Mercator Minerals reported second quarter production of 9.9 million lb of copper in concentrate and cathode, with 2.8 million lb of molybdenum in concentrate at the Mineral Park mine. Mercator officials, like CEO D. Bruce McLeod, pledged a renewed focus on “optimizing all aspects of operations including ore blending options to maximize head grades, while increasing throughput.”

Despite a quarterly loss of $10 million, the company’s Q2 revenues remained 5% higher than the same quarter year-on-year—primarily from shipping 10.9 million lb of copper and 2.8 million lb of moly during the quarter. Each was 35% and 12% higher, respectively, than in Q2 2012—and partly offset by realized copper and molybdenum prices, which were also 11% and 18% lower.

Cash cost increases for copper, according to Mercator, have been primarily due to mining harder ore, leading to lower throughput rates while increasing operating costs—including $1.9 million for increased drilling and blasting.

Production at Mineral Park, meanwhile, was impacted by mining through harder sections of the deposit while completing dewatering of the Ithaca pit.

These efforts permitted pit mining to resume later in the quarter, added officials. Now that the pit has been dewatered, the ore with higher grades than the other areas being mined should continue providing further blending options for the various ore types, according to Mercator.

Grinding optimizations to Mineral Park's SAG mills made earlier in 2013 also helped increase throughput rates during Q2 to some 45,177 tons per day (t/d) at 6% over Q1, despite processing with a grind ore index of 11.8, 19% harder than ore processed in Q1 2013.

The project, added Mercator, also sustained design throughput rates of 50,000 t/d or more and—after de-watering the Ithaca pit early in Q2—the first bench of the pit, containing acidified ore, was mill-processed.

Given the complex ore body, added company representatives, the focus is to continue determining high grade blends from the Turquoise pit, the altered but higher grade softer ore from the Ithaca pit, and the softer but lower grade ore from the Central pit to maintain throughput of 50,000 t/d. Following these improvements, Mercator has deferred a $5-million pebble crusher in its previously announced capital program.

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