We all know that capital is extremely difficult to raise right now and very few mining projects are being initiated. Sadly this includes some very fine properties that despite their included high grades just don’t seem to be attracting funding. Those projects that are fortunate enough to attract investors frequently need to part with a higher level of equity with the net result that the outcome is likely to be less attractive and less flexible to the owner.
What if these projects could be brought on-line with far more modest funding, and grown internally? Starting small is nothing new, and even if the start capital is low it is no guarantee that the project will succeed, or be worth pursuing for modest returns at this scale. What is different about this latest initiative is that it the project is not intended to remain in the small league, but to grow rapidly through logically planned increments, each of which is funded from the previous stage.
A plant for all scales and feed types
When APT created plants to suit various scale projects the main motivation was to cater to the various market sectors in these size bands from Artisanals to Juniors. Plants were designed and built for feeds of 3, 10, 20 and 80tph, with a 250tph option on the drawing board. Within each of these bands, plants exist for alluvial, hard rock and tailings, and also combinations of these.
All of the designs are modular so that components can be easily added or subtracted. Maximum flexibility is therefore available so the precise definition of the resource is not that critical from the outset and the plant can be adapted to changing circumstances.
Many process options
The unit processes include scrubbing ore disintegration, crushing, impacting, fine milling, free gold gravity concentration, bulk gravity concentration for sulphides etc, CIP/CIL including elution etc.
So for example, a project starting out scrubbing surface rubbles or oxide zone may then add in a hard rock section to deal with transition ores and ultimately progress to add ball milling and a CIP or CIL circuit.
The staged development concept is depicted pictorially below. Additions are truly modular, requiring a minimum of additional infrastructure and site preparation to implement.
Fig 1: APT Staged Development System
Progressive size Increments
Some of the range of APT’s unit operations are shown below, illustrating the wide spread of throughput available:
Fig 2: APT's RG Scrubber Size Range (L to R: RG30 - 3tph, RG100 - 10tph, RG200 - 20tph, RG800 - 80tph)
Fig 3: APT's Tritank Range (L to R: TT20 - 20m³, TT80 - 80m³, TT200 - 200m³, TT800 - 800m³)
The staged development system is available within each of the APT size bands, so, for example, a project wanting to stick to 10tph scale because of mining constraints can nevertheless grow at that scale from alluvial through milling to a full blown CIP addition.
Rapid implementation and rapid returns
APT plants are fully comprehensive of everything necessary to begin production, including spares and tools. The plants are pre-fabricated so that assembly time on site is rapid and trouble free and since generators are included in the package startup is independent of local input. On site assembly and commissioning can be achieved in as little as four days.
Fig 4: Relative time frame of APT Junior Mining system vs conventional project
Both capital and operating costs of APT modular plants are well below those of large conventional systems, so payback can be achieved in months rather than years.
Fig 5: APT Junior Mining Early Production Plant, Nigeria. On-site installation: 4 days. On time, to spec, in budget.
Growing the project in manageable steps from a small beginning
Both scale and degree of complexity are therefore available in a modular format. A developer or investor wishing to grow their project from a modest beginning may therefore initiate it with a relatively modest capital outlay and then re-invest the returns generated from the project itself to implement either the next degree of complexity (if required) or reach the next size throughput stage. It may therefore be feasible within the time scale of the conventional mine development cycle to have grown the project to full viability through total internal funding.
Conventional exploration may continue to substantiate longer term mine life and reserve delineation, but rather than being a pre-requisite for production, it may indeed be funded from early production. This stage-wise growth and reinvestment, termed ‘Saw-Tooth Growth’, is depicted below:
Fig 6: Stag-wise Saw Tooth growth through re-investment in the next module for junior mining developers
Early production confirms the flowsheet
Apart from generating revenue from inception, early production confirms the process and through the ability to add and subtract unit operation modules various flowsheet configurations can be tested and optimised. Expensive downstream plant mistakes can therefore be avoided from the outset, generating confidence in the ore body, the project and the implementing team.
The easiest project to fund is a proven project, and those in the junior mining sector would benefit from taking advantage of this. Early production may well be a means to firming up a project towards that objective, or it may even negate the need for external funding altogether. Junior mining investors would be more willing to put money into that than waiting years for a project that may not get off the ground. Lower the risk, prove the resource, increase the profit.
If you are in junior mining or want to know more about our views on this approach, you are welcome to contact us and we can arrange a meeting and get the discussion going.