African Copper Plc
TSX : ACU
AIM : ACU

African Copper Plc

September 14, 2005 02:00 ET

African Copper Plc: 'African Copper' or the 'Company'-Update on Activities

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 14, 2005) - African Copper Plc, (TSX:ACU)(AIM:ACU)(BSE:African Copper) the multi-listed international exploration and mining company provides an update on activities which are underway in its Botswana copper project. During 2005 the Company initiated a number of parallel activities aimed at bringing the Dukwe project into commercial production in a timely and economic manner. In addition, the Company has commenced exploration on the larger Matsitama Concession aimed at finding and delineating sedimentary copper deposits in this prospective belt.

Summary

At Dukwe, the Company has completed geotechnical studies, detailed engineering and cost estimates on an open-pit, leap leach SX-EW option and commenced pit optimization studies. In parallel with this the Company has started metallurgical testing of the underlying sulphide deposit, and initiated detailed design of a flotation concentrator. An aggressive resource delineation drilling campaign on the sulphide resources designed to move these into Measured and Indicated categories is also underway. All of these activities are on target and scheduled to be complete by the end of 2005, at which point African Copper expects to have sufficient information to determine the appropriate timing of construction of both the open-pit heap leach and the underground mine. The initial development scenario envisaged the open pit operation being constructed first, with the underground mine commencing production in year three of operations. In order to benefit from the current high copper prices the Company believes that an acceleration of the higher grade underground mine may be warranted.

Financial Position

African Copper has increased its operating budget for 2005 from Pounds Sterling 6.6 million to Pounds Sterling 7.25 million approximately, through the acceleration of the metallurgical and engineering studies for the deeper high grade sulphides, and by the need to place deposits to secure long lead time items required for the eventual operations. The Company expects to end the year with about Pounds Sterling 6 million in cash.

Dukwe Project

Dukwe Oxide

Detailed engineering for the heap leach open pit operation commenced in April 2005 and is expected to be complete in Q3 2005. An estimated US$30 million (2004 estimate: US$26.1 million) is required in direct costs to construct a 350 tph three stage crushing circuit, agglomeration drum with conveyor stacking to the heap leach pad with final processing through SX-EW technology. Processing cost estimates fall between US$15 and US$16 per tonne of ore.

Geotechnical work aimed at finalizing pit slopes for the open pit was completed in Q3, and the Company is in possession of an initial technical report. Previous pit designs were constructed using limited geotechnical work, and the pit slopes were considered to be conservative in nature. The latest data implies that the pit slopes on the east side of the pit can be steepened by about 10% over previous designs, with obvious implications for strip ratios and operating costs. Risk analysis using these recently determined parameters will be conducted to ascertain whether the incorporation of multiple haul roads will allow the pit walls to be steepened further. On completion of the risk analysis, pit optimization, and pit scheduling the Company will issue a call for tenders from mining contractors. Adjudication of tenders is expected to be completed by the end of November. A complete operating cost estimate for the open-pit heap leach SX-EW mine will be available shortly thereafter.

The Environmental Impact Assessment ("EIA") is being finalised and will be submitted to the government once complete. The scope of the original study has been modified to include the impact of an underground operation with a flotation concentrator and associated tailings facility. The Company is confident that approval of the EIA will be secured in Q4 of 2005.

In conjunction with the EIA, a Hydrogeological/Water Resources Study has been completed. This should be submitted to the government authorities by the end of Q3 in conjunction with the EIA. As a result of this study, an aquifer has been identified to the north of the deposit that appears to be able to provide sufficient water for the needs of the Project. The Company expects to begin drilling of these water boreholes shortly. Obtaining a permit for Abstraction Rights to this aquifer is expected to be secured by the end of Q4, 2005.

Dukwe Sulphide

Beneath the extent of the open pit an indicated sulphide resource of about 13 million tonnes grading 3.85% copper is known to exist to a depth of about 500 metres below surface. (Falconbridge 1989 not NI43-101 compliant). A metallurgical testing programme designed to test the milling and flotation characteristics of these deeper sulphides was started in June. The first phase of this programme involved the collection of about 3 tonnes of material from eight large diameter diamond drillholes that were positioned to drill down the length of the ore zone. This material was delivered to an independent test facility in Johannesburg in August, final results of this work is anticipated in early Q4, 2005.

The Company embarked on an aggressive drilling programme designed to move the bulk of these deeper sulphide resources into Measured and Indicated categories in late July. Five diamond drills are currently carrying out a 20,000 metre programme with final assays anticipated by the end of the year. A final resource estimate of the deeper sulphides is expected in early 2006.

