Yamana has recently received the permit at its Jacobina mine in the Bahia state in northeastern Brazil to increase throughput to 10,000 metric tons per day (mt/d). Throughput is expected to reach 8,500 mt/d by the second quarter of 2022. At this processing rate, production at Jacobina will increase through the second half of 2022 with a full year at a production level of 230,000 ounces per year (oz/y) beginning in 2023.
Jacobina received the permit on December 2. This is the culmination of a two-year process of the company working closely with government agencies to ensure that Jacobina continues to operate in a responsible, sustainable way to the benefit of all stakeholders, according to the company. Receipt of the permit not only marks a significant milestone in the Phase 2 ramp up to 230,000 oz of gold per year, but also facilitates the future Phase 3 expansion to bring production up to 270,000 oz/y, according to the company.
With the accelerated permitting and 2021 outperformance, the mine is now expected to achieve the Phase 2 throughput objective of 8,500 mt/d by the second quarter of 2022, approximately one year earlier than planned. Since May, throughput has been stable at the previously permitted rate of 7,500 mt/d and is well positioned to immediately start ramping up to 8,500 mt/d. For the past six months, Jacobina has continued with incremental improvements to increase mining and processing capacity in anticipation of receiving the expansion permit. The company said it intends to progressively increase throughput over the next six to seven months.
The ramp up to 8,500 mt/d will be achieved through a continuation of incremental improvements to debottleneck the processing plant. Optimization of the crushing circuit, which did not require the installation of new equipment, is already complete. During the first half of 2022, several additional initiatives are expected to be completed, including optimizing the grinding process with the installation of ultrasonic density meters to optimize ore feed control to the mills and increasing the capacity of the electrowinning circuit. In 2023, further initiatives could be undertaken to support recovery rates at the higher throughput level, but depending on performance, some of these initiatives may have the flexibility to be deferred until the Phase 3 expansion.
To support the higher processing rates, Jacobina continues to increase underground mining capacity and has prepared an inventory of lower grade stopes and stockpiled ore on surface to provide supplementary mill feed during the ramp up phase. With the higher-than-planned processing rates that are now anticipated, the company expects to continue drawing from this supplementary ore into the first half of 2022. New mobile mining equipment has been delivered to Jacobina with additional equipment planned to be received in the first quarter of 2022 to facilitate the increased mining capacity. A modest increase in underground development is also expected in 2022. The accelerated mine plan shows mill feed grades increasing over the next two years.
The tailings storage strategy is aligned with the accelerated expansion timeline. Construction of the latest phase of the tailings storage facility was recently completed, providing tailings storage capacity at 8,500 mt/d until the end of 2023. Further permitted phases of the tailings storage facility provide adequate storage capacity to support the life of mine plan. A comprehensive tailings storage strategy is well advanced to provide additional storage solutions including hydraulic backfill, paste fill and a dry-stack tailings storage facility.
The company’s simplified approach for the Phase 2 expansion reduces capital expenditures, increases energy efficiency, and derisks the project. Capital costs for the Phase 2 expansion are estimated at approximately $20 million, with $15 million remaining to be spent in 2022.
The Phase 3 expansion to increase throughput to 10,000 mt/d is being evaluated. Engineering is advancing in parallel with Phase 2, with a feasibility study for Phase 3 scheduled for completion in 2023.