PanAust Ltd. has reported the results of a new feasibility study of the Frieda River copper-gold project in Papua New Guinea that contemplates initial development of a large open-pit operation based on approximately one-quarter of the project’s resources. Plant feed to a conventional processing plant would average about 40 million mt/y to produce averages of 175,000 mt/y of copper and 250,000 oz/y of gold in concentrate over a mine life of 17 years.
The project would have life-of-mine average cash costs of $0.69/lb copper. Preproduction capital to develop the project is estimated at $3.6 billion, excluding the mobile mining fleet and an oil-fired power generation facility.
The proposed open-pit mine would be a large-scale truck and shovel operation. Mine production would average 190,000 mt/d of total material moved, prioritizing higher-grade mineralization and deferring waste. The life-of-mine strip ratio would average 0.67:1 (waste:ore), and life-of-mine mill feed totaling 700 million mt would have an estimated average grade of 0.50% copper and 0.29 g/mt gold.
PanAust owns 80% of the Frieda River project and Highlands Pacific holds the remaining 20%. Under the joint-venture agreement, there is a process for an independent expert to be appointed to provide feedback and peer review of the completed feasibility study.
Frieda River is one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold projects in the world. The total mineral resource is estimated at more than 2.7 billion mt at an average grade of 0.42% copper and 0.23 g/mt gold, containing 12 million mt of copper and 19 million oz of gold. PanAust considers that the optimum approach to development will be multistaged, with the initial project stage forming a platform for subsequent phases of exploration, resource definition and development.
The Frieda River project is located on the border of the Sandaun and East Sepik provinces in northwest Papua New Guinea. Because of the project’s remote location and lack of infrastructure, a reliable logistics chain has been defined to operate between the coastal town of Wewak in East Sepik province and the mine site. The system combines high-capacity river barges operating along the Sepik River with a new access road and pipelines to deliver fuel to the site and to export copper-gold concentrate. A new airport would be constructed 40 km from the mine site to service 50-seat passenger aircraft.
Permitting and associated community consultation and environmental studies are expected to take approximately two years. Following permitting, construction would take approximately six years, leading to potential production in 2024-2025.