Highlands Pacific lauds mineral projects

Business, Normal

The National, Tuesday August 07th, 2012

HIGHLANDS Pacific managing director John Gooding says a lot has been achieved in the past year at Ramu nickel in Madang, Frieda River copper and gold in East Sepik and Star Mountains in Western
He said in the company’s quarterly activities report for the period ended June 30, this year, this was recognised from a corporate perspective in June when the US$1.4 billion PNG Sustainable Development Program invested US$15 million in Highlands and became a cornerstone investor. 
“This new funding will provide working capital and allow us to further advance emerging exploration activities such as Star Mountains near the Ok Tedi mine,” Gooding said.
“The transaction also broadens our already significant relationships in PNG.
“On the Frieda project, Highlands will continue its communication with Xstrata over the coming months about their ongoing role and participation in the joint venture, including the potential for their divestment and new or additional partners, while working through the feasibility study due for delivery in December.”
The report said Ramu nickel’s Kurumbukari mine, Basamuk treatment plant and 135km slurry pipeline to the treatment plant continue to operate as planned while commissioning progressed.
“Ore mined to the end of June totalled 550,000 tonnes while ore transported to the Basamuk treatment plant as slurry via the slurry pipeline to the end of June was 191,000 tonnes,” it said,
“The average grade of the laterite ore mined was 0.94% nickel and 0.10% cobalt.
“The Basamuk treatment plant incorporates three high pressure acid leach (HPAL) trains (autoclaves).
“During the June quarter, the first autoclave was shut down for planned maintenance for six weeks after successfully being load-commissioned. 
“The second autoclave also commenced load commissioning and operated for much of the quarter before being shut down in July for planned maintenance.”
“About 2,750 tonnes (dry) of mixed nickel cobalt hydroxide intermediate product has been produced to the end of June.”
The report said field work at Frieda River in relation to the feasibility study scheduled for completion in December 2010 was essentially complete, with some continued base line monitoring and community affairs and landownership determination programmes continuing.
“Xstrata as operator manager continues to advance the feasibility study with a natural gas power assessment well underway, with a project site reconfiguration review and general optimisation of the project execution model,” it said.
“In June, Xstrata notified Highlands that it was undertaking an investor assessment of the Frieda River project.
“Highlands is in discussion with Xstrata regarding this process, including its pre-emptive right, together with the ongoing work on the feasibility study which Xstrata has restated its commitment to completing by end of this year.”
In Star Mountains, Highlands’ estimates spending US$8-10 million this year to test a further four to five prospects in the area post the successful drilling at the Olgal prospect.
Drilling at Olgal was completed in March with 12 of 14 holes encountering copper and gold mineralisation.
“Exploration in the June quarter was hampered by mechanical repairs to the two drill rigs,” the report said.
“The drilling contractor has taken corrective action and made a number of changes to ensure better performance going forward.”