Mining Industry Information

SX/EW In 1,200 Ton/Month Copper Mines (Tons of Copper)

The application of Solvent Extraction/Electro Winning (SX/EW) technology to copper processing improved the quality of the product, made the processing more cost effective and efficient. The leach process is similar to that for gold, except that low cost sulphuric acid is used to leach the copper. Recovery involves concentrating the copper sulphate solution and removing impurities through the SX process, followed by precipitating the copper on the cathode in the electro winning (EW) process. The copper cathode is better than 99% pure and may be sold on commodity exchanges, as is. It commands a higher price per pound of copper than concentrates, requires handling and offers the option of receiving a guaranteed price through the futures markets. Small Scale Copper Leach/SX/EW Operations. Typically, a Small Scale oxide copper deposit will contain a minimum of 100 million pounds of copper. This will be mined at a rate of about 30 million pounds per year and a production cost of less than $USD 0.50 per pound. Using contract mining to reduce capital costs, the total start up capital cost of such a project is around $15-20 million. With Copper prices fluctuating between $3.00 to $3.80/pound (2012) it is feasible and profitable at current copper prices.

There has been much interest in copper in the last 10 years, in Chile. More recently, small copper mining companies have found success in small scale leaching/ SX/EW copper operations in Chile. Most major (US/Canadian/British) companies in Chile require huge massive copper deposits to justify the Billion USD required to open a large copper mine. This has left the small, but copper rich deposits to languish, waiting for the small scale, but technically savy, copper mining companies to exploit them. Quite often, this is accomplished by a joint venture with a local mining company. Major criteria that these small companies must meet are similar to those of major companies (1) must be cost conscious, margins are lower.
(2) Must have good exploration staff, plan and ability to carry out exploration operations successfully.
(3) Must have connections to acquire mining rights, permits, meet all local regulations.
(4) Must have source for quality Management, Engineering talent, and ability to obtain quality local mining talent.
It is possible in Chile, for a small copper operator to bring a exploration site into production within 1 to 1.5 years, with proper capitalization.

In the last 5 years or so, it has become more common for some small scale copper producers to explore and mine small but good grade copper reserves in South America. These mines are profitable at over $2.50/pound copper prices, but will have trouble breaking even at lower prices, typically.
**Update On Copper Mining In Chile**
Sunday, 11 November, 2012
By: Charles Kubach, Mine-Engineer.Com

Copper mining costs are being reported ranging from around $2/pound to a high of $3.20 per pound.
As China's economy cools to a 5% growth rate, they require fewer resources, such as steel and copper, so the demand weakens, but if American and European economies ever recover, copper will again rise to the $4 per pound level. The trick is to still be in business when that happens, and keeping mines profitable and costs in line is how a mining company will do that. By utilizing process efficiencies, convincing the government to not tax and fee the industry into oblivion, and keeping mine costs in line with projected income will determine if Chile's copper thrives or moves on to another continent.
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