Albazino is mined by conventional open-pit truck-shovel and drill-and-blast methods. The current life-of-mine plan provides for open-pit mining until 2031, with further extensions anticipated as a result of pit enlargement and additional exploration activities, particularly exploration at the Ekaterina and Farida ore zones.
|Location||Khabarovsk Region, Russia|
|Processing||1.6 Mtpa flotation followed by POX and CIL processing at Amursk|
|Reserves (JORC)||2.3 Moz GE, 4.7 g/t average grade|
|Resources (JORC)||1.2 GE Moz, 5.6 g/t average grade|
|Production start date||2009|
|Life of mine||2031|
Albazino, acquired in 2006, is a high-grade refractory gold mine developed as a Greenfield project by Polymetal. Today, it comprises an operating open-pit mine and a 1.6 Mtpa on-site flotation concentrator that was first launched in 2011. Albazino is an integral part of the group’s largest project — the Amursk POX Hub, where Albazino gold concentrate is transported and then processed into dore bars.
Albazino is located in a remote area in the Russian far-east, around the Polina Osipenko district of the Khabarovsk region. It is approximately 780 km northeast of the city of Khabarovsk and 440 km from Amursk, where the POX hub is located. The nearest settlement — Kherpuchi, is located 114 km east from the project area and is connected to Albazino by a year-round unpaved road built by Polymetal. The river port of Oglongi, which is located approximately 115 km from the site, connects with the ports of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur (180 km) and Amursk (600 km) during the six-month window when the river is ice-free.
The Albazino area has been a site of active placer gold mining since the 1890s, with first hard-rock gold discovered during prospecting activities in 1955. However, exploration activities were quickly suspended once the refractory nature of gold mineralisation was revealed.
Polymetal acquired Albazino in 2006 from a local placer miner for US$ 7 million, making it the Group’s first greenfield project since 2004. Active exploration on site commenced in 2007, and the first JORC reserves estimate was confirmed by a feasibility study in the second quarter of 2008. The same study also confirmed that the Albazino project can be economically developed as an open-pit operation with a 1.6 Mtpa conventional flotation plant and a pressure oxidation facility. Construction of the Albazino concentrator started in the third quarter of 2008 and was successfully launched with the first gold concentrate bagged in April of 2011. The same year, first concentrate shipments were made to third-party off-takers in China while the Amursk POX facility was under construction.
From the moment of its acquisition to the launch of production, a total of US$ 342 million was spent at Albazino comprising exploration, project capex, ongoing overhead, and first-fill working capital.
The Albazino deposit consists of several seemingly isolated northwest-trending mineralisation zones separated by fatult-bounded structural blocks. Mineralisation extends over 7 km in length with the Anfisa, Olga, Ekaterina and Farida zones in the northeast, and Nadezhda in the northwest.
Gold mineralisation at Albazino is of the low-sulphide, gold-pyrite-arsenopyrite type, and is assicated with moderately dipping dykes that crosscut sandstrones. The most intense gold mineralisation is associated with fold zones, averaging between 10 and 30m in thickness with intense veining.
Albazino ore is refractory, with the majority of gold intimately associated with arsenopyrite and pyrite in microscopic and sub-microscopic form. As such, it is not amenable to recovery by conventional cyanidation. The zone of oxidised and transitional ore is developed to a maximum depth of 40 m.
Here, the run-of-mine ore is fed to the primary jaw crusher and reduced to 250 mm which is then subject to three-stage milling (in one SAG mill and two ball mills) followed by two-stage conventional flotation in parallel circuits. The flotation concentrate is then thickened, filtered, dried, bagged and shipped to the Amursk POX facility for further processing, while the flotation tails are thickened and sent to the valley-fill tailings storage that is lined with an impoundment dam.
The Albazino concentrator has been running at its full 1,600 ktpa design capacity since its launch in 2011. The bench scale autoclaving test work on the Albazino concentrate was carried out at SGS in Canada and achieved CIL gold recoveries from oxidised concentrate as high as 96%. An extended pilot plant run achieved a cyanide leach gold recovery of 95 per cent by CIL treatment of the POX discharge.
|Ore Reserves||Tonnage, Mt||Gold grade, g/t||Silver grade, g/t||Copper grade, %||GE grade, g/t||Gold, Koz||Silver, Moz||Copper, Kt||GE, Koz|
|Mineral Resources||Tonnage, Mt||Gold grade, g/t||Silver grade, g/t||Copper grade, %||GE grade, g/t||Gold, Koz||Silver, Moz||Copper, Kt||GE, Koz|
- Ore reserves increased by 12% year-on-year to 2.3 Moz GE, driven by the initial ore reserve estimate for Farida open pit (169 Koz GE) and Anfisa underground (47 Koz GE).
- In 2018, exploration will focus on delineating resources and estimating mineral resources at new ore zones, namely Tatiana and Kuyan.