Proven and probable reserves now total 18.2 million tonnes grading 0.68% Nb2O5, whereas, at the end of 2000, reserves were 11.5 million tonnes at 0.73% Nb2O5 and resources, 4.8 million tonnes at similar grades.
The upgrade is attributable to drilling and to re-evaluation of data that take into account lower production costs and higher recoveries based on a rock-mechanics study.
More than 90% of the reserves are above level 1450 and can be mined using existing mine workings.
At the current mining rate, the new reserves should allow for 16 years of mining, though the partners are confident reserves can be expanded further at depth.
In the fourth quarter of 2001, Niobec produced 860 tonnes of niobium — a significant increase over the corresponding period in 2000, owing to mine expansion.
For all of 2001, production totalled 3,006 tonnes of niobium, while sales amounted to 2,760 tonnes.
This year’s production levels should be similar those of 2001, and capital expenditures are budgeted at US$2 million.
Cambior and Mazarin are considering boosting mining rates by another 20% in order to maintain their global market share of ferroniobium.