Keith Porritt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Australia is a major copper (Cu) producer with mining and smelting operations at Olympic Dam in South Australia (SA) and Mount Isa in Queensland (Qld). Other significant copper producing operations are at Prominent Hill (SA), Northparkes, Cadia-Ridgeway, Cobar and Tritton in New South Wales (NSW), Ernest Henry (Qld), Nifty, Boddington, Telfer and Golden Grove in Western Australia (WA), and Mount Lyell in Tasmania (Tas). Copper and copper alloys are used in building construction, electrical cables and electrical equipment as well as in industrial machinery and equipment. An average car contains more than 20 kilograms (kg) of copper and suburban homes have around 200 kg of copper.
Australia's total demonstrated resources of copper rose by 1 million tonnes (Mt) in 2011 to 133 Mt, with NSW contributing the most to the increase.
Similarly, Australia's Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) of copper rose by 1 Mt to 86.7 Mt, an increase of 1% on the EDR in 2010. South Australia has the largest EDR at 58.2 Mt, which is 67% of the national total. Almost all of the EDR in SA are associated with BHP Billiton Ltd's Olympic Dam deposit, where EDR of 55.4 Mt are slightly higher than in 2010. Ninety-two percent of Australia's total copper EDR is held by 12 companies (Table 6) with the Olympic Dam deposit dwarfing all others. Queensland has 13% of Australia's copper EDR, predominantly in the Mount Isa region. New South Wales has 12%, which is nearly all in the Lachlan Fold Belt and largely at Cadia. The balance of Australia's copper EDR is principally in WA which has 6% of the national total.
Inferred Resources were similarly little changed, rising by less than 1 Mt to 43.9 Mt in 2011. South Australia holds 67% of Australia's Inferred Resources, most of which is at Olympic Dam, followed by Qld with 15%, NSW with 8% and WA with 7%.
|Company||Key Mines or Deposits||Resources
(Mt Cu EDR)
|BHP Billiton Ltd||Olympic Dam||55.4||63.7|
|Newcrest Mining Ltd||Cadia Valley, Telfer||9.1||10.5|
|Xstrata Plc||Mount Isa, Ernest Henry||6.6||7.6|
|Ivanhoe Australia Ltd||Mount Elliott, Osborne, Mount Dore, Starra||1.8||2.1|
|OZ Minerals Ltd||Prominent Hill||1.6||1.9|
|Newmont Mining Corporation||Boddington||1.5||1.7|
|Aditya Birla Minerals Ltd||Nifty, Mount Gordon||1.2||1.4|
|Rio Tinto Ltd||Northparkes||0.7||0.8|
|Altona Mining Ltd||Little Eva, Blackard||0.7||0.8|
|Minerals and Metals Group||Golden Grove, Rosebery||0.6||0.7|
|Sandfire Resources NL||DeGrussa||0.5||0.6|
All copper EDR is accessible.
Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code reserves account for around 28% of Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR). The remaining AEDR comprise those Measured and Indicated Resources reported by mining companies that Geoscience Australia considers will be economic over the long term. The copper resource life using national AEDR divided by annual production is 90 years, but using the ore reserve and dividing by annual production gives a resource life of around 25 years.
Spending on exploration for copper rose by 51% in 2011 to $396 million. Expenditure in Qld of $131 million was 33% of all copper exploration. Expenditure in SA of $130 million represented a further 33%. The main areas of expenditure in Qld were the Mount Isa and Cloncurry districts. In SA, expenditure was in the search for further Olympic Dam style mineralisation in the Gawler Craton. Western Australia had 20% of spending on copper exploration across a range of projects, largely focused on seeking volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) ore deposits. New South Wales had about 8%, with the remainder in the Northern Territory (NT) with 4% and around 1% in both Victoria and Tas. Expenditure on exploration for copper made up 11% of all of Australia's mineral exploration expenditure.
