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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Copper: Latest News: July 13th 2009


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:: SAG Mill Breakdown at Panaust's Copper/Gold/Silver Mine in Laos Prompts Force Majeure Call

Australian junior PanAust reports that one of the two 6.5MW electric motors driving the SAG (Semi Autogenous Grinding) mill at the company's Phu Kham copper gold mine in Laos failed. The mill is an essential part of the processing operation and production will, in effect, be halted until the mill can be repaired. Consequently the company has declared force majeure on its shipments of concentrate to its customers for a period of 30 days.

The mill motor failure is the second such failure in three months - the other being an identical motor failure on one of the plant's ball mills in March which meant that the one spare motor in the workshops has been used to replace that, while the first failed motor is repaired. This is expected to be delivered back to the plant next month.

Motor failures of this type are unusual and the manufacturer is currently investigating the cause. This has to be a worry for PanAust looking ahead because of the other similar units in use at the operation.

PanAust reckons though that the unscheduled downtime, although disruptive of near term production, will not materially impact the company's working capital position, although it will obviously affect short to medium term revenues.

Production of copper-gold concentrate at Phu Kham commenced in April 2008, ahead of schedule and within the US$241m capital budget.

The mine is currently operating at a throughput of 12Mtpa of ore to produce approximately 260,000 dry metric tonnes (dmt) of concentrate annually, containing 65,000 tonnes of copper, between 70,000 ounces and 80,000 ounces of gold and between 400,000 ounces and 600,000 ounces of silver.

It is proposed to increase the throughput of ore from 12Mtpa to 16Mtpa. Contained metal production from the expanded operation will increase to approximately 75,000 tpa copper, 65,000 ozpa gold and 600,000 ozpa silver. Meanwhile a conceptual study aimed at further lifting Phu Kham copper production to 100,000 tpa has been implemented.

As a result of the SAG mill failure, the plant is expected be down for between 11 and 23 days.




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