African Copper Plc
AIM : ACU

African Copper Plc

September 24, 2010 02:00 ET

African Copper Plc: Production and Exploration Update

Receipt of Environmental Approval and Development Permit for Thakadu Copper-Silver Deposit

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Sept. 24, 2010) - African Copper Plc (AIM:ACU)(BOTSWANA:AFRICAN COPPER) ("ACU" or "the Company"), the AIM-listed copper producer and exploration company, currently focused on Botswana, announces a production update on the Company's Mowana Mine and the commencement of mining operations at the nearby Thakadu deposit ahead of the Company's annual general meeting to be held today.

At the Mowana Mine the Company continues to make solid progress towards reaching commercial production levels. Production continued to increase between June and August 2010. From 1 June to 31 August 2010 Mowana produced 4,450 tonnes of concentrate, at an average concentrate grade of 23%. Mowana sold 4,503 tonnes during this period, generating net revenue of $4.72 million.

  June 2010 July 2010 August 2010
Ore processed (tonnes) 60,933 55,607 70,206
Cu grade (%) 1.26% 1.02% 1.17%
Recovery Cu (%) 38.3% 45.7% 68.1%
Concentrate produced (tonnes) 938 1,195 2,317
Concentrate grade (%) 21.8% 21.7% 24.2%
Copper produced in concentrate (tonnes) 204 259 561
Concentrates sold (tonnes) 943 1,019 2,541
Payable copper sold (tonnes) 198 192 574

The Company continued to address the issues required to lift the performance of Mowana to the next level. Amec Minproc, an international engineering firm, is undertaking the engineering design study on the Secondary and Tertiary ("SnT") crushing circuit to enable it to operate at capacity year round. While this work has been in progress, the SnT has performed well as the feedstock is currently dry. Management has also budgeted for the addition of a washing plant to screen and wash out the fine fraction from the ore before it enters the primary crusher ore stockpile, in order to more permanently alleviate demands on the SnT. Since lead times on delivery of the washing plant and certain SnT components will not allow for installation prior to this year's rainy season, the installation has been delayed for completion until November 2011 (prior to the next rainy season) to conserve capital. The combination of the existing SnT and mobile crushing capacity that was secured earlier in the year should alleviate SnT capacity restrictions that were experienced during last year's rainy season. In an effort to further conserve capital, a dense media separation plant, originally planned for installation in the first half of 2011, has also been put on hold.

Migration from the Mowana dry tailings facility to a more conventional wet tailings system is progressing on schedule. Approval to commence construction of the wet tailings facility was granted on 21st May 2010 and construction of the initial phase of the wet tailings facility is anticipated to be completed in October 2010.

In March 2010 ACU resumed work on the neighbouring Matsitama Exploration Project. The project encompasses the highly prospective Matsitama Schist Belt and consists of four licences totalling 2,276km2 in extent. Exploration expenditure commitments must be incurred by mid-2011 to allow ACU to apply for retention licences over a portion or portions of the exploration permits beyond this period.

To ensure that exploration commitments are met and exploration expenditures optimally spent, ACU has hired an experienced exploration manager to oversee the project over the next year and secured the services of a panel of internationally recognized geological experts to help generate new exploration strategies, refine mineral emplacement and deposit models, and assist in target generation.

Since May 2010, four workshops have been held on site in Botswana with various members of the expert panel. Work completed included a review of the company's extensive exploration datasets, the reinterpretation of the geophysics data, field-based structural studies, and the submission of a suite of samples for age dating purposes.

Ten new and highly prospective targets have been identified during the review process by both the expert panel and Matsitama exploration staff and fast-track exploration programmes have been designed to allow the targets to be assessed within the available time frame. Exploration budgets have been formulated to ensure that exploration moneys are optimally spent. Exploration drilling and geophysical surveys will commence at Matsitama in late-September.

Separately, the Company is pleased to announce the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment and the receipt of a Development Permit for its Thakadu copper-silver deposit some 70 km from the Mowana Mine in the northeast of Botswana. This allows mining to start, in line with the approved Archaeological Impact Assessment, ahead of the grant of a full Mining Licence from the Botswana Government The Mining Licence is expected to be granted shortly but commercial mining operations have now commenced.

Thakadu's high grade mineral resources will be developed in an initially small scale (and relatively low cost) open-pit operation with low pre-strip mining requirements and will share the Mowana Mine processing infrastructure and management. As reported in ACU's Management Discussion & Analysis, announced in June 2010, the principal operational requirement will be to establish sustained transport between Thakadu and Mowana and the Company is currently finalizing transportation plans for the project which are currently being undertaken by truck.

A Project Manager was appointed at the start of March 2010 and an initial mining contract awarded to a Botswana company, Strata Mining, until end March 2011. Full mining activities have commenced with a progressive increase in mining volumes anticipated during the remainder of 2010.

