Alacer Gold’s board of directors has approved construction of the Çöpler sulphide project at its 80% owned Çöpler gold mine in the Erzincan province, eastern Turkey. The Çöpler mine has been processing oxide ore via an open-pit, heap-leach process since late 2010. A definitive feasibility study of sulphide ore processing via whole ore pressure oxidation was completed in June 2014.

Alacer is forecasting 2016 production from Çöpler’s oxide operations at between 150,000 and 170,000 oz at all-in sustaining costs of $575 to $625/oz. The heap-leach operation will continue in parallel with the planned sulphide operation as long as leachable ore is available.

With the sulphide project factored into long-term planning, Çöpler’s estimated mine life now exceeds 20 years, with remaining gold production forecast at 4 million oz. First gold pour from the sulphide project is scheduled for the third quarter of 2018, and the plant is expected to achieve its initial design throughput rate of 1.9 million mt/y by the end of 2019.

Gold recovery from the sulphide plant will average 96% over the life of the mine. Twin horizontal autoclaves will provide for incremental improvements to increase the throughput rate to 2.2 million mt/y by 2021.

Sulphide project capital expenditures are estimated at $744 million, with $697 million remaining to be spent as of May 1. The bulk of the spending is related to plant development. Sulphide mining will be based on extension of the current open pit. Life-of-mine, all-in costs are forecast at $844/oz. Project payback is forecast at three years from start of sulphide gold production.

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