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Sandfire Resources has announced the start of direct shipping ore mining at its open pit DeGrussa copper-gold mine near Meekatharra in Western Australia.
"The first truckload of DSO has been loaded and delivered to the ore pad ready for crushing," the company said in a statement.
"The first shipment of DSO is planned for shipment from Port Hedland in April 2012."
Sandfire said DeGrussa was expected to produce around 143,000 tonnes of ore with grades of 25.6 per cent copper and 2.5g/tonne god.
The mine started in April 2011 and the company said it was operating ahead of schedule 55 metres below the surface.
Sandfire managing director Karl Simich said in a statement the commencement of DSO was an "incredible team effort" for the company.
"2012 will be a pivotal year in Sandfire’s development, with this being the first of a series of key milestones in the coming months as we make the transition to production," he said.
The ore will be sold to Switzerland-based commodities trader MRI Trading and China’s Yunnan Copper Corporation.