ALMOST 24 years after the suspension of mine operations at Paguna mine due to militant attacks, Bougainville Copper (BCL) has updated its resource estimate of the area.
The open pit mine and adjacent processing facility were operational between 1972 and 1989, when mining was suspended because of consistent militant attacks on company personnel and operations.
However, BCL – owned by Rio Tinto (53.83 per cent), the Government of Papua New Guinea (19.06 per cent) and 27.11 per cent publicly owned – remains committed to reopening the Bougainville Island mine, which hosts a large porphyry copper-gold deposit.
In 2009, BCL prepared an order of magnitude study (OMS) with a resource estimate of around 1 billion tonnes grading 0.33 per cent copper and 0.37 grams per tonne of gold.
In late 2012, the company prepared another OMS to evaluate the technical and financial viability of re-opening the Paguna mine.
The new OMS was revised in line with the current metal price and cost estimates, and alternations were made to the scale and options for development, including consideration of mining rates of up to 100 million tonnes per annum.
The revised resource estimate resulted in a 70 per cent increase in tonnage to 1.8bt and a 50 per cent increase in contained metal to more than 5mt of copper and 19 million ounces of gold.
BCL managing director Peter Taylor said the new results had further spurred the company’s efforts to recommence operations at Paguna.
“Although we are only at the order of magnitude stage of project study, the revised resource estimate supports consideration of a number of potential development options,” he said. “BCL continues to work with stakeholders on exploring ways in which the project may be advanced.”