Focus on construction at Bisie conflict-free tin project

According to a presentation by Alphamin CEO Boris Kamstra at the 2017 Investing in African Mining Indaba, in February, a completed access road is being upgraded to accommodate large loads, while a return airway drive, new camps and accommodation are under construction.

Building the mine requires a targeted $152-million investment through a 24-month build programme and three months to ramp up to nameplate capacity, which is expected in 2019.

On February 6, the company announced the completion of the front-end engineering design (FEED) and control budget estimate (CBE) for the Bisie mine.

The completion of the FEED programme and associated CBE confirms the robust economic metrics, potential and development of the Alphamin Bisie tin project into North Kivu’s first commercial mine and a new premier global tin producing mine, says Alphamin.

“The completion of the FEED and CBE phase marks another important and exciting milestone as Alphamin advances the project towards becoming the first industrial mine in DRC’s North Kivu province,” explains Kamstra.

A comprehensive process for estimating capital costs was followed and the CBE results show that Bisie has the potential to remain strongly profitable at lower tin prices, as well as at increased prices for key consumables. The completed FEED and CBE increase proven and probable reserves to 4.67-million tonnes at 3.58% tin containing 167 300 t of tin, while also increasing the life-of-mine (LoM) to 15 months or 12.5 years. The optimised process flowsheet resulted in 6% higher yearly average plant throughput rates and an increase in tin recoveries to 73%.

A cash margin of some $11 040/t of tin sold is foreseen. The projected payback period is 17 months from the first tin production at the Bisie mine.

“The FEED programme’s emphasis was to reduce the implementation and operational risks associated with the project wherever possible and resulted in necessary increases in certain capital and operating costs. The improved mine design, process flow sheet optimisation and an improved tin price outlook, have enhanced the forecast economic performance indicators and overall robustness of Bisie significantly, despite the aforementioned cost increases,” indicates Kamstra.

He notes that these improvements, in conjunction with the continued strong support from provincial and national government and the local communities, confirms the company’s view that Bisie forms the ideal foundation on which to build a mining company and associated infrastructure for mining in the tin-rich province of North Kivu. The mining project, Kamstra adds, also presents Alphamin shareholders with the attractive opportunity of participating in one of the world’s highest-known tin grade deposits.

The project team has recently completed the optimisation of the mine and process plant design for Bisie, resulting in the notable change of the layout and mine design parameters from the updated feasibility study issued in June 2016, although the fundamental mining method has not changed.

The mine design was developed based on the revised criteria, including a reduction in cutoff grade from 1.8% to 1.4%, owing to a far higher tin price, which resulted in a 30% increase in ore tonnes mined, a 10% increase in tin tonnes mined, and a LoM extension of 2.5 years. The capital footprint has been defined as mine and associated infrastructure development that will take place up to and include December 2018. This includes about 64 000 t of ore from the ore drive development, which will be stockpiled prior to plant commissioning. Stoping will start outside the capital footprint.

Conflict-Free Source

Alphamin is committed to developing the first large commercial tin mine in eastern DRC that will produce conflict-free tin concentrate, while promoting community development, safety, health and environmentally sound practices. “The Alphamin operation will be the manifestation of what conflict mineral advocacy and legislation aimed to achieve. Alphamin’s conflict-free tin concentrate and social initiatives should, therefore, be of interest to international trading and smelting companies and multinational brands which use tin in their products, including laptops, mobile and smartphones, and cars.

“The complexities of certifying tin concentrates as conflict-free also make the product less appealing to armed groups and so reduces the risk of threats to the mine or transporters,” Kamstra says.

Alphamin is a member of the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative, a global end-user grouping of companies which develop conflict-free certification standards and protocols, and is also a member of the International Tin Research Institute, which is involved in global conflict-free sourcing initiatives.

In April 2016, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Alphamin and the Walikale community to collaborate in creating the Lowa Alliance. The alliance will invest, along with the community and other development partners, including the government of the DRC, in 120 projects over an initial five years. This will include establishing schools and technical training, primary healthcare services, agriculture and fish farming, small-scale renewable energy, small and micro enterprises, community infrastructure, town zoning and road articulation to help manage growth, and women’s empowerment.

Alphamin, through its exploration and development phase, has already created 480 new jobs, invested in road and telecommunications infrastructure to unlock the isolated Walikale territory, developed 25 participatory local development plans representing the long-term needs of the 14 000 households living closest to the mine and recently completed the construction of a high-quality primary school with solar-powered lighting.

An artisanal and small-scale miner (ASM) strategy is being implemented to work with all levels of government to improve incentives for ASM miners to work legally on the Alphamin concession, reduce impunity for illegal activity and assure optimal security for operations, personnel and local residents. 

Creamer Media's Mining Weekly