In conjunction with the metallurgical and delineation studies, engineering consultants have been appointed to begin detailed engineering studies of a floatation concentrator and associated tailings facility. This is expected to be complete in December 2005 with the delivery of capital and operating cost estimates. The Company is confident that a decision regarding production from the underground sulphides could be made as early as Q1 2006 once metallurgical, engineering, capital and operating costs and resource/reserve characteristics are known.

Exploration at the Dukwe Project

The Dukwe mineralization is known to extend at least two kilometres to the north of the current reserves, and indications of similar copper mineralization are known to exist over a trend extending for 20 kilometres to the south. Very little exploration has ever been directed at these areas, and African Copper intends to systematically explore these trends in 2006. A ground based geophysical induced polarization survey is scheduled to commence shortly which should help in the delineation of further drill targets within this trend. Should any areas be found, drilling could commence in December when the existing drill programme at the Dukwe deposit is completed.

Matsitama Project

The Matsitama Project encompasses a 4,000 square kilometre sedimentary fold belt that provides the Company with exploration potential in conjunction with known mineralization. Two deposits with defined tonnes and grade (as defined by past operators which are not 43-101 compliant) exist within the concession. Beyond these two known deposits, the Matsitama exploration area contains 37 other copper occurrences and two zinc occurrences, many of which are drill-ready. The geochemical database contains over 210,000 samples and shows 147 high amplitude copper-in-soil geochemical anomalies with peak values up to 1,850 ppm Cu over areas as large as 5 square kilometres.

Drilling has recently started at the Thakadu and Makala copper prospects with one diamond drill. Initial drill holes will test the stratigraphy and mineralization of these sedimentary-hosted copper deposits. Disseminated chalcopyrite-bornite mineralization is known to exist over substantial widths, although drilling was conducted to shallow depths of only 140 metres below surface. The deposits are open and appear to lie along strike from each other and the intervening 2 kilometres between the deposits appears to show similar stratigraphy. Exploration between the deposits has been sporadic in the past, and the potential to join the two deposits has implications for tonnage and contained copper. These deposits show a similarity to those observed in the Copperbelt of Zambia and the southern DRC, although they have a slightly higher metamorphic grade.

The Company's goal over the next two years is to conduct an economic evaluation of the Thakadu/Makala copper deposits along with a systematic exploration programme of the vast mineral holdings covering the balance of the Matsitama belt.

African Copper is a multilisted (AIM, TSX, Botswana Stock Exchange) international exploration and mining company. The Company owns the Dukwe Copper Project in Botswana that includes a substantial (18 million tonne) high-grade (about 3.25% Cu) near term production asset. Five drills are currently on-site completing a sulphide delineation programme, and a Bankable Feasibility Study on the open-pit portion of the deposit is on schedule for completion later this year. African Copper expects to commence construction of the Dukwe Project in early 2006. The Company's other interests are the 4,000 sq km Matsitama exploration concession adjacent to Dukwe, which contains two other known copper deposits and numerous base metal exploration targets. African Copper has 52,005,140 ordinary shares outstanding.

Further information about our properties, to download a copy of our Annual Report, any technical report, our AIM prospectus or to access our Press Release Archive please visit www.sedar.com or our website at www.africancopper.com.

This document may contain or refer to forward looking information, including reserve and resource estimates, estimates of future production, exploration and mine development, unit costs, costs of capital projects and timing of commencement of operations and estimates of market conditions, and is based on current expectations that involve a number of business risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from any forward looking statement include, but are not limited to, failure to establish estimated resources and reserves, the grade and recovery of ore which is mined varying from estimates, capital and operating costs varying significantly from estimates, delays in obtaining or failures to obtain required governmental, environmental or other project approvals, inflation, changes in exchange rates, fluctuations in commodity prices, delays in the development of projects and other factors. Forward-looking statements are subject to significant risks and uncertainties, and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from expected results. Readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date hereof and we assume no responsibility to update them or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances.

The Toronto Stock Exchange does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Contact Information

  • African Copper Plc
    David Jones / Joseph Hamilton
    +44 (0)20 7529 7500
    www.africancopper.com
    or
    Numis Securities Limited (NOMAD)
    John Harrison / Nick Westlake
    +44 (0)20 7776 1590
    or
    Parkgreen Communications
    Justine Howarth / Ana Ribeiro
    +44 (0)20 7493 3713