Nordic Mining acquired the rights to the Engebø deposit in 2006. On 31th of October 2017 a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) was published for the Engebø project.
The full PFS report is available here.
The main results and Project characteristics presented in the PFS are:
- Robust dual-mineral operation with production of high-quality rutile and garnet
- Attractive Project financials:
- Pre-tax NPV@8% of USD 332 million
- Pre-tax IRR 23.8%
- Pay-back period: < 5 year
- Upside potential for a NPV@8% up to USD 465 million for a scalable concept with increased capacity (staged expansion), higher sales volumes and utilisation of inferred mineral resource
- Substantially reduced upfront capital cost; USD 207 million for the initial 1.5 mtpa operation
- 16 years of open pit mining followed by 13 years underground; potential extension of mine life by mining of large inferred resources to the east and west of the deposit, and to the depth
- Low cost operation due to outcropping, high-grade mineral deposit, low stripping ratio, geotechnically stable orebody, limited transportation costs and good product recoveries
- First quartile revenue-to-cost position for rutile compared with global titanium feedstock industry
- Favorable location at tidal waters and efficient logistics for European and overseas markets
- Zoning plan and environmental permit fully granted
- The PFS supports further Project progress towards production
The Engebø deposit is one of the world’s highest-grade rutile deposits and is unique due to its substantial content of garnet. The main titanium bearing mineral is rutile. Only 5% of the titanium is found as ilmenite, and the presence of titanite/sphene is negligible. In general, the eclogite contains 40% to 50% almandine type garnet.
With negligible contents of radioactive elements and heavy metals, the deposit is a clean source of high-grade and high-quality titanium and garnet minerals. Unlike most rutile deposits, the Engebø rutile is contained in a hard-rock ore, a massive body of eclogite.
The deposit forms a 2.5 km long east-west trending lens that runs parallel with the Førde Fjord and the ridge, Engebøfjellet (Norwegian for Engebø Mountain).
The geological map shows the position of the deposit (dark pink) running through the Engebø Mountain.
A mineral resource estimate for Engebø was made in 2016 by Mr. Adam Wheeler, following a comprehensive drilling and surface sampling campaign. The estimate substantially improved and increased classifications and enabled a qualified quantification of the garnet. The 2016 resource estimate for a 3% TiO2 Cut-off, is shown in the table below.
The resource remains open to the east, west and at depth, with potential to convert Inferred resources to Measured and Indicated Resources with additional drilling.
Norway is renowned for its hard rock mining, both open pit and underground. From a mining perspective, the deposit supports a low-cost production operation for the following reasons:
The high relief location of the open pit enables the use of a glory hole for open pit mining. The ore pass (glory hole) will be raise-bored into the pit shell, with a crusher and silo system developed below the pit. As consequence, ore transport costs are minimal
An attractive stripping ratio with almost no overburden. The waste is determined by the cut-off grade with the potential to stockpile low grade ore close to the pit for processing later
A large resource which is open at depth and to the east and west. This allows for an easy transition to effective underground bulk mining
The geotechnical setting does not require intensive support and further favours low operating costs in both open pit and underground mining.
The optimised business case results in an open pit mine at 1.5 Mtpa for 16 years followed by underground operations for a further 13 years. The figure below shows the open pit and underground mine design used to derive the mine plan.
Open Pit and Underground Mine Design (looking South-East)
A key feature of the design is the use of a glory hole inside the pit. The effect of this is to reduce the ore haulage requirements since most benches are close enough to dump directly into the raise-bored hole. Ore is then crushed and transferred to underground silos before being conveyed to the plant.
Capital and Operating Cost Estimat
The capital estimate to establish the open pit mining operation and the process plant is US$ 207 M. The estimated cost of establishing the underground mine after 15 years of open pit operation is US$ 17 M.
The contingency allowances in the above capital estimates has been calculated by means of a quantitative risk analysis (QRA) to determine the Project’s capital risk profile. Contingency at an 80% confidence level has been allowed for, equating to 19.8% of the initial project capital cost.
The operating cost estimate developed from the production schedule. The total average operating cost over the Life of Mine is US$ 16.28/RoM t and US$ 86.92/product t (rutile and garnet combined, Free on Board).
Key Project Financial
The key financials for the Project’s business case are summarised in the table below. The NPV of US$ 332 M is a real pre-tax value discounted by 8%, which is the assumed Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC). The IRR of 23.8% is real with no escalations applied. The payback period is the number of periods once operations start that generate positive cashflow equal to the capital invested. The Life of Mine is the number of operating years for the reserve derived in line with the guidelines of the JORC Code. The profitability index is a ratio of the NPV divided by the capital discounted to a present value using a WACC value of 8%.
The post-tax key financials have been calculated using a post-tax WACC of 6.8%. A post-tax NPV of US$ 305 M and an IRR of 20.8% are estimated assuming a 60% debt financing of the Project and general implementation of accounting standards for depreciation and tax calculation.
There are upside potentials in the business case related to, inter alia:
- Expanding the Run of Mine throughput to enable increased product sales
- Extending the Life of Mine through increased ore reserves from Inferred Resources
- Selling surplus garnet produced in the first years of production.
- The above initiatives may offer a 40% improvement in the NPV8 up to US$ 465 M
TZMI, a leading global technical and marketing consultant, considers that the longer-term outlook for rutile production indicates that a significant supply deficit will develop if no new projects are commissioned. The global supply of rutile is set to decline considerably during the period 2017 to 2025, with output in 2025 expected to be 50% lower than 2016 levels.
