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Xstrata says it’s planning on doubling production at its McArthur River operation, the Northern Territory’s biggest mine.
The latest growth is expected to create 295 new mining jobs, many of them for indigenous locals, and extend the site’s operating life by nine years to 2036.
The development will aim to increase production by 2.5 million tonnes to reach 5.5 million tonnes a year, with a total 800,000 tonnes of zinc-lead concentrate for export.
According to the ABC Xstrata Zinc chief operating officer Brian Hearne said a rising demand for zinc was spurring the expansion.
"The market opportunities we have at the moment and the … demand for zinc we project in the future gives us the opportunities to make some material that wasn’t economical a few years ago," he said.
Xstrata has lodged a draft Environmental Impact Statement with the NT Government, which will be open for public submissions until March 16.
In 2006 a much smaller expansion of the McArthur River mine, which involved diverting the river, was controversially approved by the State Government.
At its peak the mine will employ a total of 735 workers and double in size from 145 hectares to 210 hectares.
The depth of the open cut pit will also double from 210 metres to 420 metres.