XSTRATA Zinc has announced approval of the Handlebar Hill open cut zinc-lead mine north of Mount Isa at a capital cost of $79 million.
Recent drilling, metallurgical testing and design has confirmed a 4.3 million tonne open pit reserve in an area south of the George Fisher underground mine, located 22 kilometres north of Mount Isa.
Ore will be mined at a rate of up to 1.75 million tonnes per annum (mtpa), crushed at George Fisher and trucked to the Mount Isa zinc-lead concentrator from mid 2008.
The concentrator is currently being expanded from 6.5 mtpa to 8 mtpa at a capital cost of $160 million.
Ore is currently supplied to the concentrator from the George Fisher underground and Black Star open cut zinc-lead mines.
The commencement of the Handlebar Hill mine development is subject to approval of a mine plan amendment by the Queensland Department of Mines and Energy.
A contracting firm will commence pre-stripping activities at the mine once approval has been granted. It is expected that there will be around 120 employees working in the open cut mine.