China Molybdenum Company (CMOC) and Sumitomo have approved the development of a new block cave mine to expand the Northparkes Mines copper-gold operation in New South Wales.
The $200 million, three-and-a-half-year project (called E26 Lift 1 North) will start this month and is expected to reach full production in mid-2022.
It is forecast to produce around 40 million tonnes of ore over a 10-year period once operational.
The project will involve 11 kilometres of underground development, an underground primary crusher, conveying systems and associated infrastructure.
Northparkes will employ up to 180 people, including a mix of employees and contractors, at the peak of project construction.
The operator is currently upgrading the ventilation system to provide the new mine with sufficient air flow to support development and production activities.
E26 Lift 1 North will embrace Northparkes’ long-standing focus on technology through a design that will use an increased level of automation and digitisation.
The site became the world’s most automated underground mine in 2015 by producing 100 per cent of its ore from driverless loaders.
Northparkes acting managing director Hubert Lehman said the project was a major investment in the future of the operation that would contribute to the local community for years to come.
“We know the exploration potential of Northparkes and we believe we will discover more copper and gold deposits to take us even further into the future,” Lehman said.
“Northparkes is the world’s most automated underground block cave mine and we are proud of our history and achievements.
“The mine has been operating for 24 years and we have a vision of a century of mining together, here in NSW’s Central West.”
Northparkes, the first mine in Australia to use the block cave mining method, has already secured the required approvals, licences and permits to execute the project.
The operation has development consent to mine until 2032, with reserves of 125 million tonnes of ore and a further 471 million tonnes of resources.
CMOC Group chairman and chief executive Steele Li used the project approval to reinforce the Chinese company’s commitment to Australia.
“We are really excited to see this project come to fruition and to watch Northparkes continue to develop and grow,” Li said.
“Northparkes plays a pivotal role in our strong and long-term presence in Australia as an internationally-renowned mining company.”
CMOC owns 80 per cent of the operation, which is 27 kilometres north-west of Parkes. The remaining 20 per cent is held by Sumitomo.