The Ranobe Mine is projected to produce 407,000tpa of ilmenite and 44,000tpa of zircon rich concentrate per annum over an initial 21 year mine life. This first phase of development utilises around 17% of the 959 million tonne of Mineral Resource defined at Ranobe.
The overall THM grade of 6.1% at Ranobe is high by minerals sands industry standards and the initial Ranobe mine plan focuses on a Ore Reserve of 161 million tonne averaging 8.2% THM, resulting in one of the highest in-situ ore values in the sector. With no overburden and very low slimes (<5%) simple dry mining can be utilised.
The heavy mineral at Ranobe consists predominantly of ilmenite making up approximately 70% of the concentrate produced. The project also benefits significantly from the presence of much higher value zircon and rutile which together contribute about 10% of the heavy mineral, but around 45% of the value of the ore mined.
The ilmenite and zircon rich concentrate can be easily separated utilising standard equipment and existing infrastructure can be leveraged to minimise the initial development capital.
The Definitive Engineering Study (DES) completed in August 2012 confirmed that a low capex, low technical risk and simple mineral sands operation can be built using proven technology. It envisages utilising a simple mining and processing route at 8Mt of ore per annum from the second half of 2014.
Two Front End Loaders (FEL) will mine the ore zone in the deposit. FEL mining provides a high degree of flexibility and will be able to selectively sequence and mine the higher-grade parts of the deposit to maximise the project cash flow.
Ore mined by the FELs will be fed to mining units and pumped to the Primary Concentrator Plant (PCP), the Ranobe ore has low slimes content, less than 5%, which should assist the concentration of the ore feed. The concentrator has four stages of spirals and a hydrosizer to produce a heavy mineral concentrate (HMC).
The final HMC, which will have a grade of 92% heavy mineral, will be stockpiled before being fed into the Mineral Separation Plant (MSP). The MSP will use conventional mineral sands separation equipment to produce final products consisting of primary ilmenite, secondary ilmenite and a valuable non-magnetic concentrate containing rutile and zircon.
The ilmenite circuit is a combination of magnetic separators and high tension rolls to produce 326,000 tpa of saleable sulphate Ilmenite and 81,000 tpa of saleable chloride Ilmenite.
The non-magnetic circuit will utilise gravity separation (spirals) and magnetic separation to produce 44,000 tpa of saleable zircon and rutile rich concentrate.
All products will be transported, via a planned dedicated 55-kilometre long haul road, to a bulk loading facility, located north of the existing town and port of Toliara.
The Ilmenite products will be bulk loaded via a dedicated bulk-export jetty, which will be established as part of this development. The zircon/rutile concentrate will either be bulk loaded via the same facility or loaded into containers for export from the existing Port of Toliara. The proposed dedicated jetty is sufficiently deep for larger vessels up to Handymax and Supramax size.
The Ranobe Mine is a robust project with projected high operating margins revenue and relatively low development capital compared to similar scale mineral sands projects. The forecast life of mine average operating cash cost of $116/t of product combined life of mine average revenue of $271/t of product is projected to result in high operating margins. When combined with the low capital intensity and absolute capital required for the initial development, currently estimated as $216m including working capital, the project is forecast to deliver an IRR of around 27% and an NPV10 of $257m over a 19 year life.
The haul road plus dedicated jetty export option provides inherently expandable infrastructure and maximises the potential to incrementally scale up the operation to fully exploit the 959 million tonnes at 6.10% THM Mineral Resource. Once the starter pit has become well established these expansion options will be progressed.