Metals X is a top 10 Australian copper producer from its 100% owned Nifty Copper Operations (Nifty), located in the East Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Nifty is an operating underground copper sulphide mine with an associated 2.5Mtpa copper concentrator. Site infrastructure is extensive, including a powerhouse, camp and airfield. Processing of sulphide copper ore is by conventional comminution, grinding and flotation to produce a clean copper concentrate. The copper concentrate is trucked to a storage facility located at Port Hedland, approximately 350km from Nifty, where concentrate is accumulated before shipping for smelting and refining.
Metals X acquired Nifty in August 2016 through the takeover of Aditya Birla Minerals Limited. At the time of acquisition Nifty was effectively in closure mode, having approximately 1 year of remaining Ore Reserves and an inventory of equipment and infrastructure in a somewhat dilapidated state. The focus of the Company since the acquisition of Nifty has been to increase the production rate, return the process plant to continuous operation and extend mine life. The strategic objective is to transform Nifty into a large scale, long-life mine with an annualised production rate in excess of 40,000t of contained copper in concentrate.
Oxide copper was first discovered at Nifty in 1981 by WMC Limited (“WMC”). Drilling of the oxide resource ultimately led to the discovery of the deep sulphide resource in 1983. WMC commenced an open pit, heap leach, SX-EW operation on the relatively high grade part of the oxide mineralisation in 1993. In 1998, the Nifty operation was purchased by Straits Resources Limited, from which Aditya Birla Minerals acquired the operation and surrounding exploration tenements in March 2003.
Underground development was commenced in January 2004 to exploit the sulphide resource via an exploration decline from the open pit. First sulphide ore was intersected in February 2005. Construction of the concentrator commenced in October 2004, with first concentrate being produced in March 2006. The open pit operation exploited oxide, transitional and chalcocite mineral resources from which copper cathode was recovered via a heap leach and SX-EW method. Open pit mining operations ceased in June 2006 and heap leaching operations ceased in January 2009.
Underground mining is currently carried out using open stoping methods and backfill. This is a bulk mining method where stopes (25m wide, 25 to 50m long and 40 to 60m high) are drilled and blasted and copper ore is loaded and hauled into to an underground crusher and conveying system. The conveying system transports the copper ore to the surface for processing by conventional flotation techniques. Copper in concentrate is trucked to Port Hedland (distance from Nifty approximately 350 Km) and then shipped for smelting and refining.
Nifty is a fly in–fly out operation with access provided via a sealed airstrip on site, serviced regularly by flights from Perth. The mine is also accessed by bitumen road from Port Hedland to the Woodie Woodie mine, with the final 45 km of road unsealed. The main power source is a 19.6mW GE dual fuel gas/diesel turbine, with back-up of 5mW solar centaur turbines, 4mW Caterpillar and 2mW Detroit diesel generators. A 46 km spur gas pipeline, owned and operated by Gas Transmissions of Australia Pty Ltd, has been constructed from the Port Hedland to Telfer pipeline. Gas is sourced under contract from Apache Northwest Pty Ltd. The Nifty copper operation uses groundwater sourced from mine dewatering. Mine water is reticulated from the largest source, the underground mine, to the fines dam where suspended solids are settled. Once clarified, the mine water is pumped to either the sulphide concentrator or Raw Water Dam (RWD) for distribution elsewhere on site. In addition to the mine dewatering source, groundwater derived from the East Nifty Borefield is pumped to the RWD or directly to the Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant for desalination.