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Copper and Uranium mine in S. Africa

Message: Equinox poised to produce uranium by 2010

Equinox poised to produce uranium by 2010

posted on May 08, 2008 09:28AM

The Northern Miner, 5/7/2008

Equinox poised to produce uranium by 2010

Vancouver - A positive feasibility study has given Equinox Minerals (EQN-T, EQMIF-O) the confidence it needs to add a uranium recovery facility to its production-ready Lumwana copper project in Zambia.

Equinox has been working at Lumwana for almost 10 years. The payoff is fianlly just around the corner – in a matter of months Lumwana will start ramping up to full speed, at which point it will process 20 million tonnes of ore annually. But the Equinox team always knew that there was more in Lumwana's two pits than only copper.

Now a feasibility study agrees there is more than copper and says it is economically viable to treat uranium-enriched ore through a separate facility to produce uranium oxide.

The first deposit to be mined at Lumwana is Malundwe, which has a higher copper grade than the Chimiwungo deposit some 8 km distant. The new resource calculation for Malundwe's uranium estimates indicated resources of 4.7 million tonnes grading 0.095% U3O8 and 0.86% copper plus 3.9 million inferred tonnes grading 0.047% U3O8 and 0.38% copper. Chimiwungo hosts 2.2 million inferred tonnes grading 0.056% U3O8 and 0.74% copper.

Since uranium ore would be selectively mined within a much larger copper mining operation, more tonnage than usual is lost in converting resources to reserves. Nevertheless Malundwe holds 3.3 million tonnes of probable uranium reserves grading 0.123% U3O8 and 1% copper.

Equinox also believes there is good potential for increasing the uranium resources through further exploration both on the Lumwana mining lease and on the company's surrounding prospecting licenses.

Uranium ore will be mined concurrently with the mining of copper ore and stockpiled within a dedicated facility. Once the uranium processing facility is up and running the stockpiled ore will be reclaimed. Needless to say, existing infrastructure such as waste rock dumps, raw and potable water supplies, housing, access roads, and power supply will be utilized.

The uranium plant will use conventional milling and flotation to produce copper concentrate. The tailing from the copper circuit will report to a uranium leach circuit that will use conventional acid leach, solvent extraction, precipitation, and calcination to produce uranium oxide. Neutralized tailings will be stored in a separate uranium tailings storage facility with tailings return water re-used in the uranium plant.

The feasibility study suggests the uranium plant should process 1 million tonnes of ore annually to recover roughly 2 million lbs. uranium oxide and 15,000 tonnes of copper concentrate per year. Uranium recovery is expected to be 93%.

Overall capital costs for the facility come in at US$232.2 million, with $178.7 million of that needed for the process plant. Operating costs for the first four years of operation are estimated at US$16 per lb. U3O8 without copper credits or US$11 per lb. with the copper credit.

Equinox expect to submit the uranium project environmental impact assessment to the Environmental Council of Zambia this month. The company hopes to start construction in late 2008 with the goal of commissioning the plant in 2010.

Equinox is currently trading at just under $5. The company has a 52-week trading range of $2.54 to $6.20 and has 566 million shares issued.

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