In 2011, Australia's mine production of copper totalled 961 kilotonnes (kt) of contained copper, 10% higher than in 2010 (870 kt). In 2011, SA surpassed Qld as the top copper producer with a total of 312 kt, which was 28% more than in 2010 and represented 32% of all Australian production. Olympic Dam and the recently commissioned Prominent Hill mine produced almost all of SA's output, contributing 20% and 11% respectively of national production. In 2011, Qld produced 305 kt of copper, largely from Mount Isa and Ernest Henry. For a third year, Qld production was significantly down on the historic average of around 400 kt per annum (ktpa) for the years 2000 to 2008. New South Wales produced 177 kt (18%) in 2011, up 19% on 2010, largely from Northparkes, CSA Cobar, Ridgeway, Tritton and Cadia Hill. Western Australia produced 140 kt (15%), down 17% on 2010, mainly from Nifty, Boddington, Telfer and Golden Grove. Tasmania produced 27 kt, down 3% on 2010, mostly from Mount Lyell, but with some from Rosebery.
The value of Australia's exports of copper concentrates and refined copper in 2011 totalled $8.6 billion, up 14% on the $7.6 billion in 2010, but holding at 3% of the value of total merchandise exports. The Australian-dollar average copper price for 2011 rose 5% to $8584 a tonne compared to the average of $8165 a tonne in 2010. The average copper price in the December quarter of 2011 was $7407, 15% lower than in the corresponding quarter of 2010. Copper exports in 2011 increased 7% to 904 kt, largely because of the 10% increase in copper production.
Ninety-two percent of Australia's total 2011 copper production from mining of 961 kt is produced by 11 mining companies as shown in Table 7 below. The top four producers account for 66% of mined copper production.
|Percentage of Australia's
2011 copper production
|Xstrata Plc||Mount Isa, Ernest Henry||249||26|
|BHP Billiton Ltd||Olympic Dam||197||20|
|OZ Minerals Ltd||Prominent Hill||108||11|
|Newcrest Mining Ltd||Cadia Valley, Telfer||78||8|
|Aditya Birla Minerals Ltd||Nifty, Mount Gordon||56||6|
|Rio Tinto Ltd||Northparkes||50||5|
|Glencore International Plc||Cobar CSA||45||5|
|Newmont Mining Corporation||Boddington||31||3|
|Straits Resources Ltd||Tritton||25||3|
|Minerals and Metals Group||Golden Grove, Rosebery||23||2|
|Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd||Mt Lyell||23||2|
Based on United States Geological Survey (USGS) data for other countries, Australia has the third largest world economic resources of copper (13%) after Chile (28%) and Peru (13%) and ahead of Mexico (6%), the USA (5%), and China, Russia, Indonesia and Poland with 4% each. As a producer, Australia ranks fifth in the world, with 6% of world copper production after Chile (34%), Peru (8%) and China and the USA (both 7%).
Olympic Dam (SA): BHP Billiton reported that 197 kt of copper cathode was produced from its Olympic Dam mine during 2011. This was close to the nominal capacity of 200 ktpa and 49% more than in 2010 when production was reduced for several months following extensive damage to the Clark Shaft haulage system by a falling ore skip in October 2009. During 2010-11, Olympic Dam reported records for annual material mined and for milling. Metallurgical recoveries were 94% Cu, 72% uranium oxide (U3O8), 70% gold (Au) and 65% silver (Ag). Olympic Dam has a current reserve life of 57 years.
