Emerging copper producer Anax Metals (ANX) is a fan of brownfields projects.

The company acquired an 80% interest in the Whim Creek project in the Pilbara last year and plans to use particle sorting technology to determine whether the rocks are economic – or not.

“We’ll be using x-ray technology at Whim Creek,” managing director Geoff Laing said.

“This way we can use the natural variability within the ore body to separate out high and low-grade rocks.

“That means that we can dramatically reduce the size of infrastructure that we need (i.e. processing plants) so that reduces the capex, and reduces the opex.”

A more sustainable project

“Importantly, from a sustainability perspective, it allows for a very efficient environmental footprint,” Laing said.

“Because you’re reducing the power, the water, and the amount of tailings you produce.

“That is the real differentiator.

“It gives us a massive economic boost, but it also makes the project more sustainable and economically friendly.”

Applying the tech to other stranded assets

While the technology is not unique or exclusive to the company, Laing says Anax has a lot of proprietary knowledge around how to apply it.

“Over the last few years we’ve built up a considerable body of knowledge on how to apply the technology, so we know which projects are going to be most leveraged to it,” he said.

“We’ve been able to demonstrate our proprietary knowledge on Whim Creek, and we plan to roll the same blueprint out on other projects.

“Now we’ve got the opportunity to find some other low hanging fruit – other stranded assets – that other companies aren’t seeing.”

And because it’s focusing on brownfields projects like Whim Creek – which usually have significant infrastructure on site – Laing said the company can get projects up and running quickly.

A good time to be in copper

The company is keen to investigate previously identified copper deposits – especially when the price is sitting around US$9,400 per tonne.

“The copper macro business is a very attractive business, with the electrification of pretty much everything,” Laing said.

“We see the demand side on copper continuing to grow, and the supply sides are probably struggling to keep up.

“That’s created a huge opportunity for us, because we see that there are all these stranded assets that are already identified copper deposits, that, for whatever reason, haven’t yet been developed.

“And the technology overlay using this particle sorting technology allows us to potentially exploit these deposits that are known about.

“That’s the opportunity for us in a very strong copper market.”

60% of Whim Creek Revenue from Copper

The recent scoping study at Whim Creek – which has a resource of around 10 million tonnes grading 1% copper and around 2% zinc (and some gold, silver, and lead by-product credits) – showed  around 60% of revenue will come from copper.

The company is targeting 3.5 million tonnes of production over a six-year mine life.

“We’d produce about 33,000 tonnes of copper, but 62,000 tonnes of zinc, and about 18,000 tonnes of lead over that period,” Laing said.

“That would see us generating about just under $200 million in free cash.”

The project could be in production as soon as the end of next year, and Anax is also planning to roll out an exploration program in the near term.