(Sharecast News) - Central Asia Metals announced the resumption of production at Sasa in North Macedonia on Monday, following the 14 September leakage at Tailings Storage Facility 4 (TSF4).
The AIM-traded firm said "extensive planning" for the river clean-up had been undertaken with the involvement of both Wardell Armstrong and in-country consultants, adding that it expected to receive the official go-ahead to commence the work within a week.
It was projected that the bulk of the tailings would be removed and disposed of in a "secure and safe" location on the Sasa mine site by the end of the year.
The clean-up of a high priority 350-metre section of the river had already been completed, and the environmental fine of €65,000 levied on Sasa had now been paid.
CAML was continuing to work closely with local community leaders and the authorities, the board said in its statement.
As it said on 28 September, the physical repairs to TSF4 were completed during the previous weekend, and all necessary engineering improvements to ensure the long-term safe storage of tailings had now also been completed.
The company said the Sasa management team received approval from the North Macedonian authorities to once again operate TSF4 late on 2 October, and processing restarted that day.
It said the Sasa plant would initially operate at a reduced rate of about 50% for a trial period, while the technical team confirmed the safe operation of the facility.
The trial period was expected to last around one week, before the ramp-up to full production.
In January, CAML gave 2020 Sasa ore production guidance of between 825,000 and 850,000 tonnes, resulting in zinc-in-concentrate of between 23,000 and 25,000 tonnes and lead-in-concentrate of between 30,000 and 32,000 tonnes.
While 2020 ore mined was likely to remain within that guidance range, CAML said it now expected ore processed to be between 800,000 and 825,000 tonnes, given the downtime from the incident.
Despite that, both 2020 zinc- and lead-in-concentrate production were expected to be within the original guidance.
Excluding production downtime, an early indication of the total cost of the TSF4 incident, comprising dam repairs and engineering improvements to the facility as well as environmental aspects, was expected to be below $1.5m, the board said.
"Today's news is very positive in that we have been able to make the necessary changes to TSF4 to ensure its long term safety and that the authorities, with whom we have worked closely and transparently in the weeks since the incident, have given us the go-ahead to re-start our operations," said chief executive officer Nigel Robinson.
"We very much appreciate the support we have received from these governing bodies in their speedy review and approval of the measures taken by CAML."
Robinson said the company was "cognisant" of its environmental responsibilities to the local community, adding that it would begin the clean-up of the entire river as soon as possible.
"Furthermore, we should still be able to meet our original 2020 guidance for zinc- and lead-in-concentrate production.
"We will provide a further update on production from Sasa and Kounrad in the forthcoming third quarter operations update, which we plan to release in the coming days."
At 1321 BST, shares in Central Asia Metals were up 1.97% at 161.93p.
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