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Merdeka's Tujuh Bukit – Major Copper-Gold Project Underway

Merdeka advancing Tujuh Bukit copper-gold project.

Merdeka Copper Gold
Merdeka's Tujuh Bukit – Major Copper-Gold Project Underway

Merdeka Copper Gold is an established Indonesian mining company headquartered in Jakarta, currently advancing three tier one mining assets in gold, copper-gold, and nickel.

It explores, extracts and produces through subsidiaries spread across three islands in the Indonesian archipelago.

Among the projects the company has in development, its underground Tujuh Bukit copper project stands out, given its credentials as one of the largest pre-production copper-gold deposits in the world.

With a proven pedigree of value creation, alongside multiple transformational growth projects, strong Indonesian shareholder support and solid ESG credentials, Merdeka is well placed to become a significant global mining player supplying the metals increasingly in demand for the clean energy transition.

Low-cost, long-life, cycle-proof

The 100% Merdeka-owned Tujuh Bukit project in Banyuwangi, East Java, is now completing optimisation studies. These studies include the potential for improved metallurgical recoveries, higher underground production throughput, and open-pit mining of additional copper ore. The two statistical highlights include approximately 200,000t/a of peak copper equivalent production and an estimated mine life of greater than 30 years.

Significantly, the Tujuh Bukit copper project is located beneath Merdeka's Tujuh Bukit gold mine, an existing, profitable operation where Merdeka receives strong community and government support. The gold mining infrastructure and associated support facilities provide a valuable platform for the underground copper-gold project to leverage. Anticipated as a low-cost, long-life operation, the copper-gold project points to being cycle-proof and compares favourably to peer sublevel caving (SLC) and block caving operations.

Since 2018, Merdeka has invested more than US$200 million directly into specific development and feasibility work on the project in close concert with renowned technical consultants, including Stantec, DRA Global, Hatch and WSP (Golder). This activity includes a 1890m long exploration decline and over 150,000m of resource definition drilling, as well as extensive independent studies on mine design, mineral processing and surface infrastructure.

The mining lease contains multiple mineralised copper-gold porphyry deposits with the potential to further enhance the existing multi-decade mine life. At the same time, Merdeka has also identified several untapped optimisation opportunities that need to be accounted for in the May 2023 prefeasibility study project economics. The lease further demonstrates the potential for additional gold indications alongside the copper-gold porphyry deposits.

State of play

As of March 2024, the latest mineral resource estimate from the project reported an increase in the indicated category for the Tujuh Bukit copper project to 8.2Mt of copper and 27.9Moz of gold. The significance of this is that most of the planned SLC area where ore grades are greater than 1% copper and 1g/t gold, has now fallen within the indicated resource, making further drilling unnecessary since the 2022 drilling program has delivered its objectives.

This means drilling plans for 2024 need only be from the surface, with the focus on confirming additional heap leachable gold-silver oxide resources and identifying open-pitable copper-gold sulphide resources to accelerate and de-risk the early production profile of the copper-gold project. This strategy will supplement the SLC ore with open-pit ore if ongoing studies and plans indicate this is feasible.

Financing

Director and executive chairman Andrew Starkey characterised the gold aspect of Tujuh Bukit as providing capital to investigate and assess the copper-gold project below to get the site moving. Since achieving its first gold pour in March 2017, the Tujuh Bukit gold mine has produced and sold over 1Mozof gold with a low operating cost base.

Full year gold production for 2023 was 138,666oz at a total cash cost of $842/oz and an average sales price of $1939/oz. Guidance for 2024 is 100,000 to 120,000 ounces of gold at a total cash cost of $900 to 1,050/oz.

Starkey explained that "the focus has always been on how we best monetise the copper-gold porphyry project that sits immediately below the gold mine. The optimisation studies are planned to continue through 2024, and during this period the development financing plan for the project will be finalised."

In terms of progressing the financing plan, he noted the inbound strategic interest in the asset and the favourable support from Merdeka's banking partners. He also drew attention to the major shareholders' track record in financing and developing multiple large-scale projects in Indonesia.

