African Copper Plc
TSX : ACU
AIM : ACU

African Copper Plc

April 03, 2006 01:00 ET

African Copper Plc: Dukwe Development Plan Finalized

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - April 3, 2006) - African Copper Plc (TSX:ACU)(AIM:ACU)(BSE:African Copper)("African Copper" or the "Company") is pleased to release a technical report (the "Technical Report") from its independent consultants A.C.A Howe International Limited ("Howe") covering all the work that the Company has carried out in 2005/6. The Technical Report also outlines a development plan for the Dukwe deposit.

- Estimates of the contained copper in the northern 600 metres of the 2,000 metre Dukwe deposit has increased to approximately 600 million pounds of copper (indicated resources of 39.2 million tonnes at 0.71% Cu with no cut-off). In the Technical Report Howe recommends an underground exploration programme to convert the deeper sulphide resources into reserves that may ultimately to be included in a mining plan. This programme is estimated by Howe to cost US$ 32 million over a 2 to 3 year period.

- Underground exploration will simultaneously allow access to the near surface (above 170m vertical depth) supergene and transition indicated resources estimated at 4.24 million tonnes at 2.43% Cu, cut and fully diluted including mining recovery. This material could be used to feed a flotation concentrator at the rate of 1,000,000 tonnes per year.

- The incremental investment, estimated at US$ 49 million, for the construction of the flotation concentrator and related facilities (the "Process Plant") indicates an internal rate of return ("IRR") of 16.9% based on 100% equity utilizing only the 4.24 million tonnes of near surface indicated resources. Base case annual production is estimated to be about 44 million pounds of copper for 4.5 years. The IRR and project economics may be improved by an extension of the mine life.

- Further resources to extend the mine life beyond this initial phase may exist in the underlying sulphides, and the underground exploration program to convert resources into reserves will be completed concurrently with mining of the near surface supergene and transition resources.

Engineering Studies

African Copper has been active throughout 2005 and early 2006 at its Dukwe Project in north-eastern Botswana conducting a major exploration and engineering programme. These 2005/06 programmes and future recommended programmes have been summarized in the report by Howe entitled "Technical Report on the Dukwe Copper Project and the Matsitama Prospecting Licences Botswana, Africa," dated March 30, 2006 that can be found on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on the Company's website at www.africancopper.com. The programmes that have been reviewed include the following:

- a detailed engineering study focused on a 2,250 tonnes per day ("t/d") open pit heap-leach solvent extraction-electrowinning ("SX/EW") facility to treat the near surface oxide, supergene and transition material that exists within 170 metres of surface;

- process plant design and costing on a 3,000 t/d crushing, ball mill and flotation plant with dry stacked tailings for treating the supergene, transition and deeper sulphide portions of the deposit;

- a geotechnical drilling program to define pit-slope stability;

- metallurgical testwork including bench scale flotation batch tests and locked cycle tests on the sulphide and supergene portions of the deposit;

- further column tests on the oxide and supergene mineralization;

- mining investigations for a selective underground mining operation to support the flotation plant, including underground access options, mining methodology and geotechnical testing, design and costing;

- updates of environmental, archaeological, and water resources studies and permitting applications;

- access road design and construction;

- copper concentrate sales and marketing investigations;

- a 38,000 metre resource definition drill program consisting of metallurgical holes, twinned and scissor verification holes, and outline and infill holes.

Dukwe development plan

The Dukwe deposit development plan as recommended by Howe includes:

- underground trial mining and exploration, and

- construction of a flotation concentrator.

African Copper plans to commence the development of the underground access in early Q3 of this year, subject to arranging appropriate financing and awarding excavation contracts. This program will allow access to both the near surface resources (above 170 m vertical depth), and provide a platform for further exploration of the underlying sulphides. The underground development plan
for Dukwe has been estimated to cost about US$32.3 million.

Howe concludes in the Technical Report that the construction of the Process Plant can be justified if the current near surface indicated resource is extracted through the proposed underground exploration access. Howe has investigated the project economics for the construction of the Process Plant based solely on the near surface material bearing the full cost of the plant.

The near surface deposit contains high grade supergene and transition indicated resources estimated at 4.24 million tonnes at 2.43% Cu. These grades and tonnage include 12.5% dilution at 0.5% Cu cut-off and a 90% mining extraction. Underground trial mining is required to verify these dilution and extraction parameters and to move these resources into a reserve category, but this
will be done concurrently with the development of underground access.

