Metals X is a top 10 Australian copper producer from its 100% owned Nifty Copper Operations.
The Nifty Copper operation comprises of an historical open pit oxide mine and an underground sulphide mine with a modern 2.5Mt upside copper concentrator. Other site infrastructure consist of a powerhouse, camp, airfield, water and tailings storage facility. A concentrate storage facility is located at Port Hedland where the concentrate is shipped overseas for smelting and refining. Current annual production is approximately 35,000t of copper at an operating cost of approximately A$2.80 per lb.
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 (“Straits Resources”), from which Aditya Birla Minerals acquired the operation and surrounding exploration tenements in March 2003. Metals X took ownership of the assets on 1 August 2016
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.
Processing of the sulphide copper ore extracted from underground is by conventional comminution, grinding and flotation, to produce a concentrate that is then filtered and sold as concentrate.
The Nifty copper operation 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 is unsealed. Copper in concentrate is trucked to Port Hedland (distance from Nifty approximately 350 Km) and then shipped for smelting and refining.
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 and is the pipeline to the Nifty Western Australian copper mine. 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.