End of an era for Osborne leader

Posted November 16, 2015

neal valk_web

(Neal Valk with a copper bull, presented by Chinova Resources)

Long-time Osborne manager Neal Valk is moving on as part of a restructure following the end of underground mining at the copper-gold site.

Mr Valk, who is based in Townsville, finished his role as Chinova Resources general manager operations earlier this month.

It ends a decade-long relationship with Osborne, which Mr Valk first visited with a Sterlite Industries due-diligence team in 2004.

Placer Dome were owners of the operation, about 150km south of Cloncurry, in 2005 when he came on as mining manager before advancing to general manager in 2006.

Under subsequent owners Barrick Gold, Mr Valk oversaw development of the Trekelano open-pit mine – which produced 2.5million tonnes of ore, all road-hauled 130km to Osborne for treatment.

“We did other projects like convert the diesel power station to a diesel-gas generator and installed a paste fill system for the underground, as well as the commencement of the Kulthor underground, when the copper price was very good, between 2006 and 2008,” Mr Valk said.

Looking back he described that period as the sweet spot in the operation.

“We were making very good money, we had a good group of people on site, support from the corporate office, and we were running with the projects – it was as good as you could get,” he said.

Barrick made a decision to cease production at Osborne in January 2009. The operation shut down in July 2010 and Mr Valk left the site for about nine months.

But its subsequent purchase by Ivanhoe Australia (later to become Chinova Resources) in October 2010 saw him back at Osborne, launching into a plant refurbishment as operations ramped up again.

Mr Valk has been in charge during the development of the Starra 276 and Kulthor ore bodies as well as the exploration decline for the Merlin molybdenum and rhenium project, 55km north of Osborne.

The mining engineer admits he is disappointed not to have seen the Merlin mine come to fruition.

“I thought it was a good project, but in the end it all comes down to ‘have we got the money and is that where we want to invest it?’ and your take on commodity prices,” he said.

Mr Valk said he was sad to leave Osborne and was not sure what his next role may be.

“You see a lot of people come through these places, it is part of their lives - and your own - and then they move on. That is what happens (in mining),” Mr Valk said. “Now it is my turn to move on.”

Underground mining has finished at Osborne and its processing plant is expected to lie dormant until about February when enough feedstock becomes available from the new pit. Open pit production will see processing occur throughout 2016-17.


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