Karachipampa plant will start operating in 2011, says Atlas

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Canadian company Atlas Precious Metals (APM) announced that it will start operations in early 2011 at the Karachipampa polymetallurgical plant located in Bolivia's Potosí department.

The company will invest US$85mn in the entire complex, including upgrades at the silver and lead treatment plant and the construction of a zinc smelter, Bolivian press reported.

"This investment will start to grow almost immediately... We have to give the order to buy the equipment for the zinc smelter and [to do this] we have to provide US$45mn in financing," APM president Roy Shipes was quoted as saying.

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He also said that the upgrades at the plant are 90% complete and the sulfuric acid plant and other equipment that will be part of the complex, valued at a total of US$3.5mn, should be arriving in Bolivia shortly.

Last week the Bolivian government gave APM an ultimatum for restarting operations at Karachipampa since the company had 40 months from February 2008 to restart operations but work has still not begun.

Shipes said the delays in the project are the fault of the government since it did not turn over the property upon which the zinc smelter will be built.

"You can't start building if you don't have the land to build on... across all levels they [the government] have taken a long time to realize the critical nature of the problem," he added.

According to press reports Karachipampa will produce 28,000-30,000t/y of lead and 8-10Moz/y of high-grade silver as well as cadmium, antimony, bismuth, copper and tin derivatives.

The plant will be supplied by 68 mining cooperatives that work on Cerro Rico de Potosí hill, one of the world's largest silver deposits.

In June 2005, state miner Comibol and APM signed a JV agreement to reactivate the 51,000t/y plant to treat silver-lead concentrates. APM has a 65% share and the Bolivian state holds the remainder.

The plant was completed in 1983 at a cost of US$500mn but has never been brought into production.