Operations Update

The March quarter of 2019 saw a continued focus on maximising mineral recoveries under a high tonnage, low grade regime while preparations for the relocating of mining operations to the South Dune orebody in June 2019 continued. Another good safety performance with no lost time injuries (“LTI”) brings the consecutive LTI free months to 61.

March 2019 Quarter Highlights

Key Indicator Unit Q4 2018 Q1 2019 Variance
Ore Mined tonnes 5,036,211 4,349,984 (14%)
Ore Grade % HMC 3.60 3.59
HMC Produced tonnes 148,937 154,001 3%
HMC Treated tonnes 191,633 155,373 (19%)
Ilmenite Recovery % 102 104
Rutile Recovery % 99 102
Zircon Recovery % 73 78
Ilmenite Produced tonnes 108,465 87,179 (20%)
Rutile Produced tonnes 24,505 20,171 (18%)
Zircon Produced tonnes 8,252 6,943 (16%)
Zircon Low Grade Produced* tonnes - 172 -
Ilmenite Shipped tonnes 106,788 81,339
Rutile Shipped tonnes 24,008 14,593
Zircon Shipped tonnes 8,063 7,260

Mining continued in the Central Dune orebody with mined ore grades lower than previous quarters, as expected. All mining is located on the western and southern fringes of the orebody ahead of planned completion of Central Dune mining in the June 2019 quarter.

A total of 4.35Mt of ore were mined in the quarter, down from 5.0Mt last quarter. However, production of heavy mineral concentrate (“HMC”) increased to 154kt as a result of improved recoveries.

Following completion of construction of the tailings storage facility outer sand wall, all sand tailings are now being deposited in the mined-out Central Dune pit, representing the first stage of rehabilitation in this section.

The minerals separation plant feed was reduced to 71tph from February to ensure sufficient HMC stocks are available to allow for stable production during the transition to the South Dune orebody. As a result, production of all final products was reduced in the quarter. During the quarter 155kt of HMC was treated to produce:

  • 20.2kt of rutile at a recovery of 102%.
  • 87.2kt of ilmenite at a recovery of 104%.
  • 6.9kt of zircon and 172t of low-grade zircon at a recovery of 78%.

Constraints on the global supply of sulphate ilmenite and rutile continued in the quarter. Chinese pigment experienced a strong increase in demand following Chinese New Year with pigment producers able to secure price increase through the quarter. A resulting increase in pigment production activity has maintained a high demand for ilmenite and a strengthening of prices.

Rutile prices continued to strengthen in the quarter and further improvement is expected in coming quarters.

Zircon demand continued to moderate through the seasonally slow March quarter, seeing prices stabilise.

Bulk loading operations at the Likoni Port facility ran smoothly, dispatching 90,000 tonnes of ilmenite and rutile during the quarter. Containerised shipments of rutile and zircon through the Port of Mombasa continued according to plan.

Mining Transition to the South Dune

The transition of mining to the South Dune orebody in June 2019 remains on schedule. The transition primarily involves the supply and installation of 7,400m of slurry and water piping, an 8,500 11kV power line, a pipe bridge across the Mukurumudzi Dam spillway and slurry and process water booster pumps. Engineering and procurement work is complete and construction, clearing and earthworks were largely complete by the end of the quarter.

Exploration Update

Mining tenure arrangements continue to be progressed through the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining as a precursor to an anticipated updated Ore Reserve based on the expanded 2017 Kwale South Dune Mineral Resource as announced on 4th October 2017.

Completion of the remaining drilling programme (4,200 metres) in the North-East Sector (Kwale East) of PL/2018/0119 remains suspended pending resolution of community access issues. Drill assay results to date have shown potential for some limited extensional economic resource close to the Central Dune (Bumamani), but remains subject to a more detailed evaluation.

Extensional exploration drilling in the North-East Sector (Kwale East) of the PL/2018/0119, adjacent to the Central Dune, commenced in Q2 2018 with 274 holes for 3,835 metres of drilling completed. Completion of the remaining drilling programme in this area (4,200 metres) is suspended pending resolution of community access issues. Drill assay results to date have shown potential for some limited extensional economic resource close to the Central Dune (Bumamani), but remains subject to a more detailed evaluation.

Figure 1 illustrates drilling work completed in PL/2018/0119 during 2018.

Drilling commenced in the Vanga Prospecting License (PL/2015/0042) on 1st April 2019. Community engagement in the area is ongoing and a north eastern extension of the PL/2015/0042 has been applied for to cover further prospective ground which has since become available.

Extensional exploration drilling at Kwale Operations

Figure 1: Extensional exploration drilling completed

Download the full quarterly activities report: Base Resources Quarterly Activities Report - March 2019