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Image: St Barbara.

St Barbara is aiming to expand the Simberi sulphide project in Papua New Guinea after a pre-feasibility study (PFS) confirmed mine life at the project would be extended to 35 years.

The pre-feasibility study focussed on low spend solutions, making the most of existing infrastructure, which had reserves at an estimated $US1300 per ounce ($2019 per ounce) gold price.

This study, which was an update from the 2016 PFS, had a 38 per cent increase in the ore reserve from 1.3 million ounces to 1.8 million ounces.

St Barbara already has access to airport, power station, village and wharf infrastructure at Simberi island as well as a semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mill that will maintain the company’s ability to process separate oxide and sulphide ores.

Managing director and chief executive officer Craig Jetson said the St Barbara board has already approved the advancement plans to the next stage.

“The feasibility study will further optimise the work completed in the PFS and target a potential investment decision in the 2021 financial year March quarter,” Jetson said.

“Jason Robertson, general manager of Simberi operations and I are both very familiar with processing sulphide ore in Papua New Guinea and consider the proposed plant flowsheet to be relatively straightforward.”

The current Simberi mine plan anticipates mill processing oxides into the 2022 financial year and St Barbara expects the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) to be completed by the end of this year.

Should all approvals come through and construction begin, St Barbara believes there will be a two-year construction window starting in March 2021