On 10 October 2011, the South Australian and Federal Governments approved the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed open-pit expansion of Olympic Dam to increase production by up to 750 ktpa of copper, 19 ktpa of uranium oxide and 0.8 million ounces (Moz) of gold. Under the proposed $30 billion expansion, Olympic Dam would become one of the world's largest mines. The expansion would be a progressive development, requiring construction activity over 11 years, generating up to 6000 new jobs during the construction phase, as well as a further 4000 full-time positions and an estimated 15 000 new indirect jobs. However, on 22 August 2012, BHP Billiton announced their decision to investigate a less capital-intensive design of the open-pit expansion, involving new technologies to substantially improve the economics of the project. Measured Resources at the mine at June 2012 were estimated at 1474 Mt grading 1.03% Cu, 0.30 kilograms per tonne (kg/t) U3O8, 0.35 grams per tonne (g/t) Au and 1.95 g/t Ag for the sulphide ore. The sulphide Indicated Resources stood at 4843 Mt grading 0.84% Cu, 0.27 kg/t U3O8, 0.34 g/t Au and 1.50 g/t Ag.
Mount Isa and Ernest Henry (Qld): Copper-in-concentrate production in 2011 from Xstrata Plc's Mount Isa and Ernest Henry operations totalled 249 kt, an increase of 7% on 2010. At Mount Isa, production was 149 kt of copper in concentrate, a decrease of 6% on the previous year as a result of restricted access to some areas due to localised geotechnical issues and planned major maintenance activities. At Ernest Henry, copper-in-concentrate production increased 34% to 100 kt as the site transitioned from the open pit to underground mining. Ernest Henry open pit operations had closed by the end of 2011 as mining operations reached the final high-grade ore zone of the open pit. Initial underground mine production using the access decline commenced in December 2011. Commissioning of the hoisting operations from the main shaft is scheduled to commence in 2013. The magnetite plant was commissioned in 2011 and sold a total of 259 kt of contained magnetite (Fe3O4) between June and December. Xstrata reported cost savings of $49 million as a result of improved by-product credits from magnetite production at Ernest Henry.
The Mount Isa smelter produced 234 kt of copper anode, 11% more than in 2010. Using anode from the Mount Isa smelter, plus some anode from Xstrata's Altonorte smelter in Chile, the Townsville refinery produced 276 kt of copper cathode, a decrease of 4% on 2010, largely because of a temporary plant shutdown in February after a severe tropical cyclone in North Queensland.
Following a review of a $3 million, eight-month concept study, Xstrata Mount Isa Mines announced in May 2011 it would expand existing mines, potentially develop new mines, but phase out its Mount Isa copper smelting and Townsville refining operations by 2016 and export mineral concentrates. This would require increased rail and port capacity. Findings from the study indicated the potential to mine and process at least 340 Mt of zinc-lead ore and 130 Mt of copper ore by large-scale open-pit mining at Mount Isa. In August 2011, Xstrata commenced a $47 million pre-feasibility study (PFS) into the development of the large open-pit zinc-lead-copper mine, potentially extending the life of the combined operations to beyond 2060. The PFS, which is expected to be completed in early 2013, will include new drilling to upgrade resource classification, geotechnical and mine design work, planning for logistics and cost of relocating major infrastructure on site. Other work to be carried out will include metallurgical, environmental, infrastructure and financial studies. Xstrata will also consult with the community to ensure socioeconomic, environmental and community interests are addressed within project planning. Subject to the PFS being approved, Xstrata will progress to a feasibility stage and full environmental assessment in 2013.
Prominent Hill (SA): Located 130 kilometres (km) southeast of Coober Pedy in the Gawler Craton, Prominent Hill produced 108 kt of copper and 160 007 ounces (oz) of gold in 2011. Construction of an underground mine to access the Ankata deposit, located 800 metres (m) away from the Malu open pit, continued throughout 2011, with the first stoping ore from the mine produced in early 2012. On 27 December 2011, during Cyclone Grant, a train carrying 33 sheeted kibbles north from the mine to the Port of Darwin, derailed near the flooded Edith River bridge in the NT spilling up to 1200 tonnes of copper concentrate, valued at roughly $8 million. In early January NT WorkSafe directed OZ Minerals to remove the concentrate south to SA to allow reconstruction works to proceed. At June 2011, Prominent Hill copper mineral resources were 210.4 Mt grading 1.22% Cu, 0.5 g/t Au and 2.8 g/t Ag, and gold mineral resources were 54.4 Mt grading 0.08% Cu, 1.5 g/t Au and 1.1 g/t Ag.