SAMREC compliant Proven & Probable In-pit Mineral Reserves, at a 0.5% Cu cut-off, as announced on 21 December 2009, are:

Category Tonnage Copper Contained Metal
  (Mt) (%) (Tonnes Cu)
 
Proven Reserves Nil Nil Nil
Probable Reserves 2.77 2.15 59,477
Sub-total 2.77 2.15 59,477
 
In-pit Inferred Resources Nil Nil Nil

With mining commencing at Thakadu, the Company's focus will now shift to the Makala area as the next logical deposit to develop in close proximity to Thakadu. The Makala copper deposit is contiguous along strike to the northwest of Thakadu within the same broad metasedimentary package. Historical diamond drilling totalling 22,445 metres, and diamond drilling carried out in 2006, of 5,103 metres by African Copper, has defined copper ore over a strike length of 1,800 metres. Current inferred mineral resources from an African Copper internal estimate, made in August 2010, total 10,276,186 tonnes at 1.18% TCu (at a cut off grade of 0.0% Cu). The Makala deposit remains open at depth and further exploration drilling will be carried out. Sufficient geological data/ information exist at this stage to allow a scoping study for an underground mining operation to be undertaken.

Commenting, Jordan Soko, Acting Chief Executive of African Copper Plc, said, "We are making good progress on driving Mowana production levels higher and are successfully addressing problem areas. The addition of the washing plant in due course and completion of the wet tailings facility will continue this process.

"The development of Thakadu provides significant economic benefits to our mining operations in Botswana. We will be able to substantially increase capacity utilisation of the enhanced infrastructure at Mowana and take our total production to a higher level. I am delighted that we have been able to announce a further successful plank in our business strategy. We can now switch our exploration focus to the nearby Makala prospect as we look forward to proving up further resources in African Copper's highly prospective licence areas."

The technical information in this announcement has been reviewed and approved by David De'Ath, BSc (Hons), MSc, GDE-Mining, MIMM and MAusIMM, the Company's Manager, Geology, of the Mowana Mine for the purposes of the current Guidance Note for Mining, Oil and Gas Companies issued by the London Stock Exchange in June 2009.

For further information please visit www.africancopper.com.

Notes to Editors:

African Copper Plc is an AIM-listed copper producer and exploration company, currently focused on Botswana. The Company's flagship project is the copper producing open pit Mowana mine. ACU also owns the rights to the adjacent Thakadu-Makala deposit. Both deposits are situated on the highly prospective Matsitama belt, located close to Botswana©s second largest city, Francistown, in the north- eastern part of the country.

This press release contains forward-looking information. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, that address activities, events or developments that the Company believes, expects or anticipates will or may occur in the future including, without limitation, statements regarding the ability of the Company's action plan for developing the Thakadu high grade mineral resources, the timing of receiving the mining licence at Thakadu, the ability to establish sustained transportation arrangements between Thakadu and Mowana and the timing of finalizing transportation plans, the timing of operations commencing at Thakadu and the sufficiency of geological data/information to allow a scoping study to be undertaken at Makala are forward-looking information. This forward-looking information reflects the current expectations or beliefs of the Company based on information currently available to the Company. Forward-looking information is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that may cause the actual results of the Company to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking information, and even if such actual results are realized or substantially realized, there can be no assurance that they will have the expected consequences to, or effects on the Company.
Factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations include, among other things, risks related to failure to convert estimated mineral resources to reserves, conclusions of economic evaluations, changes in project parameters as plans continue to be refined, the possibility that actual circumstances will differ from the estimates and assumptions used in the current Thakadu mining plan, future prices of copper, unexpected increases in capital or operating costs, possible variations in mineral resources, possible delays or ability to contract the necessary transportation arrangements between Thakadu and Mowana, 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, political risks arising from operating in Africa, changes in regulations affecting the Company and the other risks disclosed in the Company's most recent annual information form filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. All forward-looking information speaks only as of the date hereof and, except as may be required by applicable securities laws, the Company disclaims any intent or obligation to update any forward-looking information, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or otherwise. Although the Company believes that its expectations reflected in the forward-looking information, as well as the assumptions inherent therein, are reasonable, forward-looking information is not a guarantee of future performance and, accordingly, undue reliance should not be put on such information due to the inherent uncertainty therein.

Contact Information

  • African Copper Plc
    Brad Kipp
    Chief Financial Officer
    +1 (416) 847 4866
    bradk@africancopper.com
    or
    Canaccord Genuity (NOMAD and Broker)
    Andrew Chubb/Tarica Mpinga
    +44 (0) 20 7050 6500
    or
    Tavistock Communications (PR and IR)
    Simon Hudson/James Midmer
    +44 (0) 20 7920 3150