The increase in annual production reflects the recovery from the disruption to operations in 2016 when the mine transitioned to owner-operator. Q4 tin production totalled 1,785 tonnes, broadly unchanged from the previous quarter and the final quarter of 2016. The mine benefited from higher average ore grades of 1.30%Sn in 2017, compared to 1.23% in 2016, despite a marginal drop in ore production to 728,209 tonnes. In addition, high tin recoveries of 75.5% resulted in record low tails grade of 0.3%Sn in Q4 with average 2017 recoveries of 75%. Cash costs fell 13.7% to 11,556 AUD (~US$ 9100), while All in Sustaining Costs fell 6.6% to 18,306 AUD (US$14,300).
Construction of an optical ore sorting plant at the mine is on schedule for completion by May 2018. Two underground drill rigs continued to operate in Q4 to prepare for the expansion of underground production required to meet the additional capacity of the new plant. The Rentails tailings project is also progressing with final test work and advanced flow-sheet design now complete. Infrastructure and environmental approvals will now be sought from the government, with an expected timeline of 12 months. After the installation of the ore sorting plant and the commencement of Rentails, the combined operation is expected to produce approximately 13,400 – 13,900 tonnes of tin annually.
Our view: Metals X owns a 50% equity interest in Renison through its 50% stake in the Bluestone Mines Tasmania Joint Venture. With the commissioning of the new ore sorter, we provisionally anticipate that production from Renison will total some 8,000 tonnes in 2018, although the tailings project is unlikely to commence until at least 2019.