End of life beckons new hope

Posted May 29, 2015

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Resolute Mining Nolans plant with pit in background.

The future of one of Queensland’s last standing historical mining towns looks uncertain as a key operation approaches end of life.

Resolute Mining’s Mount Wright underground mine in Ravenswood is expected to close in June next year.

The company currently employs about 220 people plus another 65 contractors between the Mount Wright underground mine and Nolan’s mill in Ravenswood.

The majority of those employees would lose their jobs, said Resolute Mining operations manager Joel Ray.

“Resolute moves its people between operations where possible but as Ravenswood is the company’s only operation in Australia, the majority of employees will necessarily be made redundant upon mine closure. There will be a few ongoing jobs associated with site rehabilitation,” he said.

The mine closure is sure to have a flow-on effect on what is a small community.

An impact on local businesses and student numbers at the local school could be expected, said Charters Towers Regional Council Mayor Frank Beveridge

“If it does come to closure, I imagine in the six or 12 months prior to that they (Resolute) will come to us with some plans for the community on how we can work to help minimise the impacts, Cr Beveridge said

“But you know Ravenswood has had a number of lives over the last 140 years where it has dried off and become like a ghost town but then mining has come back. But the cycles of course rely on the value of gold on the world market.” As the closure date creeps up, Resolute is continuing to investigate ways of extending mine life along with other development opportunities in the area.

“The existing mine plan ends at the 525mRL (metres in Relative Elevation) but the company is reviewing options to go deeper,” Mr Ray said.

“Other than Mount Wright, the company is reviewing several projects which have the potential to extend the life of the Ravenswood operations.”

The most likely of those projects is a plan for cutbacks on the existing Nolans and Buck Reef open pits.

“The Nolans and Buck Reef cut backs have the potential to extend the operations for approximately two and four years respectively,” Mr Ray said.

Last year the company also completed a feasibility study on a cutback at the nearby Sarsfield mine which closed in 2009.

Although the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was approved, current gold prices prevented the project from being viable, said Mr Ray.

“At current gold price, the project does not meet the company’s financial hurdles. A review of the project to investigate improving the financial metrics is planned to be conducted later this year,” he said.

Exploration in the region is also ongoing.

Mount Glenroy, located approximately 45km south-east of Ravenswood is one of several exploration projects that the company is currently working on.

“It is a rhyolite (sub-volcanic fine grained rock) intrusion system that covers several square kilometres,” said Resolute Mining district geologist – exploration Nick Lisowiec.

“Both the rhyolite and the surrounding rocks are brecciated (broken and re-cemented), which is a common mineralisation host in north Queensland (for example Mount Wright, Mount Leyshon and Kidston mines),” he said. The project is still at a relatively early stage, but initial findings suggest that there are many similarities (rock type, geochemistry, geophysics) to the Mount Wright deposit.

Drilling to test for ‘blind’ mineralisation, (mineralisation that does not outcrop on the surface) is planned for mid 2015.

The Welcome project, near Mingela is another more advanced project with potential.

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