Port of Karumba dredging restarts ahead of Century zinc exports

The M.V. Wunma, New Century's transhipment vessel. Image: New Century

Dredging at the Port of Karumba in the Gulf of Carpentaria, offshore northern Queensland, has restarted, a key development for New Century Resources ahead of the scheduled restart of the Century zinc mine.

Formerly owned by MMG, the Century zinc mine, 250km northwest of Mt Isa in Queensland, was one of the largest zinc mines in the world in its prime, with an average production of 475,000 tonnes a year (t/y) of zinc concentrate and 50,000t/y of lead concentrate from 1999–2016, the year operations ceased.

New Century, recognising that the site still contained ample zinc reserves well-suited to a smaller producer, acquired the site in March 2017.

The recommencement of a dredging program for the mine represents an important part of New Century’s planned restart; the company is spending $6.8 million to fund dredging to a depth of 3.2m at the mouth of the Norman River in order to provide the means for ongoing transhipment of zinc concentrate parcels weighing up to a total of 5000t.

The parcels will depart from New Century’s wharf at Karumba to bulk cargo export vessels 20km offshore from the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The next big step following completion of the dredging (which is scheduled to take 60 days) is plant commissioning, expected to begin in July 2018, with first zinc concentrate production scheduled for August.

On the subject of the dredging, New Century managing director Patrick Walta was celebratory.

“It is a fantastic achievement by the New Century team to facilitate renewed dredging at the Port of Karumba,” he said, “allowing not only zinc exports to recommence, but also providing the port user community in Karumba with consistent, reliable channel access for years to come.”

Bob Katter, federal member for Kennedy, said the dredging could inject $200-300 million into the Queensland economy each year, opening the port up for prawning and live cattle exports, in addition to New Century’s zinc exportation.

“The Century mine operations therefore play a key role in the continued economic prosperity of northern Queenland and deserve the full support of state and federal governments,” Katter said.

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