The performance of our strategic Project Management enabler was crucial in this context, as it helped ensure the development and execution of the several projects in progress at the company, supporting the areas to guarantee the best return and minimize the risk of deviations. We also work to monitor and improve the long-term investment plan, focusing not only on asset maintenance and modernization projects, but also on priority expansion projects for the company at this time of crisis and that could wait for a better scenario, without compromising future growth.
Considering the challenging scenario of 2020, and in line with our sustainable growth strategy, we conducted a review of our investment pipeline to preserve the company’s cash. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the review of Capex investments, prioritizing strategic investments, with a total of funds allocated in 2020 of US$ 336 million.
Despite the investment review, the strategic purposes of the Growth and Operational Excellence axes remain unchanged.
With the strategic review, the investments for the year were focused on the Aripuanã project, which is already under construction (details on the evolution of the project can be found below).
We have projects in different stages of Front-End Loading (FEL) feasibility assessment, which have evolved according to the following table:
We seek to preserve our investments in projects around the mines we already operate, aiming to extend its useful life, resulting in an increase in resources and reserves.
During the stoppage of drilling activities (March to June), owing to the enactment of a national state of emergency by the pandemic, the exploration activities had their efforts directed to the studies of the geological information collected in the diamond drilling performed until the first quarter of the year, as well as in planning for the resumption.
After the national emergency period determined by the Peruvian government, Cerro Lindo was the first mine in the country to have its protocols approved for resumption of operations. Drilling activities resumed in June, focusing on extensions of known ore bodies and exploratory drilling to find new mineralized areas towards the southern extension of the mine. In 2020, the exploration team performed approximately 60.4 kilometers of diamond drilling, 23.2 kilometers of exploratory drilling and 37.2 kilometers of infill drilling carried out by the mining unit, which confirmed the continuity of several mineral bodies in the region. These discoveries will allow to extend the operating useful life of Cerro Lindo by almost two years. We will continue investing in mine development to investigate and confirm the continuity of other mineralized areas.
The brownfield exploration in Vazante aims to expand the existing mineralized zones and explore new areas to define new mineralized zones close to the mine. In the first half of 2020, we confirmed the extension of a willemite body in the Extreme North Area and, during the third quarter, the extension of mineralization in the Lumiadeira South area. An exploratory well is underway in the Vazante Sul area (which includes the areas of exploratory targets, such as Carrapato and Mata Preta). With the new areas in operation, we practically maintained the reserve in Vazante, generating replacement to what is being mined.
The extension of the useful life of the two operations in the Pasco Complex – Atacocha and El Porvenir – depends on the result of exploration that will allow the aggregation of mineral resources, such as the discovery of Sara mineralized body (with high content of silver and lead) and the confirmation of good results in the integration zone.
In response to Covid-19 isolation measures, the Atacocha drilling program was temporarily suspended and is expected to be resumed in 2021, when 3 kilometers of exploratory drilling is planned.
In El Porvenir, the drilling works were directed to the extension of the existing mineralized bodies along the strike and at depth, as well as to the exploration drilling in the mineralized zone of Sara, seeking to define the potential and evaluate the continuity of mineralization in the south and west zone of the exploratory target. At the end of 2020, 16.1 kilometers of exploratory drilling were carried out and further 18 kilometers are planned for 2021.
Morro Agudo/Bonsucesso Project
Aiming to extend the useful life of the Morro Agudo complex, we continue surveying the mineralized body of Bonsucesso, which entered in the project feasibility phase. 6.1 kilometers of infill surveys and 6.1 kilometers of mineral exploration surveys were performed, both focused on expanding resources and extending existing mineralized bodies in Bonsucesso. Infill drilling confirmed the continuity of the content in the northern sector of the deposit. Drilling holes have confirmed the open potential for expansion and exploratory drilling will continue to be concentrated in the northern and central parts of the deposit.
Reserves & Resources
We annually declare our proven and probable mineral resources and reserves in accordance with the Standards for Defining Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves (2014 CIM Definition Standards) prepared by the CIM (Canadian Institute of Metallurgy and Petroleum) and incorporated by reference in National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) of all mines and projects. These definitions are consistent with the definitions of mineral resources and mineral reserves described in Regulation S-K, Subpart 229.1300, new American legislation applied to registrants involved in mining operations and adopted by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) in the United States. This information is available in the Nexa 20-F Annual Report at ir.nexaresources.com/regulatoryfilings. According to NI 43-101, as of December 31, 2020, the total metal contained in our mineral reserves was 3,563 thousand tonnes of zinc, 411 thousand tonnes of copper, 586 thousand tonnes of lead, 96,691 thousand ounces of silver and 236 thousand ounces of gold.
