AFGHANISTAN – Bids sought for deposit

Afghanistan’s government is inviting bids from international companies to develop a major iron ore deposit as well as an associated steel mill.
The Hajigak deposit, 130km west of the capital Kabul, has an estimated 2 billion tonne iron ore resource, making it the largest in Asia.
The tender process for the mine and mill complex, which is estimated to cost about $12 billion to develop, will begin shortly.
The deposit was first drilled by the Soviets in the 1960s and geological information is sketchy at best. The Afghan government will allow all interested parties to make site visits and undertake their own assessments of Hajigak.
The government had previously shortlisted seven Asian companies as potential buyers but the process was put on hold due to the global recession. The interested companies included Saudi Arabia’s Al-Tuwairqi, Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and Vedanta Resources.
A major difference between Hajigak and established iron-ore sources is believed to be grade as it only has an iron content of about 62% whereas Brazilian and Australian ores are on average 65% or higher.
Other hurdles include power and other infrastructure, and skills. Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Sharani says abundant water resources in the region could be converted to hydro power.
He says safety isn’t a concern for the project. “In certain parts of Afghanistan security is a constraint. The iron ore deposit is situated in one of the most secure areas of the country, security is not an issue there.”
Wahidullah Sharani says the government is trying to woo investors into its mining and agricultural sectors so the country can wean itself off first-world hand outs.
Already, MCC is building the $4.4 billion Aynak copper mine which is due to start producing in three to four years.

AUSTRALIA – Boddington ramp up on track

Production at Newmont’s Boddington Gold Project in Western Australia (WA) is expected to reach full production by the end of this calendar year.
Newmont Asia Pacific’s regional group executive – operations Philip Stephenson says the planned 12 month ramp-up schedule at Boddington, 130km southeast of Perth, is on track and currently about 70% complete.
The first gold at Boddington was poured and shipped in September last year with recoveries for gold and copper above design expectations.
He says, “We anticipate reaching full capacity late in 2010 as this is a mega project and correspondingly takes time to ramp-up.
“Newmont will, however, continue to further develop this underexplored and highly prospective greenstone belt – so do not be surprised if this operation goes for at least 30, maybe 40 years.”
Newmont is also a 50% owner in WA’s giant Superpit gold mine at Kalgoorlie, as well as the Jundee mine in WA, Tanami mine in the Northern Territory and Waihi gold in New Zealand.
Philip Stephenson says the operating outlook for Newmont for 2010 is total gold output of 5.3 million to 5.5 million ounces at around US$450-480 an ounce which is expected to improve to around US310-340 an ounce with copper credits for Boddington and Batu Hijau taken into account.

AUSTRALIA – Copper Hill assay results

Golden Cross Resources has received promising assay results from a program to upgrade resources by exploration of peripheral zones at its Copper Hill copper-gold project in Central New South Wales.
Seven holes totalling 1519 metres have been completed to date in the current 4000 metre drill program.
Assays received from the first hole in the program include 21 metres @ 0.51% copper and 0.18 grams/tonne gold from 102 metres and 13 metres @ 0.28 grams/tonne gold from 120 metres.
This hole was sited to provide grade information at the northwestern extremities of Copper Hill where the current block model is sparse or fragmented and to provide a geochemical vector for sitting a future deeper hole.
It was also sited to test extensions to another intercept of 40 metres @ 0.3% copper obtained in an earlier hole 50 metres to south.
Another hole in the current program has intersected a zone of altered and strongly stock-worked volcanics with high sulphide, mainly pyrite, content. Assays are pending.
Golden Cross is a multi-commodity global explorer, which has formed a strategic alliance with CUMIC subsidiary HQ Mining Resources providing access to capital and mining and processing equipment from China.
Golden Cross is continuing to progress its Copper Hill Project and is accelerating its exploration programs with drilling completed at Burra and Rast in NSW, and Mulga Tank in Western Australia. Further drilling is also planned at Cargo in NSW.
Large prospective areas are under application for gold and base metals in South Australia and Panama and coal in Queensland.

AUSTRALIA – First Nullagine contracts

BC Iron has awarded the first key construction and services contracts for the Nullagine Iron Ore Joint Venture in Western Australia’s East Pilbara as development activities gather momentum.
The award of the first key contracts, the value of which falls within feasibility study estimates, marks another milestone as BC Iron moves towards bringing Nullagine into production later this year, becoming the Pilbara’s next iron ore exporter.
The contracts include construction of the Stage I, 60-man camp at site, which has been awarded to Western Australian company, Complete Portables.
Work has started on planning and construction of the first stage of the accommodation village, which will be used for final in-fill drilling and to complete the remaining heritage surveys. Pending receipt of government and regulatory approvals, the accommodation village will subsequently be expanded to house 150 employees when production begins at Nullagine later this year.
It is expected the planning, construction and delivery of Stage I of the camp will take about two months to complete.
BC Iron has awarded the ore haulage contract for Nullagine to Western Australian transport and logistics company, Mitchell West. The agreement covers the transport of Nullagine iron ore to the rail infrastructure of JV partner Fortescue Metals Group, a journey of 55km.
Ore will be transported using 360-tonne powered road trains, which are significantly larger than conventional road trains, thus increasing overall efficiency and reducing costs.
These specialized road trains are in high demand and as such, BC Iron has moved quickly to finalise this contract and will ensure that other long-lead-time items are managed similarly within the project timeframe.
Following the decision by FMG to fast track development of the Christmas Creek rail line and loading spur, BC Iron decided to move directly to a targeted start-up annual production rate of 3 million tonnes based on the construction of the purpose-built haul road.

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