AIM-listed copper company, African Copper, has unlocked the profitable potential from its once troublesome Mowana mine.

Despite encountering a number of difficulties during its 2013 financial year, the combination of the high grade Thakadu deposit, and high plant recoveries as seen a turnaround at Mowana – which until now – has struggled to achieve its desired and designed copper output grades and tonnages.

Zambia Copper Investments‘ (ZCI) principal subsidiary, African Copper, has produced 2 429 t of copper (in concentrate) for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013 from its 100% owned Mowana mining property in Botswana.

Ore processed in Q4 – 164 588 t – was a 7.4% decrease compared to the same period last year but delivered significantly improved copper recoveries of 88.2% (Q4, full year 2012: 45.8%).

Ore processed for the full 2013 year increased by 8.5% to 801 901 t, despite a 15 day shut-down period in Q1. Copper recovery increased to 66.5% from 48.4% in the prior year and copper produced in concentrate increased by 37.5% to 9 496 t.

All of the ore processed at the Mowana copper mine facilities during the full 2013 year was sourced from the higher grade sulphide-rich Thakadu mine section.

Ore processed in the fourth quarter was lower than the third and second quarters as a result of lower ore production following a change in mining contractors which was highlighted during the third quarter results announced on 24 January 2013. A new mining contractor was engaged during February and ore production ramped to approach “normal” levels during March 2013.

During March, ore production improved, and mining took place in the wider, higher grade eastern part of the Thakadu ore body as reflected by the March copper grade. Copper recovery at the plant has continued to benefit from the increasing proportion of sulphide ore, particularly during March 2013 when a new production record of 1 314 t of copper in concentrate was achieved.

In the three months reported below, the proportion of sulphide ore processed increased to 80% of the total from 54% in Q3 and 56% in Q2. Trucking operations from Thakadu to the Mowana mine processing facilities, a distance of 70 km, ran to plan throughout the quarter and FY 2013.

April has seen some production issues around the performance of the mill, which has been subject to some vibrations following a production halt for three days for mill relining. Accordingly, April production was 556 t of copper in concentrate.

“We have identified the source of the vibrations and as a result have ordered new mill gear mechanisms which are expected to be available for installation in September 2013 with resultant necessary mill downtime,” says the company.

Exploration drilling has continued during the fourth quarter in the greater Nakalakwana area targeting iron oxide copper gold mineralisation within the Matsitama exploration licence and in the near vicinity of Thakadu to find additional mineable resources.

“We achieved record copper production from the Mowana facilities in our fiscal year to end March 2013. I am pleased to be able to report to shareholders that our team’s hard work on improving operations is at last paying off and that our Mowana and Thakadu assets are beginning to demonstrate the long life and quality that we believed them to possess,” says African Copper acting chief executive, Jordan Soko.

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