Movers & shakers: The month’s mining developments

Coal operation at the Mt Owen mine in New South Wales.

Coal operation at the Mt Owen mine in New South Wales. Image: Glencore.

Keep up with the latest developments in Australian mines, including from OZ Minerals, Glencore, Iluka, Stanmore and Anglo American.

OZ Minerals has received Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) approval for its West Musgrave copper-nickel mines in Western Australia, as the company approaches a final investment decision.

The project proposed to develop two deposits (Babel and Nebo) near the intersection of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, 1300 kilometres north-east of Perth.

The operation would have a mine life of 26 years as OZ Minerals seeks to produce about 26,000 tonnes per nickel and 32,000 tonnes of copper per year.

In the company’s quarterly report for December 2021, managing director and chief executive officer Andrew Cole said the project was increasing in cost as OZ targeted a final investment decision.

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Glencore has received New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment (DPIE) approval for its Glendell Continued Operations project located in the Upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales.

A final determination on the project will now be made by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) following its assessment process that will include a public hearing.

The Glendell open cut coal mine is part of Glencore Coal’s Mount Owen complex at Ravensworth.

The complex contains the Mt Owen, Ravensworth East and Glendell mines, with the integration of these operations enabling all sites to use a single coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP) as well as infrastructure at the Mt Owen mine.

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Iluka Resources has made promising progress towards developing a rare earths refinery in Eneabba, Western Australia, with a government-backed feasibility study expected to be finalised in March.

The company has been stockpiling rare earths monazite and xenotime at a former mining void in Eneabba since the early 1990s and is now working through phase three of a fully integrated refinery.

Phase one began in 2020 when a mixed monazite-zircon concentrate was produced, before phase two construction began in 2021.

This construction is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2022, as the feasibility study for the refinery’s full integration is completed.

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Stanmore Resources has approved the expansion of its Isaac Plains coal handling, processing and preparation plant (CHPP) in Queensland after the plant achieved record feed rates for the December quarter.

The company’s run-of-mine (RoM) coal production of 734,000 tonnes (t) and 610,000t of saleable coal were less than the previous quarter, impacted by the onset of La Niña, but the second half of 2021 remained strong.

Isaac Plains achieved historic records for half-year production with the complex operating at much improved rates of approximately 95 per cent of the nameplate capacity of the CHPP.

“Performance in the second half of the year was more representative than the first half of the year and indicates expected production rates going forward at Isaac Downs,” a statement from Stanmore read.

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Anglo American has made its first longwall shear at the new Aquila coal mine in Central Queensland, adding seven years of life to the existing Capcoal operations.

This was the project’s final stage of commissioning and was completed on time and budget, according to Anglo American chief executive officer of bulk commodities Themba Mkhwanazi.

“We have delivered the Aquila project on time and within our budgeted attributable cost of $226 million,” Mkhwanazi said.

“This new mine will have a total average annual saleable production of around five million tonnes of premium quality hard-coking coal and benefits from low-capital intensity as we are using the existing infrastructure and systems from our adjacent operations.”

The Capcoal operations also include the Capcoal open cut mine, the coal handling and preparation plant, and the recently exhausted Grasstree mine.

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