A joint venture (JV) led by Terramin Australia is to invest an estimated $150 million to develop a world-scale zinc mine on the Oued Amizour concession in the northeast.

The Western Mediterranean Zinc (WMZ) JV, which also includes Entreprise Nationale des Produits Miniers Non-Ferreux et des Substances Utiles (Enof) and Office National de Recherche Geologique et Miniere (ORGM), expects to invest up to $15 million by the end of 2007 to survey the Tala Hamza deposit, which is estimated to contain at least 50 million tonnes of zinc and is thought to be one of the largest zinc deposits in the Euro-Mediterannean area.

Negotiations with Oslo-based Aker Kvaerner are under way for the contract to carry out feasibility studies on the permit, with a tender set to be issued in the first quarter of 2007. Other prospective bidders include Canadian companies SNC Lavalin and Met-Chem. Following completion of the studies, WMZ will apply for a renewable mining licence on the concession.

Development of the identified Tala Hamza deposit will require a crushing plant with capacity of about 3 million tonnes a year

(t/y) to produce up to 400,000 t/y of zinc concentrate for export to Europe. The 12-18-month tunkey engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract is set to be awarded in late 2007, with construction to begin in early 2008. Initial capacity will be about 1.2 million t/y, increasing to 3 million t/y within 12-24 months. The project is estimated to have an initial lifespan of at least 20 years. The deposit also has extension potential of a further 23 million tonnes and a similar 50 million-tonne deposit nearby has yet to be tested.

WMZ is 65 per cent owned by Terramin. The UK’s Golder Associates is the consultant. The concession was awarded in February by Agence Nationale du Patrimoine Minier (ANPM) following approval from state privatisation council Conseil des Participations de l’Etat (CPE).