2019 Was a seminal year for TSX-listed Trevali Mining Corporation. The company made a conscious decision to modernise its business and bring them down the cost curve.

Already the decision has borne fruit resulting in the company being in good financial standing to further its Namibian assets including Rosh Pinah.

President and CEO, RICUS GRIMBEEK spoke to GERARD PETER.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 3, 2020
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Trevali has operations on three continents: Caribou mine in Canada (zinc, lead and silver), Santander mine (zinc, lead and silver) in Peru and the Perkoa and Rosh Pinah zinc mines in Burkina Faso and Namibia respectively.

The company also has a 44% interest in the Gergarub project, a zinc-rich massive sulphide body in southern Namibia. Despite its widespread global footprint, Grimbeek states that Africa is very much the focus for the company with Rosh Pinah – a zinc-lead mine and 2 000 tpd milling operation – being Trevali’s crown jewel.

Earlier this year, Trevali announced that it had exceeded its 2019 zinc production guidance by producing a record annual 417 million payable pounds of zinc.

This puts the company on a good footing to provide 2020 operating, capital and exploration expenditure guidance, including pursuing RP2.0 – the expansion of Rosh Pinah.

“Trevali plans on publishing a pre-feasibility study by the end of Q2, 2020  which will be followed by the full feasibility study in Q4, 2020,” explains Grimbeek.  

The feasibility study will be used to support the full execution funding decision.

Once in production, the expansion will see Rosh Pinah ramp up production to approximately 1.3 Mtpa (ROM) and increase the mine life. RP2.0 will also include removing the existing ball mill and replacing it with a more modern sag mill.

RP2.0 expansion is expected to cost under US$100 million and given Trevali’s strong financial standing, the company is confident that it can self-fund the project. That said, the company is not ruling out other potential financing solutions both in Namibia and internationally.

Digital at the core of transformation

Trevali’s continued success is down to the implementation of its T90 Business Improvement Programme that it began rolling out in 2019, with automation and digitisation of its operations at the helm of this transformation.  

T90 targets US$50 million in pre-tax annual sustainable efficiencies to be achieved over the next two years culminating in a reduction to consolidated all-in-sustaining cost to $0.90/lb by the beginning of 2022. 

“In 2019 we started the transformation of Trevali. The company meaningfully beat annual production guidance, the board was refreshed, a new senior management team was assembled, and we launched the T90 programme to modernise our operations and reduce costs,” explains Grimbeek.

“T90 captures a number of projects, programmes, and initiatives but largely consists of improvement opportunities unique to each operating site, deployment of standardisation and best practices to ensure “one company runs four ore bodies,” deploying technology to improve productivity as well as decision making.”

Even ahead of the expansion, automation is already being implemented at Rosh Pinah. In October last year, Trevali took ownership of a semi-autonomous Sandvik Load Haul Dumper (LHD) scoop tram. The LHD operates remotely from surface and allows the company to extend operational hours at the mine.

This is because it allows for continued operation during a shift change when an operator cannot be underground.

“Semi-autonomous equipment has the ability to increase equipment operation hours, mining productivity and enhances safety by allowing operators to work from the surface rather than underground,” adds Grimbeek.  

People still key to operations

While productivity and efficiency is pivotal for running a profitable mine, Grimbeek emphasises that safety is also top of mind when it comes to the T90 rollout.

Already, it has proven successful with Trevali showing a marked improvement in safety performance having reduced the total recordable injury frequency rate by 46% in 2019 compared to 2018.

While there is concern that automation will result in job losses, Grimbeek states this is not the case at Rosh Pinah.

“We are not simply going to automate operations in order to reduce our workforce. Rather, we believe that this technology will improve safety for our workers and our employees understand this,” states Grimbeek.

“When we started our digital transformation journey, we engaged with our employees to buy into our vision for a more productive and sustainable mine that benefits all. In addition, by operating semi-autonomous equipment, they are learning new skills.”

“The company is well positioned to be a 400 Mlb annual zinc producer with a reducing cost profile until 2022 when we intend to make a step change in production and cost as RP2.0 is commissioned,” Grimbeek concludes.