Local media in Bolivia is reporting that EM Huanuni has begun operating its Lucianita processing plant. Earlier this year, COMIBOL – the Bolivian mining authority that owns the mine – announced that it would begin operating Lucianita from the beginning of May.
Construction of the plant was completed in 2015 to replace the aging Santa Elena and Machacamarca units. However, issues – including a lack of a water recirculation system – meant that the plant could not begin processing ore immediately. Attempts to bring the plant online in 2018 also failed due to electrical and mechanical issues. Since the tender for the processing plant in 2010, production at Huanuni has fallen from 9,751 tonnes to a stable level of just over 7,000 tonnes – excluding 2020 when output fell significantly due to COVID-related closures.
The US$54 million investment into the new infrastructure at Huanuni aims to increase processing capacity to 3,000 tonnes per day. This would nearly double the existing capacity at the mine and increase monthly tin production by 500-700 tonnes. “We hope to reach 1.6% with a head grade and reach 500 metric tons per month and it will definitely position Huanuni as one of the best companies, not only here in Bolivia but also internationally,” said Ramiro Villavicencio Niño de Guzmán, Minister of Mining and Metallurgy.
Our view: Production from EM Huanuni was hit in 2020 due to issues at the country’s main smelter, EM Vinto. The mine produced some 5,469 tonnes of tin-in-concentrate last year, down 1,604 tonnes (23%) from 2019. In Bolivia, exports of tin ores and concentrates are only permitted if smelters in the country cannot process the material. Therefore, while the mine was closed for several months due to COVID restrictions, it was able to continue operating despite EM Vinto running into financial issues.