ANTOFOGASTA, Chile The Lomas Bayas copper mine, owned by Toronto-based FALCONBRIDGE LIMITED, plans to boost cathode production by up to 5,000 tonnes/year, or 8%, with a new project to treat smelter dust. "Under the most favourable schedule, the project will be up and running in the third quarter of this year," said Gordon Stothart, Lomas Bayas general manager.
The project will collect copper-containing dust from NORANDA’s Alto Norte smelter, leach it and process it at Lomas Bayas’s existing SW/EX facilities. Industrial testing to determine whether vat or heap leaching is preferable will begin later this month, said Stothart, adding that they had not yet received any dust from Alto Norte. He said the dust, which contains a "reasonable percentage" of copper, will come from the smelter’s dust bleed process to reduce contaminants because of restrictions placed by buyers.
Stothart described the project economics as "pretty good" and said the estimated $2.45 million capital cost would most likely come in considerably lower. The investment will be spent on loading facilities at Alto Norte, transportation, handling and treatment facilities. The project also provides "future opportunities" for Falconbridge to treat dust from other smelters, he said, while adding that it would compete with other projects for capacity at Lomas Bayas.
According to the environmental impact declaration filed with Chile’s environmental regulators, the initiative will require a workforce of 30 to build and eight to operate. In addition, Stothart said the US$16-million expansion to 35,000 tonnes/day from 25,000 tonnes/day at Lomas Bayas was on schedule and on budget for completion in April 2004.
The Lomas Bayas open pit produced a record 61,289 tonnes of copper, all in cathodes, in 2003, 4% higher than target and 2% more than in 2002. Production of 62,000 tonnes is forecast in 2004, said Stothart. Information about Lomas Bayas and Falconbridge’s other projects in Latin America is posted at www.falconbridge.com.