The limestone is estimated in the Agata Report to be up to 50 metres thick. The potential quantity and grade is conceptual in nature, because there has been insufficient exploration to define a mineral resource and it is uncertain if further exploration will result in the target being delineated as a mineral resource. The initial plan is to develop a resource, and mine and ship limestone DSO utilizing the infrastructure developed initially for the high iron DSO operation. Currently no permits are in place for mining the limestone.
Since the quality of limestone quarried at Agata is expected to be high, the Project Execution/Technology Development team also plans to construct a lime production facility at the Agata project site. The lime produced would be used in the nickel processing plant, offsetting the costs of imported lime while also creating potential for some to be sold. The lime processing facility is a medium-term project currently expected to come online at the beginning of 2015 pending the receipt of all required permits, among other things.
The development plans and initial pre-development activities for the two DSO operations are underway and include:
a) For the high iron DSO operation:
-- the preparation of compliance reports to regulators-- land acquisition for the port facilities and roads-- planning and design for port construction-- road/infrastructure design and construction plans-- initial pre-development activities, including initial road construction and camp development-- confirming markets for products-- mine development planning-- community relations
b) For the Limestone DSO operation:
-- further drilling on the limestone deposits to delineate resource to NI 43-101 standards-- preliminary concepts and mining plans for the limestone-- confirming markets for limestone and lime products-- metallurgical test works
An update to the NI 43-101 report prepared originally for Mindoro, together with a scoping study on both the high iron and Limestone operations are also initially planned and are to be followed by feasibility studies.
Agata Nickel (Ni) Processing Plant
The Agata Ni processing plant is a medium-term growth opportunity, which TVI expects could come into production in mid-2015, dependent on such things as a successful metallurgical testing program and pending receipt of the required permits. The plant would initially be designed to have a 20-year life, and would be built in modules with the ability to add capacity over time by adding further modules to increase throughput and Ni production. The Project Execution/ Technology Development team is proposing the use of innovative, low cost leaching and downstream Ni recovery and purification technology rather than the traditional high cost HPAL processes used in the laterite nickel industry. TVIRD's team of technical staff engaged to deal with the Mindoro joint venture projects have substantial expertise in this leaching and downstream Ni recovery and purification technology and their expertise will be used to fast-track the processing plant.
The laterite feed to the processing plant comprising limonite material and saprolite material would be mixed with sulphuric acid and undergo numerous steps to ultimately produce a nickel hydroxide product. This intermediate nickel product could either be sold as is or further processed to produce metallic nickel. The estimated capital cost for the nickel processing plant plus associated infrastructure (port, water, power, etc.) is expected to be less than US$100 million. The cash operating costs are estimated to be approximately US$4 per lb Ni (approximately US$9,000/t Ni), assuming the use of imported sulphuric acid. If the Pan de Azucar pyrite project can be successfully commercialized (refer below), then the opportunity exists to self-produce sulphuric acid at the nickel plant site, thereby further reducing operating costs, and with the added benefits of by-product electricity and steam.