Innovation and self-reliance

APR deploys innovation and many modern technologies and methods to operate at peak efficiency in its niche market. The ore at Wainivesi, found in many places in Fiji, poses huge obstacles to separating out the higher-value metals from it – a problem in countless deposits around the world. APR has met this challenge by developing many in-house capabilities in design, fabrication, analysis, and an ambitious research and development program.

An example of innovative research and development which has greatly increased our in-house capabilities and self-reliance is in the processes for separating the metals.

Wainivesi is the most complicated ore body ever developed in Fiji. The ore contains zinc, copper, lead, gold and silver. There are many other ore bodies in Fiji which contain similar minerals (such as Conto Minerals' Udu Point project) but not one of them has yet been developed. This type of ore contains a lot of metals with a high value. Recovering the metals as one product (called a concentrate) is straightforward and was achieved at commercial scale at Wainivesi in 2007.

Smelter companies that buy these concentrates will pay for 85% of the value of the zinc in the concentrate but if there is gold, copper and silver in there as well, they will not pay for those metals. Therefore, more than 70% of the value in the ore and the concentrate is not realised. This situation stops most projects of this type in their tracks unless they are very large. Even if the projects are very large, the majority of the wealth contained in the concentrate is not realised by the company.

Before starting a mining project, a company will test whether the metals can be separated or not. APR paid for independent testwork to be done for the Wainivesi project before applying for a Mining Lease. This testwork showed that the gold and silver could easily be extracted from the concentrate and separated from the other metals. However, once the plant was constructed, the process for separating the gold and silver did not work. This meant that the company's earnings would be undermined to the tune of 70% and with that, the company would only just recover its investment. Government taxes would be reduced by about 90% and royalties by 75%.

APR's shareholders chose to continue their investment to find an answer to the problem. After five years of sustained R&D, the company has developed two new processes which allow the separation of the different metals in the concentrate. This is a world first.

APR conducts its own testwork in-house, speeding up fine-tuning of production
APR's processing plant is designed and fabricated at the Wainivesi Mine