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ASX-listed Sierra Rutile has started a definitive feasibility study (DFS) on its Sembehun project, in Sierra Leone.

Sembehun is considered to be one of the largest and highest grade natural rutile deposits in the world.

A previously completed prefeasibility study (PFS) for the project found that a capital investment of $337-million would be required for the project, with $284-million to be spent on the Phase 1 development, and a further $52-million on the Phase 2 development.

Over the 13-year mine life at Sembehun, annual rutile production will peak in year six of the operations, at 205 000 t, steadying to between 190 000 t/y and 160 000 t/y over the majority of the mine life, while ilmenite production is expected to remain at some 75 000 t/y over the majority of the project’s life. 

The PFS estimated that operating costs for the Phase 1 project at some $1 048/t, while operating costs for phase to would decrease to $818/t.

Sierra Rutile said on Friday that the DFS would take some 12 months to complete, and would allow the company to make a final investment decision on the project in late 2023.

The DFS will be funded from existing cash reserves and operating cashflows, the company said.