Cadia-Ridgeway (NSW): Newcrest Mining Ltd's Cadia Valley operations are located 250 km west of Sydney and consist of three gold-copper mines, Cadia Hill, Ridgeway and Cadia East. Copper production in 2011 for Cadia Hill was 20 kt, a reduction of 6 kt on 2010 while Ridgeway copper production was 26 kt, an increase of 9 kt on 2010. Heavy rain events early in 2011 restricted access to the high-grade zone at the base of the Cadia Hill pit which impacted on production. This was compounded in November 2011 when a ground slip in the open pit blocked an access ramp and prevented heavy-vehicle access to the bottom of the pit for the remainder of the year. On both occasions, milling continued with ore feed sourced from lower grade stockpiles. The Cadia Hill pit is nearing completion and has a forecast mine life to early 2013. Three kilometres from the Cadia Hill open pit is the Ridgeway gold-copper mine. The top of the Ridgeway deposit lies approximately 500 m below the surface. The less labour intensive Ridgeway Deeps block cave was ramped up during the June 2011 quarter to its designed annual production rate of 6 Mtpa. Ridgeway production of 9 kt more than in 2010 reflects post-commissioning production at Ridgeway Deeps. Increased block-cave ore production, higher grade ore and higher mill throughput all contributed to this increase.
Adjacent to the eastern edge of the Cadia Hill orebody is the Cadia East deposit which is a porphyry zone of gold-copper mineralisation, extending up to 2.5 km east and around 1.9 km below the surface. Cadia East is one of the world's largest gold deposits, comprising a mineral resource of 2300 Mt grading 0.44 g/t Au and 0.28% Cu containing 33 Moz of gold and 7 Mt of copper. The $1.9 billion Cadia East project commenced in April 2010 and commercial production levels are expected to be achieved by the end of 2012, with annual production from Cadia Valley operations expected to increase to around 90 kt of copper and 0.8 Moz of gold from the 2016 financial year. The Cadia East project was approximately 80% complete at 30 June 2012. Newcrest's strategic research and development of world-leading, underground bulk-mining technologies has advanced mine caving from early concept studies to full-scale trials for application, notably at both Ridgeway and Cadia East and elsewhere. The Cadia East panel cave will be Australia's largest underground mine and will underpin production from Cadia Valley for at least the next 30 years. In 2011, Newcrest received a favourable ruling by the High Court of Australia in respect of a copper royalties dispute at Cadia Valley, resulting in a reversal of $11 million of previously expensed royalties.
Northparkes (NSW): Located 27 km north of Parkes, Northparkes mine produced 50 kt of copper and 76 000 oz of gold in 2011. Rio Tinto reported resources for 2011 of 288 Mt with 0.57% Cu and 0.26 g/t Au, with additional reserves of 70.4 Mt with 0.8% Cu and 0.29 g/t Au. A prefeasibility study was underway in 2011 to evaluate the potential for further underground mining and processing operations based on a series of large-tonnage, low-grade areas of mineralisation within the existing mine leases. Named the Step Change Project, it includes 155 km of drilling and current mining and milling operations could be significantly expanded to deliver an ore-extraction rate of 30 Mtpa. This would represent a threefold increase in metal production and more than 20 years of additional mine life. Following the discovery of further ore late in 2012, Rio Tinto extended the $115 million study and now expects it to be completed in 2013. The project includes developing, with international engineering and technology company Aker Solutions, a tunnel-boring system and commissioning it in 2012, as well as evaluating full-scale prototype trials of additional tunnel-boring machines and a shaft-boring system. Working in combination, these two boring systems have the potential to reduce by 40% the time it takes to construct an underground mine compared to conventional methods.
