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WMC Sees Slow Expansion at Mt. Keith

WMC Resources has decided to expand its Mt. Keith mine "incrementally" rather than upgrading the facility all at once. WMC considered expanding Mt. Keith by 25% in a one-time expansion, but executives felt that this would have interfered with operations.

A company spokesman said WMC will, "still proceed with the Mt. Keith expansion," but that Chief Executive, Andrew Michelmore believes the company will get "a better result from doing it incrementally."

"We don't want to have a major plant disruption during these times of high nickel prices," he said. "The idea is that we'll continually tweak the plant."

Located in Western Australia, Mt. Keith produced 43,192 mt of nickel in concentrate in 2002. Although the facility won't be expanded all at once, company officials expect to increase nickel production to 50,000 mt in 2003.

Consolidated Minerals Studies Ferrochrome Smelter

Consolidated Minerals has engaged South Africa's Pyromet Technologies to conduct a feasibility study for its proposed Pilbara ferrochrome smelter in Western Australia. A pre-feasibility study concluded that Pyromet's successful design for a plant using a 3-MVA, semi-closed furnace as installed at the ASA Metals Ferrochrome smelter in South Africa could be adapted for the planned Pilbara plant.

Consolidated Mineral's Coobina chromite mine, also in the Pilbara region, started up in February 2002 and is working up to a design capacity of 250,000 mt/year of lumpy 42% chromite ore. The proposed smelter would convert Coobina ore into chrome alloys ranging from 55% to 68% chromite.

The technical feasibility study is considering three development options: a single-furnace project producing 50,000 mt/year of chrome alloy; a two-furnace project producing 110,000 mt/year; and a single-furnace project using Maxred smelting technology developed by Pyromet to produce 70,000 mt/year.

The study, slated for completion by mid-year, is also considering the optimum location for the plant, either at Coobina, 80 kilometers east of Newman, or at Port Hedland. Other considerations include the process flow sheet, capital costs, and development schedule.

Kagara Zinc Commissions Mt. Garnet

Kagara Zinc has begun commissioning its Mt. Garnet zinc project near Cairns in northern Queensland, Australia. Throughput is ramping up and full production is scheduled for June.

At its full capacity, Mt. Garnet will produce up to 80,000 mt/year of zinc concentrates, containing 35,000 mt of zinc metal, as well as 20,000 mt/year of lead-silver concentrates and 8,000 mt/year of copper-gold concentrates. Concentrates will be trucked to Korea Zinc's Sun Metals refinery near Townsville, 500 kilometers to the southeast.

The Mt. Garnet concentrator is strategically located to process ores from a multi-mine development program based on a number of high-grade zinc deposits. Initial ore will come from the Mt. Garnet pit adjacent to the concentrator. Beginning in July, ore will be drawn from the high-grade Surveyor deposit (635,000 mt grading 15.1% zinc) 120 kilometers to the south. A feasibility study of a proposed expansion to double production from the complex will determine subsequent scheduling of mining operations. A decision on such an expansion is expected by the end of the year.

Rio Tinto Ponders Underground for Argyle

In an effort to avoid the projected closure of its 20-year-old Argyle diamond mine in the Kimberley region of Western Australia by 2007, Rio Tinto plans to invest A$70 million in a feasibility study to extend the open pit into an underground operation. Last year, Argyle, the world's largest diamond mine, produced 33.5 million carats.

The feasibility study is expected to take two years, but may not guarantee mining would continue beyond 2007. "Deepening the decline off the side of the pit, currently at 320 meters, would reveal if there was a substantial diamond resource at depth much better than a series of drill holes would," said Argyle mine manager Andy Munro.

An earlier independent report indicated that underground mining could extend Argyle's life by at least 15 years. The world's largest producer of pink diamonds, white and champagne stones, Argyle has produced over 500 million carats since 1983. Last year Argyle extracted 70 million mt of ore. Rio Tinto completed its ownership of Argyle by purchasing the 5% share owned by the Western Australian Diamond Trust for A$3.8 million last year.

Queensland Clears Land Use Barriers

The government of Queensland has concluded Indigenous Land Use agreements (ILUA) with three native title groups enabling mineral exploration to proceed in the state's northern region and facilitating land use agreements with mining companies. State mining minister Stephen Robertson said the government could now expedite the processing of backlogged mineral exploration permit applications, as well as give mining companies the certainty they needed to get on with the job.

"This brings to 12 the number of native title groups who have adopted the government's ILUA model as their preferred method of negotiating land access agreements with mining companies," Robertson said.

Mining companies with permit applications lodged prior to September 2000 could finalize their land use agreements either through the ILUA model or pursue finalization under the Australian federal government's "Right to Negotiate" process. When ILUAs are lodged with the National Native Title Tribunal, applicants for backlog exploration permits can join by signing a deed.
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Title Annotation:industry briefs
Publication:E&MJ - Engineering & Mining Journal
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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