Aguablanca April 10 www. bus- ex. com 125 nowhere else on the Iberian Peninsula. The idea was that a capability in nickel would add value to its existing copper mining operations. " There is another small nickel mine in Finland, but that is all there is in Europe. Copper, on the other hand, is much more common. I know of two copper mines in Spain and a very large one in Portugal," Merino says. " Aguablanca is in a great location," he continues. " It is close to the Pyrite belt which means we have no shortage of skilled labour; and there is good infrastructure and transport links. Spain also offers a very stable operating environment which makes it easy to do business here." Commercial production of nickel- copper concentrate had begun in 2005 under the previous owner, Rio Narcea Gold Mines. However, the change of ownership was quickly followed by the unprecedented economic downturn, which saw the price of all raw materials and commodities plummet. 2008 was an extremely difficult year for Aguablanca and saw many development activities put on hold. Now, the mine is fully operational again and last year saw a dramatic leap in ore production of almost 25 per cent. " We have seen a jump in production to two million tonnes per annum, which means we are now excavating in the region of 8,000 tonnes of ore each day," Merino states. The estimated life of the open pit operation is four years using the open pit method; then the company will look towards developing underground operations. " Exactly how we choose to move forward will be very much influenced " Aguablanca is in a great location. It is close to the Pyrite belt which means we have no shortage of skilled labour; and there is good infrastructure and transport links"