DeGrussa (WA): Located 900 km north of Perth and 150 km northeast of Meekatharra, DeGrussa has reached production status in a relatively short period of time. Sandfire Resources NL reported an increased resource in May 2011 of 14.3 Mt at 4.6% Cu and 1.6% Au, containing 652 kt copper and 742 000 oz gold. Early-stage, open-pit mining began in February 2012 from a high-grade chalcocite part of the resource that begins 55 m below surface and totals 143 kt of direct shipping ore (DSO) and grades 25.6% Cu and 2.5 g/t Au, containing 37 kt of copper. The ship loading and sale of the first DSO from the open pit mine, containing roughly 30% copper, occurred in May 2012, just under three years from the deposit's discovery in 2009. Sandfire Resources forecasts an annual production rate of 77 kt of copper and 36 000 oz of gold will be underway from both the open pit and underground mine by early 2013.
Mount Gordon (Qld): Aditya Birla Minerals Ltd resumed production at Mount Gordon in 2011 after two years on care and maintenance since 2009 in response to low copper prices. In March 2011, Stage 1 approval was granted which allowed limited mining and production, but the restart was delayed until April because of a shaft collapse after wet weather. Stage 2 approval was granted in May, allowing full mining operations to commence. In October Aditya Birla was fined $140 000 for a breach in requirements to reduce accumulated water. The Mount Gordon operation has the capacity to mine 1.2 Mtpa of ore with a production rate of approximately 20 ktpa of copper. Production for 2011 was 8.1 kt of copper in concentrate. The Mineral Resource as at March 2012 totalled 97.2 Mt at 1.35% Cu.
Nifty (WA): Production at Nifty for 2011 was 48 kt of copper in concentrate from processing 2.1 Mt of sulphide ore. This decrease of 22% from 2010 production of 61 kt resulted from planned lower ore grades, pastefill failures, equipment availability and technical issues. Aditya Birla Minerals Ltd reported that the pastefill plant had since been modified and that a fleet replacement strategy had begun. Nifty has a processing capacity of 2.3 Mtpa and the concentrator plant has a capacity of 2.5 Mtpa. The Nifty resource was reported in July 2012 as 30.5 Mt at 2.5% Cu using a 1.2% Cu cut-off.
Lady Annie (Qld): Hong Kong listed CST Mining Group Ltd reported production of 18 kt of copper for 2011 from the Lady Annie project, located approximately 120 km northwest of Mount Isa. In May 2011 the company reported a 250% jump in resources at the Anthill deposit, which it believes will add a further two years to the Lady Annie mine life. Further drilling at Anthill, as well as the discovery of the Lady Colleen deposit in late 2011, increased total project resources at July 2012 to 71.9 Mt with 0.67% Cu.
Mount Margaret (Qld): In July 2011, Exco Resources completed the $175 million sale to the Xstrata Plc subsidiary, Mount Margaret Mining, of its E1 and Monakoff tenements, which formerly were part of the Cloncurry Copper Project. Both deposits contain open-pit copper mineral resources with completed feasibility studies. Now collectively called Mount Margaret, the E1 deposit with 48.1 Mt of ore is located 8 km east of the Xstrata's Ernest Henry Mining operation and Monakoff is 21 km south. The tenements have a combined resource of 52.1 Mt grading 0.77% Cu and 0.23 g/t Au, representing 401 kt of contained copper and 384 000 oz of gold. Over its five-year life, Mount Margaret will produce around 140 kt of copper, 83 000 oz of gold and 560 kt of magnetite in concentrate, at a rate of around 30 ktpa of copper. The first ore from Mount Margaret was trucked to Ernest Henry for processing in August 2012.
Kanmantoo (SA):In November 2011, Hillgrove Resources reached production status at its Kanmantoo copper mine located 55 km east of Adelaide. During the six-month ramp-up, a broken crown gear slowed production for March 2012 but it increased in April to be in line with projections. At March 2012, resources at Kanmantoo were 32.8 Mt grading 0.8% Cu, 0.15 g/t Au, 2.2 g/t Ag and 132 g/t bismuth (Bi), containing 263 kt of copper. Kanmantoo is forecast to produce 80 ktpa of concentrate, containing 20 kt of copper, 10 000 oz of gold and 180 000 oz of silver. Kanmantoo has a reported mine life of up to 10 years.
