Rio’s Northparkes copper and gold mine open day [IMAGES]

Rio Tinto's Northparkes underground copper and gold mine is located about 25km from the New South Wales town of Parkes.

The fully operational block cave mine employs about 300 locals and prides itself on its residential status.

Northparkes managing director Stef Loader told Australian Mining the mine underpinned the local economy throughout the drought and it is expected to have another 20 years mine life.

Parkes Mayor Ken Keith agreed, saying the locality of the mine attracts families to the rural community.


Walking onsite there are constant safety reminders.



The open day featured train, walking and bus tours around the site so the public could learn about the copper mining process and the facility.


Speaking to Northparkes engineer Daniel Rawsthorne, [pictured with his son Alex] he said community open days are a good opportunity for him to show his family what he does.


Before miners begin their shift underground they hang their tags up on the board, collected only when they resurface.


The entrance to the underground gold and copper mine, Australia's first underground block cave mine.


Northparkes has two deposits: E26 and E48. E26 is a smaller but higher grade deposit, whereas the E48 ore body is bigger but lower grade.


The ore is brought up to the mill via overland conveyors, the facility also keeps two stockpiles in reserve.


The mill processes about 500 tonnes of ore per hour using  grinding balls to pulverise 100mm rock to below 100 microns.


This is the final product, once the ore is ground down it is thickened into a slurry and then the water is filtered out so it only contains about 7 to 8 per cent moisture.

The by product is thickened and sent to a tailings dam, which is the old open cut mine on the facility.

The 'black gold' as it is called onsite is then packed into containers, freighted down to a port, put on a ship and sent overseas to mainly China and Japan.


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