Horizonte Minerals has reported the results of a prefeasibility study (PFS) of its 100% owned Vermelho laterite nickel-cobalt project in Pará state, Brazil. The study confirms Vermelho as a large, high-grade resource that can serve as a low-cost source of nickel sulphate for the battery industry. The economic and technical results of the study support moving the project forward to a full feasibility study.
At full production, the Vermelho project is forecast to produce an average of 25,000 metric tons per year (mt/y) of contained nickel and 1,250 mt/y of contained cobalt, utilizing the high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) process. Initial capital costs are estimated at $652 million, including $97.7 million of contingencies.
A 38-year mine life would generate estimated total cash flows after taxation of $7.3 billion.
The project would support more than 1,800 direct jobs during construction and more than 600 jobs during operation.
The Vermelho project is located in the Carajás mining district, 85 km northwest of the Horizonte’s Araguaia North nickel project. The Vermelho project is planned as an open-pit mining operation that would mine 141.3 million mt of probable mineral reserves at a cut-off of 0.7% nickel to produce a total of 924,000 mt of nickel in nickel sulphate, 36,000 mt of cobalt in cobalt sulphate, and 4.48 million mt of byproduct kieserite fertilizer.
Mine production will be based on conventional open-pit truck-and-excavator mining. Blasting will be necessary for the upper parts of the deposit. Reverse circulation grade control drilling will be completed at 12.5-m x 12.5-m spacing to define waste-ore boundaries.
Due to the wet season, mining, including stockpile re-handling, will be reduced between October and March, as is standard practice in the region.
The mine production schedule targets 1 million mt/y of HPAL feed for the first three years (Stage 1), followed by a doubling of capacity to 2 million mt/y thereafter. The annual mining rate starts at 8 million mt/y and peaks at 12 mt/y between production years 5 and 11. Strip ratios for the deposit are extremely low (0.14:1, waste to ore), consequently waste dumps are relatively small.
The mine supplies higher-grade ore in the early mine life, reaching up to 2% nickel and 0.1% cobalt in the first four years of production.
Processing will include a beneficiation plant to upgrade ore ahead of the HPAL and refining plant, which will produce the sulphates.
The Stage 1 plant and project infrastructure will be constructed over a 31-month period. The nickel and cobalt sulphate products will be transported by road to the port of Vila do Conde for sale to overseas customers.
The kieserite will be transported to consumers within Pará state.