Mineral Hill (NSW): In July 2011, Kimberley Metals completed an $8 million refurbishment of the copper-gold processing plant at Mineral Hill in central western NSW, producing an initial 700 tonnes of copper for 2011. Previously mined by Triako Resources from 1987 to 2005, the current restart of the Mineral Hill operation is based on an initial 10-year mine life. A $4 million modernisation of the underground infrastructure is facilitating mining, via an existing decline, of the Parkers Hill orebody from 2011 onwards and the SOZ and ESOZ orebodies during early 2013. November 2011 saw a significant resource upgrade to 5.2 Mt containing 61 kt of copper, 83 kt of lead (Pb), 47.5 kt of zinc (Zn), 6.12 Moz of silver, and 222 000 oz of gold. In January 2012, the company, renamed KBL Mining Ltd, reported that copper metal in concentrate production was set to increase to 5400 tpa along with annual production of 100 000 oz of silver and 1500 oz of gold.
Carrapateena (SA): Located 130 km north of Port Augusta and approximately 75 km from the Stuart Highway, the Carrapateena deposit begins 470 m below the surface and mineralisation extends down a further 1000 m vertically. In May 2011, ministerial approval was granted for the US$250 million acquisition of the deposit by OZ Minerals from RMG Services Ltd and Teck Resources. OZ Minerals estimate construction on the project will begin in mid-2015 after completion of a feasibility study. OZ Minerals has reported that options for mining include block caving, sub-level caving and sub-level open stoping. At October 2012, resources were reported as 292 Mt grading 1.29% Cu, 0.48 g/t Au, 201parts per million (ppm) U and 5.4 g/t Ag.
Hillside (SA): Rex Minerals Ltd announced in October 2011 that it aims to begin production at Hillside SA by 2015 with the operation processing 15 Mtpa for a minimum of 10 years, yielding an annual production of 70 kt copper, 50 000 oz of gold and 1.3 Mt of iron (Fe) ore. Additional copper-gold-iron ore discoveries adjacent to the known Hillside resources were announced in October 2011 grading from 0.6% to 1.3% Cu, 0.1 g/t to 0.5 g/t Au in a depth range of 27 m to 459 m. The prefeasibility study for Hillside was released in October 2012 with a minimum 15-year mine plan at 70 ktpa production of copper to commence in 2015, in line with the 2011 outlook. The July 2012 Hillside resource stood at 330 Mt at 0.6% Cu, 0.16 g/t Au and 13.7% Fe.
Osborne, Kulthor, Starra Line (Qld): Ownership of the Osborne mine and Kulthor deposit changed from Barrick Gold to Ivanhoe Australia in 2010, for $17.4 million. In 2011, Ivanhoe Australia reported Measured and Indicated Resources for the Osborne, Kulthor and Starra 276 and Starra 222 deposits totalling 22.3 Mt at 1.08% Cu and 0.87 g/t Au as well as Inferred Resources of 21.4 Mt at 1% Cu and 0.86 g/t Au. At the associated Mount Elliot mine, no ore removal or production was undertaken in 2011. Underground mine development work recommenced at Osborne and Kulthor in March 2011, and has since achieved an annual rate of 1.65 Mt. The project has an initial four-year mine life to 2015, with a targeted mine life in excess of 15 years from potential resource expansions.
