Amerigo's 100% owned MVC operation produces copper concentrates by processing fresh and historic tailings from Codelco's El Teniente mine in Chile. Amerigo completed the first phase of development of the higher grade Cauquenes historic tailings deposit in December 2015 and extended MVC's life to at least 2037. In 2016, the MVC operation produced 57 million pounds of copper at a cash cost of $1.73 per pound. Copper production is expected to ramp up as the Cauquenes grade increases with depth and recovery improves with plant optimization.
Production growth is through development of the higher grade Cauquenes historic tailings deposit:
- Production is ramping up to 65 million pounds copper
- Cash cost dropping below $1.70 per pound
- Future potential expansion to 90 million pounds per year
Established Technology and Expertise at MVC
Historic Tailings – Hydraulically Extracted
The MVC operation is located near two historic tailings deposits: Cauquenes and Colihues. The Cauquenes tailings were deposited by El Teniente over the period 1936 to 1977 and the average copper grade of the deposit is 0.27%, significantly higher than the fresh tailings material. In December 2015, Amerigo completed the first phase of development of Cauquenes with the installation of the necessary infrastructure and pumping systems to deliver Cauquenes tailings to the existing MVC plant. The tailings are hydraulically extracted using high pressure water and pumped to the plant at a rate of 60,000 tonnes per day. MVC processed the Colihues historic tailings deposit from 2003 to 2015, and processing of Colihues is expected to be restarted in 2034 when the Cauquenes deposit is depleted.
Fresh Tailings - Transported by El Teniente
El Teniente delivers fresh tailings with an average copper grade of 0.12% to the MVC plant at a rate of 130,000 tonnes per day. The fresh tailings travel 40 km in an open concrete channel owned by El Teniente. No energy is required as the tailings flow by gravity. MVC has been processing fresh tailings since 1992.
MVC Processing Plant – Producing High Quality Copper Concentrate
The MVC plant processes fresh tailings and Cauquenes historic tailings from El Teniente. The processing plant consists of grinding and flotation to recover copper concentrates. The plant employs primary cyclone classification to separate the tailings into coarse and fine fractions. The fine fraction is processed in unconventional scavenger cascade flotation cells. The coarse fraction is ground in ball mills to reduce particle size and then is processed in conventional rougher and cleaner flotation circuits to produce a sulphide concentrate. Once the tailings have been processed at MVC, they are returned to the concrete channel and flow 50 km to El Teniente’s Caren tailings impoundment. Tailings volumes in excess of the channel capacity to Caren are deposited by MVC in the Colihues tailings impoundment.
MVC produces high-quality copper concentrates with minor silver credits and no penalty elements. The MVC plant currently does not have sufficient flotation cell capacity to effectively process the fine fraction material and subsequent phases of expansion are planned to improve recovery and production.
Long Term Partner – World’s Largest Underground Copper Mine
Amerigo, through its 100% owned MVC operation, produces copper concentrates under a long term partnership with Codelco’s El Teniente, the world’s largest underground copper mine. El Teniente commenced copper production in 1904 and a new mine level project is expected to extend the mine life by 50 years.
MVC has contracts with El Teniente to process fresh and historic tailings generated from the El Teniente mine. As of 2015, MVC’s copper concentrates are produced under a tolling agreement with El Teniente.
In 2014, MVC was granted the rights to process the Cauquenes historic tailings deposit and the term to process fresh tailings was extended from 2021 to 2037. In exchange for the tailings rights, El Teniente is entitled to a royalty on copper produced by MVC, determined through a sliding scale formula tied to the London Metal Exchange copper prices.
The MVC operation is located in central Chile, 8 km east of the city of Rancagua and 90 km south of Chile’s capital, Santiago. The operation is located at an elevation of 650 m above sea level with a Mediterranean-type climate characterized by long, warm, dry summers (eight months) and mild, rainy winters (four months). The MVC plant is located 40 km southwest of the El Teniente mine and 6 km northwest of the Cauquenes historic tailings deposit.