VANCOUVER – Thompson Creek Metals’ (TSX: TCM) $1.5-billion investment is about to start paying off: the new Mt. Milligan mine is now producing copper-gold concentrate.
Thompson Creek started feeding ore into the Mt. Milligan concentrator on August 15. As of mid-September the mine had produced approximately 500 tonnes of concentrate grading 25% Cu and 30 g/t Au.
Once fully operational the mill will churn through 2,750 tonnes of ore per hour, or 60,000 t/d. During the start-up phase throughput is averaging between 1,500 and 2,000 t/h. Only one of the balls mills is operational; the second, along with its flotation circuit, are still being commissioned.
Thompson Creek expects to ramp Mt. Milligan up to full capacity before the end of the year. Over a 22-year mine life the operation is expected to produce an average of 81 million lb Cu and 194,500 oz Au annually, though output is higher in the first six years. The mine is located in central British Columbia, approximately 90 km northwest of Prince George.
A new CEO will see the mine through its early years. Long-time Thompson Creek president and chief executive officer Kevin Loughrey is retiring, to be replaced in mid-October by Jacques Perron. Perron is a mining engineer who has served as president and CEO of St. Andrew Goldfields (TSX: SAS) since 2007.
Along with managing Mt. Milligan, Perron will oversee Thompson Creek’s other two mines: the Thompson Creek molybdenum mine in Idaho, and the Endako molybdenum mine in central British Columbia.
In the second quarter of the year the Thompson Creek mine produced 4.4 million lb Mo at a cash cost of US$5.53 per lb. A section of higher grade ore boosted output relative to recent quarters and low stripping needs kept costs low.
The Endako mine, in which Thompson Creek holds a 75% stake, produced 2.8 million lb Mo at a cash cost of $11.93 per lb. Since molybdenum is currently worth less than US$10 per lb, the mine is operating at a loss. As a result, Thompson Creek recorded a second quarter lower-of-cost-or-market product inventory write-down for Endako of $8.3 million.
To reduce costs Thompson Creek ceased mining ore at Endako in the third quarter of 2012 and used stockpiled ore to feed its concentrator. In May, after churning through roughly one-third of the ore stockpile, the company resumed mining, but it warned it “expects to continue optimizing production at Endako and may undertake additional cost savings and other measures at Endako in response to molybdenum market conditions.”
News that Mt. Milligan is now producing concentrate added 8¢ to Thompson Creek’s share price, lifting it to $3.72. The company has a 52-week share price range of $2.45 to $4.49 and has 171 million shares outstanding.
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