Sandfire Resources has officially opened its DeGrussa copper mine in Western Australia.
The former Australian Mining Prospect awards winner of Explorer of the Year held the ceremony yesterday on the eve of Diggers & Dealers.
The opening comes just four years after the initial discovery of the high grade copper gold deposit, which was uncovered by John Evans and geologist Margy Hawke.
The two were also later recognised for the discovery by AMEC, winning the 2010 Prospect of the Year award.
Since the discovery the mine has come along in leaps and bounds, moving from discovery drill hole to first product sales in only three years.
Mining began via a two year open pit operation, which developed parallel with a longer term underground mine that started production mid last year.
Underground operations are now ramping up to full production of 1.5 million tonnes per annum.
Early last year Sandfire started shipping DSO from the site, and eventually began moving copper concentrate through Port Hedland in December last year.
According to the miner "DeGrussa has already produced over 70 000 tonnes of copper metal and 50 000oz of gold worth over $500 million since operations started, including 64 017 tonnes of copper and 42 697oz of gold for the 2013 financial year".
At it moves to full production, Sandfire has provided guidance figures of "65-75 000 tonnes of contained copper-in-concentrate and 35-45 000oz of gold," which will make it the largest copper mine in Western Australia.
Speaking at the opening, Sandfire's managing director Karl Simich said "the DeGrussa discovery was the direct result of our commitment to keep exploring through a very challenging period in the market immediately after the global financial crisis – a period not unlike that which confronts many junior explorers today.
“While we acknowledge the good fortune we enjoyed, it was this commitment and persistence which ultimately enabled us to make the discovery which has propelled Sandfire into the ranks of Australia’s leading mid-tier miners, bringing positive financial and economic benefits to a wide range of stakeholders. This highlights the enormous value that can be created by a find such as this.”
Derek La Ferla, Sandfire's chairman, added that this is a milestone for the miner.
“There are very few mining projects anywhere in the world today which can lay claim to having moved from discovery drill-hole to first sale in the space of just three years. When the average length of time required to develop new resource projects is now 7-8 years, this is a truly remarkable achievement which has set new benchmarks for the mining industry in Western Australia."