Doubts Cast on MAC’s CSA Mine’s Long-Term Viability Amidst Copper Price Uncertainty

Staff Writer

Metals Acquisition CSA Mine

The future of the old CSA Mine, divested by Glencore and now operated by Metals Acquisition Limited (MAC), faces uncertainty as copper prices fluctuate and China’s economic growth slows. Despite efforts to maximize production and address operational challenges, concerns loom over the mine’s long-term viability.

Mining Method and Concentration Risk

CSA Mine employs mechanized long-hole open stoping with cemented paste fill as the preferred mining method. However, the dominance of the QTSN orebodies, comprising approximately 70% of the estimated Mineral Reserve, poses concentration risk. While contingent ore sources exist in other orebodies and remnant areas, prioritizing mine development and access to drilling horizons remains critical.

Production Constraints and Mining Challenges

Current copper production at CSA Mine is constrained by mining capacity. Efforts to maximize ore production aim to achieve a future production target of approximately 1.2 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa). However, increasing depth introduces additional mining challenges, higher costs, and a decline in delivered grades. As the mine deepens, rock stresses escalate, necessitating increased ventilation and cooling. Despite completion of capital works to enhance ventilation and cooling, logistical challenges arise from longer travel times and ore movement issues.

Geotechnical Considerations and Ground Conditions

Geotechnical stress intensifies with depth, compounded by cleaved and bedded siltstones. While ground conditions at the mine’s base remain fair, incidents such as rockfalls and convergence demand reassessment of stope design and ground support practices. A geotechnically driven approach prioritizing mining quality over quantity becomes imperative to navigate deep mining conditions.

Processing Challenges

The CSA processing plant utilizes a conventional underground crush, surface grind, and flotation circuit. Downtime problems attributed to aging SAG mills and coarse ore bins hinder operational efficiency. Planned replacement of outdated SAG mill units aims to improve circuit utilization. However, throughput remains constrained by the mining operation’s capacity to increase ore tonnage.

Future Uncertainties

Amidst these operational challenges, uncertainties surrounding copper prices and China’s economic slowdown cast doubt on CSA Mine’s long-term prospects. As MAC endeavors to address technical and logistical hurdles, the mine’s ability to sustain profitable operations in a volatile market remains uncertain.

While CSA Mine navigates operational hurdles and strives to enhance production efficiency, the broader economic landscape and copper price volatility pose significant challenges to its long-term viability. Investors are advised to closely monitor developments and assess the mine’s resilience in the face of evolving market dynamics.