By GlobalData

According to the DFS, which was completed in 2020, the mine has an initial life of 12.5 years. It could annually produce 30kt of contained copper and 1.2Moz of contained silver during its ten years of operational life.

Sandfire managing director and CEO Karl Simich said: “Our vision is that Motheo will form the centre of a new, long-life copper production hub in the central portion of the world-class Kalahari Copper Belt, where we hold an extensive ground-holding spanning Botswana and Namibia.”

“Sandfire is looking forward to becoming a major long-term player in the Kalahari Copper Belt, which represents one of the last under-explored large-scale copper provinces anywhere in the world.”

The Motheo project is expected to generate around 1,000 construction jobs and 600 full-time jobs once operational.

Last month, Perenti secured a $496m contract from Sandfire to provide open-pit mining services at the T3 pit at the Motheo copper project.