VANCOUVER — Thompson Creek Metals’ (TSX: TCM; NYSE: TC) $1.5-billion investment is about to pay off: the Mount Milligan mine is now producing copper-gold concentrate.
Thompson Creek started feeding ore into the Mount Milligan concentrator on Aug. 15. As of mid-September the mine had produced 500 tonnes of concentrate grading 25% copper and 30 grams gold per tonne.
The mill can churn through 2,750 tonnes per hour, or 60,000 tonnes per day. Since its start-up in August, throughput has averaged between 1,500 and 2,000 tonnes per hour. One ball mill is working and the second is being commissioned, along with its flotation circuit.
Thompson Creek expects to ramp up Mount Milligan to full capacity before year-end. Over a 22-year mine life the operation could produce 81 million lb. copper and 194,500 oz. gold annually, though output is higher in the first six years. The mine is located in central B.C., 90 km northwest of Prince George.
A new CEO will see the mine through its early years. Long-time Thompson Creek president and CEO 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; US-OTC: STADF) since 2007.
Along with managing Mount Milligan, Perron will oversee Thompson Creek’s other two mines: the Thompson Creek molybdenum mine in Idaho and the Endako moly mine in central B.C.
During the second quarter the Thompson Creek mine produced 4.4 million lb. moly at a cash cost of US$5.53 per lb. A section of higher-grade ore boosted output relative to recent quarters, and a low stripping ratio kept costs low.
The Endako mine, in which Thompson Creek holds a 75% stake, produced 2.8 million lb. moly at a cash cost of $11.93 per lb. Since moly is worth less than US$10 per lb., the mine is operating at a loss. As a result, In the second quarter Thompson Creek recorded that Endako’s product inventory writedown was $8.3 million lower of cost or market.
To reduce costs Thompson Creek stopped mining at Endako in the third quarter of 2012, and used stockpiled ore to feed its concentrator. In May, after churning through one-third of the ore stockpile, the company resumed mining, but will keep optimizing production at Endako, while adopting “cost savings and other measures” at Endako, according to moly market conditions.
News that Mount Milligan is 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 171 million shares outstanding.
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