The focus is on discovering additional oxide copper ore to augment Anthill oxide feed, increase the current sulphide resource base and to explore for large scale copper and base metal mineralisation within the large 2,100km2 of exploration tenure. Austral intends to fund exploration through a $10m per annum exploration budget over the next four years and by selective joint venturing of portions of its tenure holdings to enhance discovery potential.
Austral's key objectives are to:
1. Extend Austral's mine life beyond the current four years at Anthill by discovering additional oxide ore
2. Increase the current JORC Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) of 420,000t of contained copper
3. Commercialise Austral's sulphide resources (210,000t of contained copper)
The company has commenced activities on all three key objectives.
Austral's copper resource inventory
Austral has a total JORC compliant Mineral Resource Estimate of 60Mt @ 0.7%Cu, hosting 420,000t of contained copper. Mineralisation by type is approximately 50% sulphide, 25% transitional and 25% oxide. The majority of sulphide mineralisation is located within the Mt Kelly ML.
This resource inventory is being reviewed for its potential to be expanded and commercialised:
1. Oxide mineralisation exploration to augment Anthill feed to the Mt Kelly plant
2. Sulphide mineralisation is being evaluated for:
a. Potential to be mined and sold to a concentrator
b. Potential for processing through a conventional concentrator onsite, should sufficient sulphide mineralisation be defined to justify the capital investment
c. Potential to be hydrometallurgically processed on site using existing heap/SXEW infrastructure. This is under investigation
3. Transitional ore is being evaluated for suitability to augment sulphide ore feed
Steve Tambanis, Austral's Chief Executive Officer commented:
"Austral listed late last year with a large JORC Mineral Resource Estimate of 420,000t of contained copper, a new mine development (Anthill) and an operating oxide processing plant. The first 40,000t of copper cathode are being mined and processed from our new Anthill Mine. This provides strong cashflows over the next four years and is effectively the springboard and financial support for our intensive exploration and development activities.
So, what are we doing to commercialise the next 40,000t of copper?
We have commenced our first drilling programmes to discover additional oxide ore feed for our plant. Lady Colleen, Dividend and Lady Annie are amongst our first prospects for evaluation with more to come as the drill rig completes each first pass programme.
Our sulphide prospects have excellent short-term upside. Lady Colleen's 5.6Mt @0.89%Cu sulphide Mineral Resource Estimate is being re-assessed to determine its potential for a lower tonnage, higher grade resource that could be open pit mined and trucked to a nearby sulphide concentrator.
We are also commencing metallurgical test work to see if sulphide mineralisation is amenable to processing on our heap leach by utilising a new processing technology. In addition, we are drilling to increase the Lady Colleen resource where we have identified the potential for extensions to mineralisation. Our SXEW plant has considerable spare capacity. We will conduct similar evaluations for Flying Horse, Lady Annie and Mt Clarke.
Austral's intention was never to operate a mine for 4 years and then shut down. Our ambition is to extend mine life through discoveries, commercialise our current resources and significantly build upon our current resource inventories. We have a pathway to do so with funding and a large strategic landholding in the Mt Isa Inlier with demonstrated copper fertility.
It's great to be one of a few copper producers in Australia. It's even better to have a strongly increasing production profile in the current high copper price environment. We look forward to providing regular updates as we rapidly build copper production from Anthill and scale-up exploration and development activities to extend mine life."
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About Austral Resources Australia Ltd
Austral Resources Australia Ltd (ASX:AR1) is a copper cathode producer operating in the Mt Isa region, Queensland, Australia. Its Mt Kelly copper oxide heap leach and solvent extraction/electrowinning (SXEW) plant has a nameplate capacity of 30,000tpa of copper cathode. Austral is developing its Anthill oxide copper mine which has an Ore Reserve of 5.06Mt at 0.94% Cu. The Company expects to produce 40,000t of copper cathode over a four-year period from mid-2022.
Austral owns a significant copper inventory with a JORC compliant Mineral Resource Estimate of 60Mt at 0.7% Cu and 1,940km2 of highly prospective exploration tenure in the heart of the Mt Isa district, a world class copper and base metals province. The Company is implementing an intensive exploration and development programme designed to extend the life of mine and increase then review options to commercialise its copper resources.
Austral Resources Australia Ltd