The Ranobe Resource has been the subject of more than US$30 million of exploration and evaluation expenditure since it was discovered by in 1999.
Initial exploration work in the Toliara area was carried out in 1999 and resulted in mineralised sands being identified Ranobe as well as further north at Ankililoaka, Basibasy and Morombe. Further drilling was undertaken in 2000, 2001 and 2003 by which time the resource at Ranobe had been defined.
Exxaro Joint Venture
The Ranobe Mine was the subject of a complete Prefeasibility Study and an incomplete Bankable Feasibility Study carried out by Exxaro Resources Ltd (Exxaro) from 2003 to 2009 and a considerable amount of work has been completed. This includes resource definition (JORC compliant resources) and feasibility study standard reports for mining, processing, infrastructure, environmental and social matters.
A large-scale dredging operation at Ranobe to provide smelter feed for a South African smelter did not meet Exxaro’s investment criteria and, given the adverse global economic and Madagascan political conditions at the time, Exxaro terminated the joint venture with WTR in July 2009.
Following the exit of Exxaro in 2009 a comprehensive review of the project was undertaken and sought a revised development concept for a mine at Ranobe to supply ilmenite, zircon and rutile onto the world markets.
The review identified a new development concept. A dry mine would produce ore which would be mix with water into slurry and pumped to mobile concentrators. After loading into road trains the HMC would be hauled ~40km to a transfer pumping station located on the north side of the Fiheranana River on a dedicated haul road and pumped via a 14km slurry pipeline to an MSP located at the existing Toliara port.
Two ilmenite products and a zircon (75%) and rutile (15%) rich non-magnetic concentrate would be produced in the MSP. The existing Toliara Port would be used to load barges with ilmenite for transfer into bulk vessels inside reef protected water and the zircon rich exported in containers via the existing wharf which was under-utilised.
The revised project concept delivered robust economics from the initial development while retaining scope for further expansion. Based on this positive outcome a Definitive Engineering Study (DES) was undertaken from late 2011.
Definitive Engineering Study
The DES, managed by TZMI with Engineering & Project Management Services as the lead engineering contractor, was completed in August 2012. Specialist sub-contractors were engaged for various aspects of the study, including the mine and mining method, port, haul road and slurry pipeline.
The study built on the earlier TZMI scoping study and Exxaro feasibility studies. The objective of the study was to;
Undertake sufficient engineering for the mine, processing equipment and infrastructure to ensure the capital and operating cost estimates were robust;
Determine the preferred mining method;
Optimise the number and location of processing plants;
Investigate opportunities to improve export logistics;
Identify any long lead items;
Review the Mineral Resource, develop an optimised mine plan and determine an Ore Reserve; and
Prepare for the tender for project engineering design, procurement and construction management.
The experience of local and international engineering firms, operating in Madagascar, was incorporated to make sure that the costs used in the project economic model reflect the reality of actual in-country costs
The DES confirmed that a low capex, low technical risk and simple mineral sands operation could be built using proven technology.
Definitive Feasibility Study
In January 2017 a Definitive Feasibility Study was initiated with Hatch to validate the project concept envisaged in the 2012 DES, but at an increased project scale of 12 Mtpa. This work was completed at end June 2017. In parallel, the existing environmental licence was updated to allow for the impacts of the higher throughput and an EISHA Addendum was approved by ONE in December 2017. Additional project approvals achieved included an updated water permit from ANDEA and the Mining Licence was significantly enlarged by the conversion of the 3315 exploration licence and merging this with existing ML’s. The increased mining scale along with a new 30 year mine plan considerably improved the project NPV.