After continuing commissioning progress at KAZ Minerals Aktogay Sulphide Project in eastern Kazakhstan the sulphide plant has been declared commercial. The project is expected to meet or exceed the upper end of its 2017 copper production guidance range of 70,000 to 85,000 tonnes.

KAZ says that this is due to higher than anticipated copper grades at the top of the ore body and the successful ramp-up of the copper concentrator.

Revenues, operating costs and interest expenses associated with the Aktogay sulphide plant will be recorded in the group’s income statement from October 2017. The third quarter production results will be set out in the quarterly production report and interim management statement to be released on October 26.

KAZ Minerals’ chief executive officer Olga Novachuk said, “I am pleased to announce that we have achieved commercial production at the Aktogay sulphide plant, the second of our two major growth projects.

“During the construction and ramp-up of the projects we have consistently delivered against our operational and financial targets and we now look forward to reaching design capacity at Bozshakol this year and at Aktogay in 2018.”

Construction work on the Aktogay project started in the first half of 2013 and commissioning of the main sulphide concentrator began in December 2016. Copper concentrate production from sulphide ore commenced in February 2017. The plant has an annual ore processing capacity of 25 million tonnes.

Aktogay is a large-scale mine with a mine life of more than 50 years and average copper grades of 0.37% in oxide and 0.33% in sulphide.

KAZ Minerals operates six producing mines. The three mines in East Region are underground while the Bozshakol, Aktogay and Bozymchak mines are open pit. Bozshakol and Aktogay are in the Pavlodar and East regions while Bozymchak is in the Kyrgyz Republic.

The mines generally contain sulphide ores and by-products that vary in quantities and proportions between mines. The main by-products are zinc, silver, gold and molybdenum. Each step in the copper process focuses on removing increasing amounts of unwanted materials, turning ore into concentrate and then finished metals.

Bozshakol commenced production of copper concentrate from sulphide ore in February 2016. It is a first quartile asset on the global cost curve with annual ore processing capacity of 39 million tonnes and a mine life of 40 years at a copper grade of 0.36%.

Since completion of restructuring in 2014, KAZ Minerals no longer carries out smelting and refining activities internally, instead sending copper concentrate directly to export markets or to external providers of smelting and refining services in Kazakhstan.