Copper production from the Osborne processing complex began in February 2012. The Osborne complex is expected to process approximately 700 kt to 800 kt at 1.5% to 1.7% Cu and 0.7 to 0.9 g/t Au in 2012, increasing to 1500 kt at 1.3% to 1.5% Cu and 0.8 to 1 g/t Au in 2013 and 2014. After closing in 2003, development recommenced at the Starra Line 276 deposit in early 2012 with ore to be processed through the Osborne processing complex. In December 2011, work began on widening the existing Starra 276 decline to enable access by larger haul trucks. Resources remaining within the close-by Starra 222 deposit are being evaluated for potential mill feed for the Osborne processing complex.
Mt Dore (Qld): In September 2011, Ivanhoe Australia announced it would carry out a prefeasibility study for the Mount Dore deposit, which is forecast to begin production in late 2014. Mount Dore contains an Indicated Resource of 70 Mt at 0.6% Cu and 0.1 g/t Au and an Inferred Resource of 38 Mt at 0.6% Cu and 0.1 g/t Au. The project is forecast to have an initial 10-year mine life at a 3 Mtpa processing rate and a production rate of 19 ktpa of cathode copper.
Rocklands (Qld): In May 2011, CuDeco Ltd reported a Measured, Indicated and Inferred Resource totalling 273 Mt at 0.18% Cu, 0.09 g/t Au and 233 ppm Co. In late October 2011, CuDeco entered into an $86 million agreement with a private Chinese mining and energy group to fund the Rockland project. In November, a 30-year mine lease was granted for Rocklands by the Queensland Government. Environmental approval was given in April 2012 to build a 3 Mtpa (expandable to 5.5 Mtpa) processing plant to produce 480 ktpa of copper-gold-cobalt concentrate. CuDeco entered into a contract with Sinosteel (one of China's largest State owned corporations) to supply the 3 Mtpa processing plant.
Roseby (Qld): Altona Mining Ltd reported in 2011 that production at Roseby, located 95 km northeast of Mount Isa, is expected to commence in mid-2014. Results from drilling in 2011 upgraded the resources of Roseby deposits - Little Eva, Bedford, Ivy Ann and Lady Clayre. By July 2011, the project had a Measured , Indicated and Inferred resource of 177 Mt grading 0.6% Cu and 0.06 g/t Au for 1.1 Mt of copper and 0.3 Moz of gold. A definitive feasibility study based on the largest deposit, the 108 Mt Little Eva, returned an operation producing 375 kt of copper and 205 000 oz of gold over 11 years. Annual production volumes are estimated at 39 kt of copper and 17 200 oz of gold in concentrates, with ore sourced from both Little Eva and the three smaller deposits.
Sulphur Springs (WA): Located 160 km southeast of Port Hedland, Sulphur Springs was acquired for $26 million by Venturex Resources Ltd in February 2011 from CBH Resources Ltd as part of the Panorama Project. Venturex promptly began a feasibility study into the development of a centralised processing facility for ore from both Sulphur Springs and other holdings in the Pilbara copper-zinc project. In 2012, Venturex reported that a processing plant originally planned to be built at Whim Creek would be built at Sulphur Springs. It is estimated that the plant will produce 18 kt of copper, 30 kt of zinc and 400 000 oz of silver for a minimum of seven years. At November 2012, Sulphur Spring resources stood at 12.8 Mt grading 1.5% Cu, 4.1% Zn, 0.2% Pb and 17.6 g/t Ag.
Nymagee (NSW): YTC Resources Ltd purchased the Nymagee copper mine in conjunction with the Hera gold deposit 10 km to the south of CBH Resources in 2009 for $12 million. Nymagee mine, which is 100 km southeast of Cobar, last operated in 1918 with a total production of 422 kt of ore grading 5.8% Cu. In December 2011, YTC released a maiden resource estimate for Nymagee of 8 Mt grading 1.2% Cu, 0.3% Pb, 0.7% Zn and 9 g/t Ag containing 96 kt of copper, 27 kt of lead, 53 kt of zinc and 2.2 Moz of silver. The release also announced that mineralisation remained open to the north and at depth. YTC subsequently reported the discovery of a new zone of massive sulphides 500 m north of the Nymagee mine.