New PNG copper project to cost $5.3 billion | Pacific Beat

New PNG copper project to cost $5.3 billion

New PNG copper project to cost $5.3 billion

Updated 15 February 2012, 13:02 AEDT

A pre-feasibility study for the massive Frieda River copper and gold project in Papua New Guinea shows it would take an investment of around 5.

3 billion dollars to get the project up and running.

Since Swiss mining giant Xstrata Copper, took over as Project Manager in January 2007, development work has been fast-tracked.

The 1500 page pre-feasibility study says the mine would have low operating costs and create more than 1000 jobs.

John Gooding, Managing Director of the junior project partner Highlands Pacific, says the study proves Frieda River is a very attractive project.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: John Gooding, Managing Director of Highlands Pacific

GOODING: It'll be a premier copper project. It will have a life in excess of 20 years and it will be producing something around about 200 thousand tonnes of copper a year and over 300-thousand ounces of gold a year for its life.

GARRETT: So how does that rank Frieda River in terms of other potential copper and gold projects around the world?

GOODING: We think it places Frieda very near the top of the new projects. I think if you look at all the major world projects, world copper projects operating at the moment, it's probably sitting there at about number 13 or 14 in the world and it's a new project and it's one of the few new copper projects starting up.

GARRETT: The mine site is remote and you're looking at piping concentrate to the coast. Can you describe for us what the project would look like on the ground?

GOODING: It's a fairly conventional low strip ratio, open cut mine producing a copper concentrate which will be piped via a pipe line to a port on the Sepik River, not to the coastline, but probably a port on the Sepik and from there the material will get barged down the Sepik River to a mother ship which will then transport the concentrate to markets overseas.

GARRETT: Where will the port be located and one sort of facilities will you have there?

GOODING: Look at the moment, there are a number of a couple of locations that we're looking at and what really determines it is water depths and the componency of the rock to maintain decent structures, because there will be a lot of low level areas around the river area. But look, there will be a dewatering plant that will take the water out of the concentrate after it leaves the pipeline, the filtering plant and wharf and other infrastructure similar to what's at Kiunga say in the Western Province that Ok Tedi is for their concentrate discharge.

GARRETT: Frieda River will be about the same size as the Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea, Xstrata your major partner has promised it will not be involved in any project that puts tailings into the Sepik River. How will you deal with tailings and waste rock?

GOODING: We'll be ensuring that the waste rock and the tailings are contained within an engineered structure, in a valley and it will mean that any drainage from that area will be contained and if water does leave that area, it will be treated in a treatment plant.

GARRETT: There will be substantial waste rock and quite substantial tailings. Just how big will the structure have to be?

GOODING: Look, it will be a large structure, but one of the great things about Frieda River is the amount of waste that we have to remove compared to the amount of ore is sort of a one-to-one ratio. A lot of open cuts can remove five times as much waste as you get ore. But there will be a lot of material and that has been very carefully designed and allowed for in the pre-feasibility study.

GARRETT: The project will cost in excess of five billion dollars. What are the hurdles ahead before you get the project up and running?

GOODING: Well look, there is a lot of work to do yet. There is another year or so of final feasibility study work that has to be completed. There will be obviously further discussions with the local communities and with the government and statutory authorities. But I am quite sure that people will understand how important it is for the region and for the development of Papua New Guinea and that everyone will work together to make this a wonderful project and a very successful one.

GARRETT: So at this stage, what is the proposed start date?

GOODING: We're looking at may be construction commencing in 2013 and that will mean that production would commence around about 2017.

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