Movers & shakers: The month’s mining developments

Operations at the Dalgaranga gold mine. Photo: NRW Holdings.

Keep up with the latest progress in Australian mines, including from BHP, Gascoyne, Austral and Strandline. 

BHP will transition its South Flank mine to autonomous haulage, less than a year after first ore was produced at the Western Australian site.

The company is aiming to transition a fleet of 41 Komatsu 930e haul trucks to autonomous operation by September 2023.

“The introduction of autonomous haulage will also open up a new set of career options within BHP, with up to 60 specialist roles being created to ensure the pits are able to run autonomously, and the machines are kept operational,” the company stated.

South Flank delivered first ore in May 2021 to become part of Australia’s largest iron ore hub ever.

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NRW Holdings will install MaxMine technology at Gascoyne Resources’ Dalgaranga gold mine in Western Australia, using the fleet management system to improve safety, productivity and environmental efficiency.

According to MaxMine, the technology captures, enhances and contextualises up to 10,000-times more data compared to the industry standard for fleet management system products.

NRW currently operates the mine on a six-year, $300 million contract and produced about 210,000 ounces from first pour in May 2018 to the end of June 2021.

“NRW emphasises good data as a critical enabler of our operational effectiveness, and partnering with MaxMine, who are a leader in fleet operations data, allows us to continuously improve our performance for our customers,” said NRW mining division general manager Tim Abrahams.

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Austral Resources has spied its first exposed copper ore at the Anthill project in Queensland, more than a month ahead of schedule.

Working to a $95 million contract, Thiess began mining on January 7 and surpassed 70,000 tonnes of overburden mining per day on January 14.

Drill and blast companies Orica and Roc-Drill have chewed through the site’s initial stages, after first blast was achieved in mid-November.

Austral chief executive officer Steve Tambanis said he was pleased with progress.

“It’s great to see copper ore so close to the surface which means we get to start putting ore on the ROM (run of mine) pad a little earlier than planned – a good problem to have,” Tambanis said.

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Strandline Resources reached the halfway point in developing its Coburn mineral sands project in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia.

The project has an initial mine life of 22.5 years, with average annual earnings of $104 million.

Strandline managing director Luke Graham said the market for mineral sands sustained him and the company as it charged towards first production later this year.

“Our success to date means we are well placed to capitalise on what is a very strong market for mineral sands, with buoyant global demand and supply limited by the lack of investment in new projects in recent years,” Graham said.

“The strength of the market is reflected in the fact that spot prices for zircon and titanium feedstocks are at least 25 per cent above those used in the Coburn DFS (definitive feasibility study).”

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Alien Metals found a drill hole at its Elizabeth Hill silver mine to contain more than 36 kilograms of silver per tonne, placing the grades of the long-dormant sites in contention with Australia’s major miners.

Elizabeth Hill was mothballed in 2000 after averaging grades of 2195 grams of silver per tonne, so Alien Metals chief executive officer Bill Brodie Good said he had seen such potential in the drill campaign.

“These fantastic initial results support the company’s view that the near surface oxide expression of the deposit was never fully tested, nor its potential fully explored for both the silver and the base metals present,” Good said.

“Some of these grades have to be some of the highest for a silver project in Australia.”

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