TRQ to spend USD 1.3 billion underground development www.zgm.mn
Turquoise Hill Resources (TRQ) announced fourth-quarter 2019 production for Oyu Tolgoi (OT) as well as operational and financial guidance for 2020. Copper production in Q4’19 of 32,905 tons was lower compared to Q4’18 due to decreased head grade driven by the transition from Phase 4a and Phase 6a, to Phase 4b, Phase 6b and lower grade stockpiles, the company said in a report.Equally, gold production in Q4’19 of 24,343 ounces was also lower compared to Q4’18 due to the transition from Phase 4a to low-grade sources of Phase 4b and stockpiles.
OT is expected to produce 140,000 to 170,000 tons of copper and 120,000 to 150,000 ounces of gold in concentrates in 2020 from both the open pit and the beginning of the underground development material being processed.Although the mid-point copper production range guidance is higher in 2020 versus the 2019 guidance, a lower gold production year is expected for 2020. This is due to the need to mine through lower grade material on the periphery of the South West pit as Phase 4b sinks towards the highest gold and copper grades in the bottom of the pit. It is anticipated that the higher grade ore will be accessed in 2021, resulting in a significant increase in gold production in 2021. Mill throughput for 2020 is expected to be approximately 40 million tons. Operating cash costs for 2020 are expected to be USD 800 million to USD 850 million. Capital expenditure for 2020 on a cash-basis is expected to be approximately USD 80 million to USD 120 million for open-pit operations and USD 1.2 billion to USD 1.3 billion for the underground development exclusive of any expenditure on power.Open-pit capital is mainly comprised of deferred stripping, equipment purchases, tailings storage facility construction, and maintenance componentization. Underground development capital includes both expansion capital and VAT. C1 cash costs are expected to be in the range of USD 1.80 to USD 2.20 per pound of copper produced, up from 2019 guidance largely reflecting the reduced gold production estimate. Unit cost guidance assumes the midpoint of expected 2020 copper and gold production ranges and commodity assumptions of USD 2.71 per pound copper and USD 1,362 per ounce gold.
UNDERGROUND DEVELOPMENT UPDATE
Construction of shaft 2 was completed in October 2019 allowing for the movement of 300 people per cage cycle versus a maximum of 60 people per cage cycle through shaft 1. Underground development material is also being lifted to surface via the Shaft 2 production hoist. Productivity improvements resulted in increased underground lateral development rates during the fourth quarter, with an average rate of 1,607 equivalent meters (eqm) compared to 1,214 eqm in the third quarter, with December seeing a record 1,809 eqm.Construction is progressing on shafts 3 and 4 with both collars now installed. Final preparations are now underway to enable commencement of main sinking operations for both shafts during the second quarter of 2020 Detailed analysis work on the mine design is still anticipated to be completed during the first half of 2020, and the Definitive Estimate, which will include the estimate of cost and schedule for the underground project based on the updated design of Panel 0, is still expected to be delivered in the second half of 2020.