Praise is pouring in for New Century Resources’ zinc tailings project at a former mine site north-west of Mount Isa, Queensland, with Mines Minister Anthony Lynham declaring it an “exciting new approach” and Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane labelling the project “ingenious”.
The project entails a mine site at Lawn Hill, where New Century reprocesses zinc tailings, a 304 km pipeline to transport zinc slurry, and a port facility at Karumba in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The company has invested A$50-million to extract zinc concentrate for export from 15-million tonnes a year of tailings waste.
"Our business model focuses on extracting value from the remaining assets on the Century mine to complete the site’s required rehabilitation in a profitable and timely manner,” said New Century MD Patrick Walta.
Congratulating the company on the opening of the zinc tailings project, Lynham said that the model of economic rehabilitation was an exciting approach to dealing with mine sites once they had concluded their original intended purpose.
“It’s the ultimate recycling story, and a tangible boost and security to the north-west economy, where it’s creating 250 local jobs.”
The project is powered by Queensland gas, supplied by Santos. In terms of an agreement between the companies, Santos will supply about 9 PJ of gas to meet the electricity demands of the tailings operation.
QRC’s Macfarlane said the project demonstrated not only the sector’s collaborative approach to resources, but its ability to reprocess.
“Ultimately this zinc mine was closed because it was uneconomical, but due to the ingenuity of New Century, it’s now a jobs and exports story for Queensland,” he said.
The Century mine began openpit production in 1999. During its 16 years of operation, Century was one of the largest zinc mines in the world, producing and processing an average of 475 000 t/y zinc concentrate and 50 000 t/y lead concentrates at Lawn Hill.
The cessation of processing operations by MMG at Century in early 2016 following depletion of the Century ore reserves presented an opportunity for a focused junior to monetise valuable remaining mineral assets. These include over 2.2-million tons of zinc metal equivalent resources located within mineralised tailings, and more than one-million tons of zinc and lead resources in the Silver King, South Block and East Fault Block base metal deposits. In addition, Century hosts several substantial phosphate deposits, which are yet to be developed.