The Technical Report proposes that the Company construct a 1,000,000 tonnes per year processing plant which includes 3-stage crushing followed by floatation circuits. Tailings will be dry stacked and a paste backfill plant has been sized. The estimated capital cost for this portion of the project, including all surface infrastructures, EPCM, contingency and working capital, is US$49 million.

Based on the indicated resources that are proposed to be extracted in the first 4.5 years, the operation could produce approximately 44 million pounds of copper per year at a cost of about US$31 per tonne (cash costs between US$0.60 and US$0.70 per pound). Including treatment, refining and transportation, the total operating costs are estimated at US$49 per tonne. Process recoveries are estimated to be 86%. Based on 100% equity, the Technical Report shows that the
return on the incremental capital required for the construction of the Process Plant has a 16.9% IRR and a payback of 2.1 years.

The project economics do not include the US$32.3 million cost of the underground development programme, nor does it include estimates for interest and government royalties. The financial model incorporates fixed copper prices based on the current LME forward contract prices using US$1.80/lb for the first year of mining, US$1.50/lb for the second year, US$1.30/lb for the third year and US$1.20/lb thereafter. Based on the sensitivity analysis undertaken by Howe, copper grade and copper price have the greatest impact on cash flow and therefore the return of the Process Plant capital investment. This assessment is preliminary in nature and there is no certainty that it will be realized.

During the initial years of production, exploration of the underlying sulphide portions of the deposit may result in additional material being added to the mining plan. This may extend the mine life assuming the proposed underground exploration confirms the grade, tonnage and continuity of the underlying sulphide resources. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have
demonstrated economic viability.

The Technical Report is compliant with National Instrument 43-101. Unless otherwise indicated, technical information contained in this release is based on information compiled by Howe. Messrs. F. Lee, H. Coates, M. Newbury, and D. Titaro, who are employees of, or consultants to Howe and are independent of African Copper are the qualified persons (as defined in National Instrument 43-101) overseeing preparation of the Howe report and are responsible for the technical information contained therein . This press release has been prepared under F. Lee's supervision.

In addition to the Dukwe Project the Company's other interests are the 4,000 sq km Matsitama exploration concession adjacent to Dukwe, which contains two known copper deposits and numerous base metal exploration targets.

African Copper is a tri-listed (AIM, TSX, Botswana Stock Exchange) international exploration company. African Copper has approximately 52 million shares outstanding.

This document may contain "forward looking statements". Forward looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the future price of copper, the estimation of mineral reserves and resources, timing of the development of the Company's projects, budgets, capital and operating cost estimates and forecasts, results of mining operations, mining extraction and recovery rates, the conversion of mineral resources to mineral reserves, estimations of mine life, success of exploration activities, permitting time lines, requirements for additional capital, government regulation of mining operations, environmental risks, unanticipated reclamation expenses, title disputes or claims and the timing and possible outcome of pending and future regulatory applications. In certain cases, forward looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as "plans", "expects" or "does not expect", "is expected", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "intends", "anticipates" or "does not anticipate", or "believes", or variations of such words and phrases or state that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "should", "might" or "will be taken", "occur" or "be achieved" and include the negative variation of such phrases. Forward looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of the Company or the Company's projects, or any of them, to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward looking statements. Such factors include, among others, risks related to conclusions of economic evaluations; changes in project parameters as plans continue to be refined; future prices of copper; unexpected increases in capital or operating costs; possible variations in mineral resources or reserves, grade or recovery rates; failure of equipment or processes to operate as anticipated; accidents, labour disputes and other risks of the mining industry; delays in obtaining governmental consents, permits, licences and registrations or financing or in the completion of development or construction activities. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual actions, events or results to differ materially from those described in forward looking statements, there may be other factors that cause actions, events or results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. There can be no assurance that forward looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward looking statements.

For further information please visit www.sedar.com or our website at www.africancopper.com

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 7321 3721
    or
    Numis Securities Limited (NOMAD)
    John Harrison / Nick Westlake
    +44 (0)20 7776 1590
    or
    Parkgreen Communications
    Justine Howarth / Ana Ribeir
    +44 (0)20 7493 3713