Metro Mining has made a Final Investment Decision (FID) to expand the capacity of its Bauxite Hills Mine in Queensland, Australia from four million wet metric tonnes (MWMT) per annum to 7MWMT per annum.

The company estimates the total capital expenditure for the expansion to be at A$28.3m ($19.5m). It intends to finance the expansion from a combination of internal cash flow and external sources.

Works under the expansion project include the construction and mobilisation of a second floating crane barge (FCB) to Skardon River.

When combined with the existing FCB, the new barge is expected to enable the company to load more than the targeted 7MWMT per annum capacity.

Works also include optimisation and upgrading of the existing screening, conveying and barge loading facilities, and scaling up of the current haulage and transhipment fleets.

The expansion requires no further traditional owner, environmental or regulatory approvals, as the company has already secured approval to mine up to 10MWMT per annum.

The company has signed an additional binding offtake with Xinfa Aluminium Group for 5MWMT in 2023 and for a 6MWMT in 2024.

Metro Mining managing director and chief executive officer Simon Wensley said: “Expanding to 7MWMT pa is perfectly timed to respond to bauxite market conditions expected to be very strong in the next few years.

“The scale benefits mean that the prospective financial returns are outstanding and I thank Greenstone and Lambhill for their support to move immediately to accelerate implementation.”

The Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), run at a production rate of 6MWMT pa over a 15-year mine life, is estimated to deliver strong returns with an NPV of $372m.

The company confirms that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan facility sunset date has been extended to 31 December this year.

Metro Mining is working with Australian boutique advisory firm ICA Partners to manage the debt funding for the expansion with NAIF and refinancing of the current debt.

It has had a preliminary engagement with various prospective debt financiers and aims to progress these discussions during the third quarter and achieve financial close in the fourth quarter this year.

Wensley added: “NAIF are an ideal partner for Metro to assist with the funding of expansion capital given the location of the mine and its long life.

“Metro has a deep connection with Far North Queensland, with 31% of the workforce being indigenous. In addition, Metro conduct a significant amount of business with companies located in Far North Queensland.”