SSR Mining has secured regulatory approval through the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for PunaOperations’s Chinchillas project in Jujuy Province, Argentina.

The company is set to begin development activities at the project, with first ore feed to the Pirquitas mill expected in the second half of this year.

On a priority basis, the company will begin earthworks projects at Chinchillas, release construction contracts and start construction activities at Pirquitas.

Other priority development activities include pioneering works for pre-stripping at the Chinchillas deposit.

SSR Mining president and CEO Paul Benson said: “Receipt of the EIA approval is another positive step forward for our growth strategy.

“Our team can now accelerate development and construction activities to begin processing ore in 2018.

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“Brownfields development of Chinchillas is a low-capital, short payback opportunity to create value and growth for our shareholders in the near-term.”

“Brownfields development of Chinchillas is a low-capital, short payback opportunity to create value and growth for our shareholders in the near-term.”

Puna Operations is a joint venture operated by SSR Mining with a 75% interest.

The JV contains the Pirquitas property and the Chinchillas property.

As part of a pre-feasibility study on the Chinchillas project, the company plans to undertake development and construction of an open-pit mine, as well as supporting infrastructure to supply ore to the Pirquitas processing facilities over an eight-year active mining period.

The operation is expected to produce an average annual rate of 6.1 million ounces of silver, 35 million pounds of lead and 12.3 million pounds of zinc.

The project has post-tax net present value (NPV) of $178m and post-tax internal rate of return (IRR) of 29%.