5The amounts shown in this table have not been adjusted to reflect our ownership interests. The information presented in this table includes 100% of the estimates of reserves and mineral resources of our consolidated subsidiaries and our joint ventures, calculated based on the CIM 2014 definition standards and consistent with the definitions of mineral resources and mineral reserves described in the Regulation, Subpart 229.1300, some of which are not wholly owned, as set out in the participation column available in the 6-k Mining Report or in the Nexa 20-F Annual Report, which can be accessed at ir.nexaresources.com/regulatoryfilings.
The extension of the useful life is under study with three probes in the northwest extension of the Babaçu body, which has presented relevant intersections, thus indicating the possibility of connection between the bodies of Ambrex and Babaçu. In 2020, seven points were drilled, including the Aripuanã brownfield and regional targets, totaling 4.2 kilometers of diamond drilling.
The construction of Aripuanã started in 2019, having reached 55.3% of total investment and 70.3% of physical progress so far. This is the main zinc project for the coming years, which is fundamental to the evolution of our growth strategy. The production of zinc in Aripuanã, from its stabilization (2022-2023), will contribute to a greater integration between mines and smelters, meaning that we will be able to reduce our dependence on the purchase of zinc concentrate in the market.
In 2020, based on technical studies, a new level of Capex and schedule was established, with the postponement of the implementation completion to December 2021, and the start of the operation scheduled to the beginning of 2022.
Public and project infrastructure
Reinforcing our commitment to local development, we carried out several actions to guarantee the improvement of the infrastructure in Aripuanã. In partnership with the municipal and state public administration, we support the renovation of the wooden bridge over the Aripuanã River, located on the MT-208 state highway. The stretch is essential for local logistics, allowing rural communities in the municipality to access the settlements, indigenous areas and Districts of Conselvan, Rio Branco and Lontra, in addition to having access to the project.
We also worked on the readjustment of Poraquê Side Road, which connects MT-208 to rural communities within the region. In total, 10 kilometers of the road were covered, based on an agreement signed between Nexa and the Municipality of Aripuanã. With Sindicato das Indústrias de Laminados e Compensados do Estado de Mato Grosso (SINDILAM), we promoted the maintenance and recovery of Salvação Road, an alternative route to our project, which also allows the flow of forest, agricultural and livestock products, whose implementation was needed while renovation services were being performed on the main bridge.
Dry stacks and backfill
100% water recirculation
Safety and operational efficiency
Nexa provided the Miners and Mining Cooperative of Aripuanã Region (Coopemiga) with an approval for the granting of a Mining Permit (PLG), granted by the National Mining Agency (ANM) and having Companhia Mato-grossense de Mineração (METAMAT) as the Intervening Party. Such grant will allow miners linked to the Cooperative to legally explore 516.9 hectares for the exclusive extraction of gold for two and a half years. This initiative took place to foster harmonious coexistence, essential for safe operation in Aripuanã and the economic development of the region.
Even before starting the works, we were already concerned with the legacy that we will leave for the region. In this sense, we highlight the performance in the following projects in 2020:
Aripuanã por Elas – Partnership with the Social Protection Network and the Aripuanã Rights Guarantee System that aims to strengthen the performance of a protection network and public policies focused on women’s rights, mainly through actions to promote gender equality and fighting violence. Educational campaigns and informational workshops are planned, with support from Instituto Votorantim and Ecos-Comunicação em Sexualidade.
Rural Product Development Program – the result of our partnership with Pacto das Águas, the program aims to support the sustainable and integrated development of the municipality’s production chains. In 2020, the program was suspended for a few months due to the pandemic, but it resumed its technical assistance activities to farmers remotely.
Generation of jobs and income – Our presence in the region has been fundamental in maintaining the employment and income generation. Currently, almost 3 thousand professionals work on the construction sites of the Aripuanã Project, also fostering other sectors of the local economy. According to the General Register of Employed and Unemployed Workers (Caged), developed by the Labor Secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Aripuanã ended 2020 with a positive balance in formal hiring of workers. The data, measured from January to December 2020, show that the municipality made 4,886 admissions throughout the year and had a balance between recruitment and dismissal of 1,444 job vacancies filled.
