Global Wrap: Vale, Ivanhoe and more

IN Global Wrap: Vale boosts iron ore production; Ivanhoe hits ‘ultra’ high-grade ore; promising hits for Kirkland Lake; and Kinross lays out long-term plan.
Global Wrap: Vale, Ivanhoe and more Global Wrap: Vale, Ivanhoe and more Global Wrap: Vale, Ivanhoe and more Global Wrap: Vale, Ivanhoe and more Global Wrap: Vale, Ivanhoe and more

Staff reporter

Vale maintained iron ore production of about 1 million tonnes per day after mid-July, the company said as it reported strong output for the September quarter.

Iron ore fines production lifted 31.2% quarter-on-quarter to 88.7Mt for the September period.

Its Northern System achieved a quarterly production record of 56.9Mt and Vale said S11D had record production in September of 8.3Mt and 24.4Mt for the quarter.

Pellet production was up 21.1% to 8.6Mt for the September quarter, mainly due to the higher availability of pellet feed, especially from the Itabira complex and improved operational performance at the pelletising plants.

Sales volumes of iron ore and pellets, with a premium of US$4.60/t, was up 20.4% to 74.2Mt, Vale said.

Nickel and cobalt output were lower, copper was up due in part to the successful restart of Voisey's Bay operations and coal production also resumed during the quarter.

The possible sale of its New Caledonia operations fell through recently and Vale said if no sustainable divestment solution could be found in the coming months, it would move forward to put VNC on care and maintenance in 2021.

Vale also released a timeline with "a set of solutions and new assets for unlocking and resuming capacities in its sites", which were under implementation in collaboration with the National Mining Agency, the Public Prosecutor's Office of Minas Gerais and external audit firms.

These included resuming the Serra Leste operation in the current quarter, which would add 6Mtpa, and starting the Gelado project in the second half of 2022 to increase the Northern System's capacity by 10Mtpa.

At Brucutu, Vale planned to start up the Torto dam in the second quarter of 2021 to increase the site's capacity from 11Mtpa to 28Mtpa.

Other examples were removing the emergency level at the Itabirucu dam and restarting raising construction, with new tailings filterings plants and dry stacking activities in 2022 to increase the Itabira complex's capacity from 26Mtpa to 40Mtpa.

At the Vargem Grande complex, Vale hoped to resume the conveyor belt after progressing the decharacterisation of the VGR dam and licensing new mining areas, which were currently limiting capacity at 30Mtpa.

Ivanhoe Mines co-chairman Robert Friedland said development at the Kakula copper mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo had reached the "ultra high-grade core" as the company flagged the possibility of early commissioning.

First production is now expected in July next year, the early point of the Q3 2021 guidance, thanks to "excellent construction progress" on Kakula's concentrator plant.

"It will be enormously beneficial if we can commission early," Kamoa Copper co-CFO Rochelle De Villiers said, adding early revenue could allow the company to advance phase two development - doubling capacity to 7.6Mtpa - with internal cashflow. 

Development of dual access drives from Kakula's northern decline had entered a zone of chalcocite-rich ore grading up to 11% copper over a height of 6.6m, Friedland said.

"These copper grades are extraordinary in a global context, but are not unexpected," he said.

The northern and southern access drives were scheduled to join in November.

"This marriage between Kakula's northern and southern declines will facilitate the ramp up in production and dramatically increase the efficiency of our underground logistics, and further improve safety," Friedland said.

The company has reported three fatalities at the joint venture development project in the past 13 months.

Ivanhoe released an integrated development plan for Kamoa-Kakula in September which outlined a phased approach to create the world's second-largest copper complex, with a production rate of 19Mtpa and peak annual production of 800,000t.

The project, a joint venture with Zijin Mining, Crystal River Global and the DRC government, is expected to connect to the national power grid in December and be supplied with hydropower.

Kirkland Lake Gold has intersected "exceptional" grades at its Macassa mine in Ontario.

Drilling extended mineralisation along both the south and west margins of the South Mine Complex (SMC), with highlights including 14.5m grading 253.7 grams per tonne gold outside current mineral reserves at the south margin and 2.4m grading 103.3gpt along the west margin. Drilling at the Amalgamated Zone intersected 8.2m grading 210.4gpt.

"Today's results … support our view that there is substantial exploration potential in areas where the dip of the SMC approaches the contact with mineralised zones stacked vertically along the Amalgamated Break," said Kirkland Lake president and CEO Tony Makuch.

"The results … further increase our confidence that there are new mineral reserves to be discovered as we drill along the Break through the Kirkland Lake camp."

Exploration drilling at Macassa continues with nine drills underground and one drill on surface testing the SMC and Amalgamated Zones.

Finally, Kinross Gold has said organic growth will see the company produce an average of about 2.5 million ounces of gold-equivalent per annum through 2029 with an overall downward trend in costs.

"Kinross has a diverse global portfolio with top-tier assets that have long mine lives complemented by a large mineral reserve and resource base. The reinvestments in our portfolio, continuous improvement initiatives and exploration programs have enabled us to add lower cost and lower risk projects that leverage existing infrastructure and enhance our long-term production profile," CEO Paul Rollinson said.

Kinross' growing production outlook through 2023 is based on expected additional ounces from higher planned output at Kupol in Russia and planned life of mine extension at Chirano in Ghana as a result of successful exploration. The company expects enhancements to the Fort Knox mine plan in Alaska, including accelerating production at the Gilmore project to bring ounces forward, and mining the Gil satellite deposit.

It also sees continued outperformance at Paracatu in Brazil through expected improvements in throughput, more ounces from the tailings reprocessing and accelerated mining of the western area of the pit and higher anticipated production from the north area of Bald Mountain in Nevada.

Kinross believes it has long-life assets in its pipeline including Udinsk in Russia, the recently acquired Peak project in Alaska, the Phase S extension at Round Mountain and the Lobo-Marte project in Chile.