Osborne defies pessimists and invests in open cut operation

Posted June 30, 2015


Underground at Osborne  - owner Chinova is investing in open cut


Chinova Resources has approved an open-pit operation that will keep its Osborne site running for two years after underground mining winds up in September.

General manager operations Neal Valk said the company was investing about $50 million in the project, which would also assist in site rehabilitation by providing overburden material to cover tailings storage facilities.

“This is a positive for the Osborne site and for north-west Queensland,” he said.

“Even though the profile of the people working on site will change from underground to open pit, at least we will have employment for about 150 people for the next two years.”

Chinova Resources was in discussion with two shortlisted tenderers for the open-pit mining contract, Mr Valk said.

The Osborne copper-gold mine, about 150km south of Cloncurry, started its life 19 years ago as an open-pit operation.

The current underground operations involve contractor Pybar mining the Kulthor and Osborne ore bodies at a rate of about 150,000 tonnes per month. This will come to an end in early September.

The new open-pit and rehabilitation project will mine along strike from the site’s original pit as well as going deeper.

“They will be mining back over the old workings to some extent,” Mr Valk said.

He said Chinova Resources was expecting to bring about two and a half million tonnes of ore to the surface for treatment through the new project, with a relatively low grading around 0.9 per cent copper.

“That will supply the mill for about 21-22 months,” he said.

The mill will shut down between September this year and about February 2016 while pre-strip work is carried out.

Mr Valk said the workforce on site would be reduced to the equivalent of a care and maintenance operation during that time, with the Chinova employees expected to drop from 110 to about 40.

While Chinova Resources has a number of other projects in the Cloncurry area, including the Mt Elliott copper-gold site, Mr Valk said there was nothing in development to provide further feed for the Osborne plant at this stage.

The company also holds the world’s highest grade known molybdenum and rhenium deposit – the Merlin project, to the north of Osborne mine.

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