Global demand for rutile for pigment and titanium metal end-use is estimated to reach 540 k TiO2 units by 2020 and 710 k TiO2 units by 2025. The planned output of approximately 30 ktpa from Engebø should easily be absorbed by the market by the time the Project comes on stream.
TZMI has used the preliminary product specifications generated during the PFS testwork campaign as a basis for assessing the Engebø rutile product quality. The preliminary quality of the rutile compares favourably to most other competing products. Based on product quality and particle size distribution, the Engebø rutile is considered being a suitable feedstock for chloride pigment and titanium metal applications.
The primary markets for garnet are in abrasive blasting and waterjet cutting, although for some coarse grades there is also a market in water filtration. There is also a market in abrasion resistant materials such as in flooring, but this market is primarily restricted to China at the current time. The three garnet products which Engebø will target are 80 mesh waterjet, 100 mesh waterjet and 30/60 mesh blast market.
The current world production of garnet is estimated at 1.4 Mtpa; India is the largest producer (estimated production is 450 ktpa to 500 ktpa); with Australia being the next largest producer at an estimated 280 ktpa production level. China is the third significant producer at an estimated 200 ktpa to 300 ktpa output.
Engebø is very well placed with its direct access to the North Sea and, thereafter, major European waterways, resulting in lower transport costs and reduced time to market relative to the key global producers in India, Australia and China.
Nordic Mining has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a leading, international producer of industrial minerals. The parties intend to establish long-term cooperation within development, production, sales, marketing and distribution of garnet products from Engebø. This may include an off-take agreement, joint marketing, and sales and distribution arrangements for garnet products to the international markets.
A high-level Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) schedule has been developed based on start in November 2017 with a duration of approximately 12 months. Thereafter, it is likely that the Project will proceed directly into a FEED (Front End Engineering Design) phase, where critical path engineering and procurement work will be continued to expedite the start of construction.
Once the DFS has been completed in Q4 2018, the following preliminary and indicative milestones apply:
- Start of FEED – Q4 2018
- Completion of FEED – Q2 2019
- Start of construction – Q2 2019
- End of construction – Q2 2021
- Start of commissioning and production ramp-up – Q2 2021
- End of commissioning – Q3 2021
- End of production ramp-up – Q4 2021.
Environment and Permitting
Nordic Mining’s overarching principle when operating the Engebø deposit is to adopt a good citizen approach and demonstrate that it can plan, build and operate Engebø in a manner that:
- Demonstrates environmental responsibility and adheres to the environmental terms of the permits and approvals requirements
- Continuously improves the environmental track record
- Commits to a sustainable long-term mining operation that will benefit the community.
Zoning Plan and Discharge Permit
The regulatory setting for the Project is driven by two key legislative requirements for Nordic Mining to establish a mining and processing operation at Engebø, namely the discharge permit and the zoning plan (planning permit). Both requirements have been fully met and the initiative is compliant with Norwegian environmental legislation.
The zoning plan was adopted by the local municipalities in 2011 and finally approved by the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation on 17 April 2015.
Environmental Impact Assessment
A comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) programme with numerous environmental studies have been carried out between 2008 and 2015. Forty-four environmental and social responsibility studies/reports have been developed to date over the life of the Project.
A major topic for the EIA was the deposition of tailings. The permitted solution is a sea disposal system for transporting tailings through a pipeline down to the seafloor of the Førde Fjord, at a depth of 320 m. The fjord basin is a sedimentation environment confined by thresholds to the inner part of the fjord and by a glaciation sill to open sea. A 4.4 km2 area of the fjord seafloor has been regulated for tailings deposition.
Detailed baseline studies were carried out to map the biodiversity in the fjord; this included test fishing, grab sampling and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) investigations. Currents, salinity, turbidity and temperature were measured in the fjord throughout a 12- month period to document the fjord environment.
The main conclusions regarding the fjord disposal solution from the EIA studies were:
- The tailings will sediment within the area regulated for disposal, which comprises 5% of the total fjord area
- The currents in the tailings area are moderate and there is limited risk of erosion currents that could potentially transport tailings outside the regulated area
- Limited effects are expected outside the regulated area and in the water column above the tailings outlet
- The tailings are benign, meaning they consist of non-harmful naturally occurring minerals with negligible contents of heavy metals
- The chemical additives that follow the tailings from flotation and thickening are biodegradable and in non-harmful concentrations
- The tailings consist of mainly sand and silt fractions and a little from the clay fraction; they are somewhat coarser than the sediments constituting the fjord bottom today
- The baseline studies showed that the fjord habitat has biodiversity that is typical for western Norwegian fjords
- There are no corals found in the tailings area
- The tailings deposits pose little threat to cod which have their breeding grounds in shallow fjord areas
- The tailings solution poses little threat to endangered fish that dwell in the fjord
- The tailings will affect bottom living organisms within the regulated area where the sedimentation rate is high. Mobile species such as fish will avoid areas with high turbidity
- The tailings will likely be recolonised within a few years after the tailings deposition ends. The biodiversity is expected to return to as good a state as it was before the depositing took place
- The fjord has no commercial fishing, but some recreational fishing. The tailings will not affect recreational fishing in the fjord
- The tailings will not affect fish farms that are operated in the fjord.
Norway has long-term experience with sea disposal of tailings. Currently there are five active tailings deposits in Norway and two (including Engebø) have recently been permitted. Experience with fjord deposition in Norway is, for the most part, positive. Advanced systems for continuous monitoring exist and there are established best practise guidelines for tailings deposition to limit the environmental footprint.