The Santa Rita Operation consists of a simple, low cost, primarily owner-operated, open pit drill and blast, load and haul mining operation which feeds a conventional, low technology nickel sulphide concentration plant. The expected mine life is approximately 23 years, based on the current ore reserves.
The operation is well located, close to key infrastructure, including power, water and transport. It is approximately 260km southwest of Salvador, the capital of Bahia in Brazil, approximately 6km from the town of Ipiaú, which supplies the majority of the operation’s workers and 140km from Ilhéus, the deepwater port from which Mirabela exports its nickel concentrate to Norilsk Nickel.
The Santa Rita deposit comprises disseminated nickel and copper sulphide mineralisation up to 140m thick and averages 40m thick over a continuous strike length of more than 2km and 1km deep. The mineralisation is typically characterised by ﬁne, granular aggregates of nickel and copper sulphides.
Mirabela acquired the Santa Rita deposit in 2004, completed commissioning of the operation in October 2009, commenced production of nickel concentrate in November 2009 and entered commercial production in January 2010.
Since commencing operations, the mine has had a strong safety performance with a Lost Time Injuries Frequency Rate of 1.1 for 2010. This strong performance has continued into and is testament to the high priority and commitment given to safety by the operational team. Health and safety training programs remain ongoing; aimed at continuous improvement.
Mirabela has already completed the first stage of its planned two-stage production ramp-up, reaching a sustainable production rate of 4.6Mtpa of ore milled in late 2010. The second stage ramp-up to a plant throughput capacity of 7.2Mtpa of ore milled is expected to be completed by the end of 2011
Mirabela produces a high quality nickel-copper-cobalt concentrate with metal content of approximately 20% and an average nickel content of between 13.5% and 14.5%. All concentrate produced to date has been sold within contract specifications.
Mirabela has competitive offtake agreements, covering 100% of its nickel production until December 2014, with Votorantim Metais, a Brazilian mining company and Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest nickel producer. Votorantim takes delivery at the mine gate and then trucks the concentrate to its Fortaleza de Minas smelter in Brazil. Mirabela delivers to Norilsk CIF Rotterdam, from where it is transported to Norilsk’s Harjavalta refinery in Finland. Payment for the concentrate is determined by reference to the metal content of the nickel concentrate produced and market metal prices. Mirabela receives an average of 89% of the nickel content in the nickel concentrate.
Layout of the Santa Rita Operations