 

The Tujuh Bukit Copper Project workers drilled and took rock samples for analysis. (Photo- Anggung Setiawan BSI)
The Tujuh Bukit Copper Project workers drilled and took rock samples for analysis. (Photo- Anggung Setiawan BSI)

Safe and secure

Indonesia has consistently viewed mining as a key driver of gross domestic product, regardless of the presiding administration. Moreover, Merdeka is Indonesia listed, has majority Indonesian shareholders, and is regarded as an Indonesian company by all stakeholders. Therefore, it is well placed to avoid the issues foreign mining companies may encounter when operating outside their home jurisdiction.

In terms of progressing the Tujuh Bukit copper project in response to continued inbound strategic interest, Merdeka intends to begin a partnering and funding process designed to unlock the full value of the mine through a phased approach.

The project's inherent credentials have gone relatively unnoticed to date by investors. This is partly due to its anomalous state, whereby there are few comparable base or precious metal listings in Indonesia, meaning analysts have little to compare it to.

Indonesia has been a model of political stability in the region for several years. With its mining-focused national agenda and advantageous operating cost environment, it should be considered a highly attractive investment destination. Investors in locations such as China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan have understood this at scale for some time.

Globally significant asset

The key differentiators of the Tujuh Bukit copper project are:

·         Globally significant deposit containing 8.2Mt of copper and 27.9Mozof gold;

·         Positioned to be a large-scale, long-life and low-cost operation;

·         Enjoys strong community and government support, extended from the gold to the copper-gold project;

·         Its brownfield status provides a clear and rapid development path;

·         Initial government approvals received and clear permitting strategy in progress; and

·         Experienced board and management team with a proven track record of creating value, supported by committed Indonesian shareholders.

When fully ramped up, it is set to be one of the few new near-term producing, tier one copper-gold operations held 100% by an independent company.

With optimisation studies on track to be completed by early 2025, the project is scheduled to start full-scale development during that same year. One of the areas being studied is a material reduction in capital expenditure, which highlights a potential path to first production requiring substantially less than the US$750 million estimated in the previously released prefeasibility information.

With the red metal's unique energy transition credentials, the pronounced increase in appetite for it is already seeing the copper price head northwards. Increasing gold prices further reinforce the economics of the Tujuh Bukit copper project. Importantly, however, it is not reliant on a sustained increase in either to go into production.

ESG

Merdeka is committed to integrating sustainability into all aspects of the business, as evidenced by its environmental, social and corporate governance Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) rating. This was upgraded from ‘BBB' to ‘A' in October 2023, cementing Merdeka's position as the only mining company in Indonesia in the MSCI Diversified Metals and Mining category to receive such an accolade. Merdeka is committed to aligning with sustainability thresholds that prevail in jurisdictions where compliance criteria are more exacting.

Pedigree and progress

The Merdeka Group is well diversified across a portfolio of businesses, with the Tujuh Bukit copper project set to be the fourth large-scale mining project it has brought into production. It has not been subject to the stop-start capital raising experience that marks many other copper projects in development. Instead, progress to date has been informed by study work, technical considerations and construction timelines, and this is set to continue as the project advances towards production.

 

ABOUT THIS COMPANY
Merdeka Copper Gold

HEAD OFFICE:

  • Treasury Tower 67-68th Floor, District 8 SCBD Lot. 28, Jalan Jenderal Sudirman Kav. 52–53 South Jakarta 12190, Indonesia

  • Telephone: +62 21 39525580

  • Web: https://merdekacoppergold.com/

SOCIAL:

DIRECTORS:

  • Albert Saputro
  • Jason Laurence Grieve
  • Andrew Philip Starkey
  • David Thomas Fowler
  • Hardi Wijaya Liong
  • Gavin Arnold Caudle 
  • Titen Supeno
  • Chrisanthus Supriyo

QUOTED SHARES ON ISSUE (as of April 5, 2024):

  • 24.4 billion

MARKET CAPITALISATION:

  • US$3.6 billion

MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS:

  • Provident Capital Partners : ~23%
  • Saratoga: ~19%
  • Thohir Group: ~9%

 

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