Atico Mining Corp. (TSXV: ATY; US-OTC: ATCMF) officially made the leap from explorer to producer today after completing its option agreement to acquire 90% of the El Roble mine – the only copper mine in production in Colombia.
Now it’s on a mission to improve efficiency and scale-up production at the underground mining operation that over the last two decades has processed 1.5 million tonnes of ore at an average head grade of 2.5% Cu and an estimated 2.5 g/t Au.
Atico acquired the option to acquire El Roble in January 2011 and since then has been exploring the mine and surrounding claims, completing 11,740 metres of drilling and a district scale mapping program of the 6,679-ha property.
Its underground drill campaign uncovered additional high grade mineralization below the 2000 level, the lowest production level at the mine, and Atico completed its first resource estimate in June. Open at depth and strike, the deposit has an inferred resource of 1.58 million tonnes grading 4.45% Cu and 3.17 g/t Au using a cut-off grade of 0.72% CuEq.
Along with its announcement that it had closed a US$8 million senior secured debt financing facility today with Trafigura, Atico outlined its plan to continue to operate El Roble initially at a throughput rate of about 320 t/d while it completes underground development to access the recently discovered resources.
Upgrades to the mill and processing facility to scale-up to a nominal capacity of 650 t/d (up from its current nominal capacity of 400 t/d) is scheduled to be completed before the company starts to mine the newly defined resource. Atico says it will complete the upgrade by the third quarter of 2014 and the production ramp-up in the fourth quarter of next year.
Atico has also started building a fully permitted tailings dam and hopes to have that finished in the second quarter of next year.
Mineralization at El Roble occurs as volcanogenic massive sulphide lenses.
At press time in Toronto Atico shares were trading at 58¢ within a 52-week range of 44¢-$1.13.
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