Australia-based Mawson West has started underground mining activities at its Dikulushi copper-silver mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The move is anticipated to extend production until at least the third quarter of 2014 and provide the company with an opportunity to evaluate additional underground mining potential, as well as the economic viability of satellite deposits identified.
The company is currently producing copper and silver at Dikulushi by processing stockpiled material from its open pit operations, which is planned to continue into December 2013.
Mawson West said the current mineral reserve supports an initial mine life of nine months at a production rate, after initial ramp-up, of 800t of copper and 65,000oz of silver per month.
The initial mine schedule is set to use around 60% of the current process plant capacity. Capital expenditure for the first phase of underground mining is expected to be $9m.
Mawson West chief executive Bruce McFadzean said that starting underground mining at Dikulushi is a milestone for the company as it pursues its strategy of prudent growth in copper production from operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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"Dikulushi is a deposit that we know and understand. It has significant existing underground infrastructure in place, reducing the capital expenditure required to develop the project," McFadzean added.
The company expects to upgrade and extend mineral resources and reserves as drilling and mining progress in 2014.
The Dikulushi mine currently has a proven and probable reserve of 173,000t grading 5.2% copper and 127g/t silver.
Image: Isometric view showing remaining Dikulushi Mineral Resources below the open oit, looking south-west. Photo: Courtesy of Mawson West.