SOUTHWEST Pacific Bauxite Company has been granted a Mining Lease by the Solomon Islands Government to mine bauxite on Vaghena Island. The project has total JORC-compliant resources of 30.1 million tonnes, which translate into an in-situ mining inventory of 29.1 million tonnes.
Southwest Pacific Bauxite (HK) Ltd (SWPB) holds a 75% interest in Solomon Bauxite Ltd (SBL), which holds 100% of the Vaghena Island Bauxite Project. The project comprises tenements covering around 45sqkm on the island’s eastern side.
The low-lying island is relatively small, with a land area of around 78sqkm, and is between the large islands of Choiseul and Santa Isabel. It comprises a succession of marine calcareous sediments and raised reef limestone ridges and plateaus overlain by lateritic soil which varies in thickness from 0.3 to 12 metres.
Bauxite generally constitutes the upper part of the laterite profile, but in a number of places, particularly over limestone, the total laterite profile is bauxite.
The bauxite was discovered in 1968 by CRA Exploration during a reconnaissance. Initial scout drilling and assaying were encouraging and a mineral resource evaluation program was completed by November 1971. The vast majority of the CRA data remains available to SBL.
In 2013, Breakaway Mining Services developed a digital resource model and resource estimate, which complies with JORC 2012 standards.
In August 2014 SBL completed a feasibility study which involved conventional open pit mining and processing to produce 1.2 million tonnes of dry bauxite product for sale into the export market in the first year of operation, expanding to a sustainable annual rate of 2 million tonnes by year 3.
The study outlined a robust investment scenario with attractive returns. However, SBL commissioned Breakaway to prepare a modified staged development plan taking into account various factors. This plan incorporates many of the initial study’s features and strategies, and has two construction and operational phases.
Stage 1 aims to gather operating data to be used to optimise final design features while building annual production to 500,000 tonnes. Stage 2 expands production to the sustainable target of 2 million tonnes.
The mined bauxite will be delivered to a Run of Mine area near the centre of the island where drying is undertaken to improve handling characteristics of the bauxite and reduce moisture content.