The Tulkubash ore is suitable for open pit mining and low-cost heap leach extraction – a low capital, low operating cost, technically straightforward and proven technology. Chaarat’s management team has experience building and operating heap leach plants across the world including developing countries and high-altitude locations. A bankable feasibility study for the Tulkubash heap leach project was completed in March 2018.  An updated reserve estimate and accompanying financial model are being prepared and will be completed and announced before the end of Q1 2019.

Exploration up to January 2019 has defined 1,657,000 ounces of gold through approximately 78,000m of drilling. This is contained within 3.2km of strike in the southern portion of Chaarat’s 6km long mining licence. An additional 18 km of prospective geology is contained within Chaarat’s exploration license.  Drilling in 2018 confirmed that mineralisation was continuous along strike, extending the proposed open pit to include previously identified along strike satellite deposits. In addition, additional mineralised zones adjacent to the primary Tulkubash zone were intersected.  The mineralisation is open to the north-east with along strike continuity indicated by substantial soil geochemical anomalies.  A substantial drilling programme is planned for 2019 to further extend the Tulkubash mineralisation.

The Tulkubash development is expected to have an initial processing capacity of 8kt of ore per day but is being designed to be readily expandable at a low capital cost to allow for production of 120koz+ per annum once along strike exploration has been completed. This will ensure that the Tulkubash heap leach facility will be a meaningful gold producer on a standalone basis.

Tulkubash Heap Leach Basic Design

Heap Leach Basic Design schematic

Oxide ore from the Tulkubash zone will be crushed at the processing plant to a 12.5mm size. Due to the nature of the ore no agglomeration will be required, and the crushed ore will be stacked directly on the leach pad. The lack of agglomeration removes a potential bottle neck from the plant for future expansion.

Through a simple chemical process gold will be extracted from the zero discharge heap leach pad into a solution. The pregnant solution will be passed through carbon columns to extract the gold, from where it will be further refined at site through elution, electro-winning and smelting, to deliver a doré bar of gold and silver with minor impurities. Doré will be shipped to gold refineries for final production of fine gold and fine silver bullion for sale. Overall gold recovery defined through metallurgical testwork is expected to be 70%.

Tulkubash site layout

The proposed site layout provides sufficient space to safely operate and expand the Tulkubash facilities. Ore will be trucked from the open pit to the leach pads over a distance of approximately 5km. The leach pads are in an area known as the ‘dry valley’, away from natural water courses with ample space for long term increases in production.

Expected site layout

Site Layout

Infrastructure upgrades to prepare the site for development are underway and will be completed in H1 2018 ahead of development. This includes upgrades to the site access road, communications infrastructure and a bridge across the Sandalash river. Due to the simple nature of the heap leach process there are no significant infrastructure requirements to bring the mine into production.

Tulkubash Construction

A notice to proceed was issued to Turkish mining contractor Çiftay Inşaat on August 31, 2018 and the contractor has now begun deploying equipment to Tulkubash. Ҫiftay’s initial operations will focus on:

  • Construction of a temporary 50-person camp for the initial construction forces;
  • Partial construction of a permanent camp initially housing 200 persons (the camp will be expanded to 360 persons next year);
  • Establishing a temporary maintenance shop;
  • Construction of a 5km haul road between the mine and the process facilities;
  • Construction of the Kumbel pass-to-site portion of the access road; and
  • Initial clearing and grubbing of the heap leach pad area

These advance activities will lead to full scale construction of the Tulkubash Heap Leach Project in the second quarter of 2019.  Basic engineering for the process plant is complete and detailed engineering is in progress.  The heap leach facility design is being finalized and the application for Kyrgyz regulatory approval of the design is being compiled.  Key positions for the construction team are being filled to execute the Integrated Team delivery approach, whereby Chaarat project management will be supplemented with the strategic engineering support from outside the company to form the project delivery team.  The remainder of construction activities for Tulkubash Heap Leach Project is estimated to cost US$130 million.

This summer’s activities have resulted in the completion of the Access Road from the Chatkal valley to the top of Kumbel Pass, the haul road bridge over the Sandalash River, and the communications infrastructure which will serve the mine during construction and production.  Chaarat has invested more than US$50 million on engineering and infrastructure projects for the Tulkubash and Kyzyltash deposits to date.

Construction Pictures:

Kumbel Pass Access Road Blasting

Kumbel Pass Access Road Excavation

Kumbel Pass Access Road Excavation

Kumbel Pass Access Road Excavation

Kumbel Pass Access Road Drainage Structure

Sandalash River Bridge and Chaarat Exploration Camp