AFRICA-focused Blackthorn Resources has been granted a large-scale mining licence and environmental approval for the development and operation of its Kitumba copper project in Zambia.

The Kitumba mining licence – covering 163 square kilometres within the existing Mumbwa prospecting licence, about 200km west of the capital, Lusaka – was a key condition to a merger arrangement between Blackthorn and precious metals developer Intrepid Mines.

It was granted for an initial 25 years following approval by the Zambia Environmental Management Agency. “This is a significant milestone for Blackthorn Resources and confirms the support of the Zambian Government for the development of the project,” Blackthorn Resources managing director Mark Mitchell said.

“We now look forward to advancing the project through the definitive feasibility study and working with all stakeholder groups to develop a socially and environmentally responsible, as well as profitable asset in Zambia.”

An optimised feasibility study for Kitumba released in April 2014 indicated an initial capital expenditure of US$680 million, to deliver 3 million tonnes per annum at a stope design cut-off grade of 1 per cent copper. The underground operation would produce 58,000 tonnes per annum of contained copper across an initial 11-year mine life.

Implementation of the merger scheme has been scheduled for mid December.