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Minerals and mining stories

Grant builds hope at Mt Lyell

Edition 183_Mt_Lyell

Mt Lyell, the mine that once had a bigger budget than the State of Tasmania, could be producing copper ore again by late 2018.

The Government committed an extra $9.5 million in April and Indian parent company Vedanta told Copper Mines of Tasmania (CMT) that it should move to the final feasibility stage of a preparation for restart.

CMT has spent $100 million keeping the mine on care and maintenance since it was closed following the deaths of three workers in 2014.

The company will spend a further $80 million on development work in preparation for a reopening.

Between 50 and 60 jobs will be created immediately, with up to 300 direct jobs possible with a resumption of production.

CMT has assured local contractors that they will be at the head of the jobs queue.

The Government’s input, which tops up an earlier offer to forego $25 million in royalties and payroll tax if production resumes, will be used, in part, for the development of a decline to a recently discovered 20 million tonne ore body that is closer to the surface than the historic workings.

It will also contribute to the replacement of a 100-year-old drainage pipeline and an upgrade of the mine’s crushing mill.

The Premier, Will Hodgman, said he was confident the investment would "return significant dividends to our State.”

“I would not be a Premier that would want to look back and think we missed an opportunity to restart this mine,” he said.

A new operation would be quite different from the old mine.

The Chief Executive of CMT, Deshnee Naidoo, said: “It will not be run how it has been for the last 100 years.

“We are looking at innovative ways to make a restart.”

Changes will include electric underground vehicles and a new approach to drainage issues including the new pipeline.

The mine’s Projects and Site Manager, Jared DeRoss, said: “This is very good news and we are very optimistic, but at the same time we don’t want to overstate the current position.

“There is still much work to do on the commercial side and design of a safe, sustainable and viable production operation and, so, there is still the potential for delays to our timetable over the next few months.”

Uncontrolled variables such as the global copper price and the Australian dollar’s exchange rate could impact on timetables.

Mt Lyell’s total audited resources are now about 50 million tonnes.

It was producing an average of 2.5 million tonnes of ore a year before its 2014 closure.

The West Coast Mayor, Phil Vickers, said the reopening would be a game-changer for the region which has seen a 50 per cent decline in population over the past 15 years.

The local economy has sorely missed the mine’s $30 million a year in wages.

Ms Naidoo, who flew in from Johannesburg for the announcement, said: “Nothing in life is certain … but given the commitment we have from Peter Walker [the mine’s General Manager), the teams on the ground, the local community and government across the board, I am very confident that CMT has got the best chance ever of being successful in a restart.”

Image courtesy of CMT

1 May 2017, Edition 183

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