The Agua Rica copper-gold project is located in Catamarca Province of Argentina.
Yamana Gold proposes to complete the full feasibility study of the project in 2020. Image courtesy of Jonathan Zander.
The mineral reserves at Agua Rica are estimated to be 11.8bn lbs of copper and 7.4Moz of gold. Image courtesy of Alchemist-hp.

Agua Rica copper-gold project is an open-pit copper and gold deposit located in Catamarca province in Argentina.

The project is jointly owned by Yamana Gold (56.25%), Glencore International (25%), and Goldcorp (18.75%). Yamana, Glencore, and Goldcorp signed an integration agreement in March 2019, following which the existing infrastructure at the Minera Alumbrera project in Catamarca will be used to develop and operate the Agua Rica project.

The pre-feasibility study (PFS) of the Agua Rica project was completed in July 2019 and the full feasibility study is anticipated to be completed by 2020.

With an estimated investment of £1.9bn ($2.4bn), the Agua Rica project is expected to produce 533 million pounds of copper-equivalent a year during the first ten years of production. It is expected to have a mine life of approximately 28 years.

Agua Rica copper-gold project location, geology, and mineralisation

The Agua Rica deposit is situated in the Catamarca Province, which is located in the north-west of Argentina. The site is situated approximately 25km to the north of Andalgala, one of the major cities in Catamarca Province.

The project is located near the prominent Farallón Negro Volcanic Complex, which extends over approximately 700km² are is home to the producing Alumbrera open-pit mine.

The deposit is classified as a large, medium-grade porphyry Cu-Mo-Au system comprising an argillic alteration and a high sulphidation, epithermal mineralisation event. It lies near the contact between early-Paleozoic metasediment of the Sierra Aconquija Complex and the Capillitas Granite.

Agua Rica copper-gold project reserves

The proven and probable reserves at the Agua Rica project are 11.8 billion pounds of copper  and 7.4 million ounces (Moz) of gold graded at 0.48% Cu and 0.21% Au, respectively. The project also contains 100Moz of silver  and 731Mlbs of molybdenum  graded at 2.84% Ag and 0.03% Mo.

Mining and ore processing at Agua Rica copper-gold project

The Agua Rica copper-gold project will be mined using the conventional truck and shovel open-pit method. It is expected to extract an average of approximately 108 million tons per annum through its life of mine (LOM).

The extracted ore will be crushed by using three primary crushers in the primary crusher area. The crushed material will be forwarded to the existing Alumbrera processing plant through a 35km-long conveyor. A tunnel of 5.2km length will be constructed as part of the overland conveyor system.

The waste rock will be crushed to 300mm material size and directed to a permanent waste emplacement at lower El Globo, in the Campo Arenal area.

The processing plant will include a new transfer station, which will transfer the ore to an existing stacker conveyor.

The Alumbrera plant is capable of processing 110,000 tonnes per day with the help of the existing circuit, which will be further upgraded to accommodate the Agua Rica ore and produce copper and by-products concentrate. The resultant concentrate will be transported to the port for commercialisation.

Infrastructure facilities

Power supply to the Alumbrera processing plant is made from Tucuman through a 229kV line, while water required for the plant is sourced from the Campo Arenal basin.

Agua Rica will make use of the existing Alumbrera infrastructure such as tailings storage facility, ancillary buildings, gatehouse, and logistical installations.

Workers will be accommodated at the proposed 1,450-person camp near the ore conveyor tunnel, while the ore processing staff will be accommodated at existing camp at Alumbrera.