In 2020, our operational excellence goals strengthen cash generation, supported by the Nexa Way program, which promoted gains of US$ 98 million, based on initiatives implemented in 2019. Furthermore, we engage employees and create value by encouraging the generation of ideas, performance improvements and capital allocation.
The performance improvements at the mining units were supported by the Nexa Way program, which enabled greater operational and administrative synergy between the teams at the Vazante and Morro Agudo units, as well as cost optimizations at the Cerro Lindo and Pasco Complex units, through the involvement of several operating and corporate disciplines, accelerating the implementation of initiatives and bringing new operational levels to the units.
In Morro Agudo, we reached the historical record of 1.3 million tonnes of limestone sold. With more robust commercial actions, we managed to get closer to the consumer market to offer a better-quality product and logistics, enabling greater use of the demands of the agricultural market. We increased our share in this market and achieved better prices for the product (increase from US$ 6.3 to US$ 7.1 per ton), obtaining a higher margin. Thus, in addition to the fact that there is no need to dispose of mining waste in the Morro Agudo operation, we were able to sell all the limestone material produced and reduced the existing volume in our dams.
In Vazante, we had significant results with the optimization of work shifts at the underground mine (19.4 hours of work instead of the previous 15 hours), which led to a new record for the extraction of ore (1,536 thousand tonnes). We were also favored by the improvement in the performance of zinc recovery (from 86.3% in 2019 to 87.5% in 2020), due to the project to implement the new flotation cell and the deployment of the high frequency sieving circuit with cyclone. The new sieve led to an increase in the treatment capacity, reaching a new record in the ore processing at the plant (1,407 thousand tonnes in 2019 to 1,623 thousand tonnes in 2020), being also recognized as an innovative model by the Brasil Mineral magazine.
In Cerro Lindo, the main project carried out during the year was the consolidation of new geotechnical standards and controls, which resulted in optimizations in the underground mine operational cycle and reduction of the respective costs. We also had a work stream to increase the plant’s reliability: we increased the availability of the main conveyor belt circuit and increased the useful life of the mill linings, optimizing the cycles of scheduled maintenance shutdowns. In 2020, we also completed the reagent dosing automation project, which will help the unit maintain the performance of smelter recovery, even with the drop in feed levels expected in 2021.
At the Pasco Complex, the focus in 2020 was the extension of the Life of Mine (LoM) and maintain the competitiveness of the operating margin, with the expansion of the San Gerardo Open Pit mine, increasing the capacity of the tailings and sterile deposits and offering a new configuration for the unit to maximize the operating margin. Another fundamental initiative for the results was the optimization of the concrete projection activities in the development galleries (with the decrease of the concrete reflection rates and a better geotechnical model), as well as a review and prioritization of the operational service scopes, allowing for more competitive costs.
Optimization processes at the El Porvenir plant are underway, with the installation of concentrate filters with greater capacity (improving the quality of the concentrate) and initiatives for automation and reliability of the plant. In a next step, we will proceed to stabilize the extraction capacity of the El Porvernir mine at 7 ktpd, which will be supported by the project to expand the capacity of the vertical transport system (Shaft – Pique Picasso) and to deepen the mine.
Efficiency gains, cost reduction and gradual of bottlenecks at the plants are the focus of operational excellence in smelter. Driven since the end of 2019 by the Nexa Way and by the pandemic, we improved operational performance and increased our productivity, which resulted in lower costs and improved quality of our products.
Regarding efficiency gains, we invested on two fronts: equipment for improvement or modernization of the automation processes and optimization of existing processes. Several initiatives were implemented, such as increasing the electrolysis efficiency and changing the technology of the steam boiler at the Três Marias unit, thus reducing energy consumption and the emission of greenhouse gases; flexibility in the processing of raw materials in all operations, increasing competitiveness in the purchase of concentrates and alternative sources of zinc.
Small projects were performed, disseminated by all plants, which bring incremental gains and are part of the routine for optimizing operations on these fronts, such as operational stability in hydrometallurgies, proper operation of the roasts, avoiding gas emissions, among others.
We achieved a record in the sales of the slag from the Waelz process at the Juiz de Fora unit, reducing the generation of waste and generating more revenue.
In Cajamarquilla, the Jarosita project remains on hold and will be resumed at a more opportune tim.