The NuevaUnion copper-gold-molybdenum project is being developed in Huasco Province in the Atacama region of Chile.
Teck Resources is developing the project in collaboration with Goldcorp, under a 50/50 joint venture agreement entered in August 2015. Franco-Nevada is entitled for a 1.5% net smelter return royalty (NSR) over the Relincho deposit, a part of the NuevaUnion project.
NuevaUnion is formed by the merger of Teck’s Relincho project and Goldcorp’s El Morro project, which is located approximately 40km apart and is estimated to have a mine life of 36 years.
To be developed in three phases, the $3.5bn project is expected to produce an average of 395,000 ounces (oz) of gold and 185 million pounds (Mlbs) of copper. The project is expected to produce 224,000t of copper, 269,000oz of gold, and 1,700t of molybdenum during the first five years of production.
Prefeasibility study (PFS) on the NuevaUnión project was completed in April 2018, while the feasibility study (FS) is anticipated to be completed by mid-2019. The project is expected to create approximately 4,000 construction and 1,400 operational jobs.
NuevaUnion copper-gold-molybdenum project location, geology, and mineralization
The El Morro part of the project is located within the El Morro Mining District in northern Chile. With an elevation ranging from 4,000m to 4,200m, the deposit lies at the southernmost extension of the Chilean porphyry copper belt of Eocene to Oligocene age. The deposit hosts three porphyry-style mineralization zones named La Fortuna, El Morro, and El Negro.
Mineralization at El Morro is contained within four zones namely upper leached cap horizon, transitional assemblage of secondary supergene copper oxides, and intermediate assemblage of secondary supergene copper sulphides. The fourth zone is made up of a deeper assemblage of primary hypogene sulphides.
Located 60km from the city of Vallenar, the Relincho project has a maximum elevation of 2,000m. The project area is located on the Paleocene-Lower Eocene surrounded by Cretaceous volcanic units.
The deposit hosts granodiorite and mineralized porphyry units, which intrude the Cerrillos Formation andesite comprising proclastic and sedimentary deposits as well as upper andesitic to rhyolitic lavas.
NuevaUnion copper-gold-molybdenum project reserves
As of 30 June 2018, NuevaUnion was expected to contain proven and probable reserves of 4.5Moz of gold, 8,968Mlbs of copper, and 257.98Mlbs of molybdenum.
Mining and ore processing at NuevaUnion copper-gold-molybdenum project
Conventional open-pit mining method will be applied at NuevaUnion, which will mainly focus on two mining deposits La Fortuna and the Relincho site.
Ore from the La Fortuna deposit of El Morro is proposed to be conveyed to the mill and concentrator facility at Relincho site through a conveyor.
The Relincho single-line mill and concentrator facility is expected to have an initial capacity of 90,000-110,000tpd. Comprising a semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill and two ball mills, the facility is estimated to produce an average of approximately 190,000t of copper and 315,000oz of gold a year through the initial ten years of production.
The processing plant is expected to process 104,000 tons per day (tpd) of ore during the first phase, while the capacity will be increased to 116,000tpd and then to 208,000tpd in the next two phases. The final copper concentrates will be transported through a pipeline to the port in Huasco, for export to customers.
Infrastructure facilities at Relincho deposit
The Relincho deposit comprises a 900l/s desalination plant at Punta Lobos, while water will be supplied through a 118km-long and 36-inch diameter water supply pipeline.
Other infrastructure facilities include transmission lines, electrical substations, concentrate filtering plant, and a pipeline for transporting the concentrate to the port.
The existing port in the Huasco area will be upgraded as part of the NuevaUnion copper-gold-molybdenum project development.