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The Simberi operation. Image: St Barbara.

St Barbara will potentially increase the nameplate capacity at the Simberi gold operation in Papua New Guinea (PNG) by 10 per cent following the release of a feasibility study (FS) on the project.

The latest FS study updated the results of a pre-feasibility study in March 2020, pushing its plant nameplate capacity from 2.7 million tonnes per annum to three million tonnes per annum.

An option to expand to 3.7 million tonnes per annum was among other updates, as well as an improved all-in sustaining cost of about 3 per cent.

The board of St Barbara also approved a $US13 million ($16.7 million) pre-investment work, with a final investment decision targeted for March next year.

St Barabara managing director and chief executive Craig Jetson said the company was increasingly confident in the project.

“The future of the Simberi sulphide project has been endorsed by the board, with a commitment to pre-investment work that will take place as we update mineral reserves, complete reserve definition with drilling and finalise all pre-investment activities,” Jetson said.

“This vote of confidence in the Simberi operations comes as we work closely with the PNG government, agencies and community as part of our on-going consultation and engagement.”

St Barbara stated that the improved expectations in the sulphide mineralisation allowed for potential expenditure to increase.

This extra capital may include a power upgrade, closure costs and a full asset maintenance strategy.

Jetson detailed the full extent of the project’s updated prospects.

“Extensive marketing studies have allowed us to establish net smelter returns, while we’ve negotiated draft contracts giving us confidence in the concentrate market,” Jetson said.

“A new wharf will be constructed to enable 11,000 tonne concentrate shipments to Asian markets, which will result in significant cost savings.

“The fundamentals of this project are robust, with an anticipated mine life of around 11 years and a payback period of three years.”

St Barbara will now complete site trials for submission to the PNG Conservation & Environmental Protection Authority (CEPA).