DESPITE good results in the early part of 1990, the Australian mining industry entered 1991 with many mining companies feeling the pinch from lower prices and an unfavourable exchange rate. Base metal prices, due to the fall in the price of lead and zinc, took the brunt of the decline. Some other mineral commodities that fell in price included LPG, uranium, tin and mineral sands.
Already MIM Holdings has announced that it intends to cut operating costs by $100 million/y at Mount Isa and Hilton. This may result in the dismissal of up to 500 miners. Pasminco has all but closed the Elura mine at Cobar and the small South Mine at Broken Hill has been shut down. The Renison tin mine in Tasmania, just celebrating its 100th anniversary, has been temporarily shut, due to the low price of tin. Renison has also shut the Eneabba beach sands operation in Western Australia until 1992.
Last year a survey of the mining industry was carried out by a firm of accountants for the Australian Mining Industry Council, which showed that in 1989-91 mine production increased, mostly due to increased productivity. Operating revenue rose 18%, net profit rose 49% and borrowings fell by 17%. Production came from existing established mines and treatment plants and no new large operations came onstream. By the end of 1990 these figures were outdated and the industry has taken a downward turn.
In 1989-90 mineral exports were $A24,100 million, or 45% of total exports. This well surpassed the value of rural exports, the traditional provider of Australia's export income. Mine production, plus refining and smelting, provided products to the value of $30,700 million, or 9% of the GDP of $A335,500 million. Australian inflation is around 8% and the annual balance of payments deficit reaches $A16,000 million. The budget is expected in 1991 to have a surplus of $A1,500 million, against an original budgeted surplus of $A8,000 million.
After a boom year in 1989 the bauxite, alumina and aluminium producers in 1990 began to feel the effects of the price decline, growing inventories and over-production throughout the world. The industry, however, is still making a substantial contribution to Australia's export income, amounting to $A2,500 million, second only to coal exports.
Australia is the world's largest bauxite producer and the Bureau of Mineral Resources estimates that demonstrated economic reserves total over 3,000 Mt, with paramarginal reserves almost as much again. At the present time bauxite is mined at Weipa in the Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland, at Gove in the Northern Territory and in the Darling Ranges in Western Australia. Other substantial but as yet undeveloped reserves exist in Western Australia and North Queensland.
Australian production in the 12 months to September 1990 was 40.4 Mt of bauxite, 10.8 Mt of alumina and 1.2 Mt of aluminium ingot. The major mines and associated plants are operated by five companies, all with international links and with minority Australian shareholders.
Alcoa of Australia (51% Aluminum Co. of America and 48.25% Western Mining Corp.) has bauxite mines at Jarradale and other localities in the Darling Ranges east of Perth in Western Australia, producing about 18 Mt/y. The bauxite from Jarradale is transported by rail to a refinery at Kwinana on the coast, and bauxite from the other mines is carried by conveyor to a refinery at Wagerup. From ports at Kwinana and Bunbury the alumina from the refineries is shipped to overseas customers or to aluminium smelters at Port Henry or Portland, both in Victoria.
Alcoa's refineries produce about 5 Mt of alumina and the company has announced that the Wagerup refinery production will be increased by 630,000 t/y at a cost of $A300 million. The start of production will take 30 months and will depend on the market situation. Alcoa has a 45% interest in the smelter at Portland, one of the largest in the world, with a production of 300,000 t/y of aluminium. Other shareholders are the Victorian State Bank, Austria Metal, the First National Trust and Chinese interests. The first and second potlines have been built and consideration is being given to constructing a third.
Another major producer is Comalco, 67% owned by CRA. This company mines about 10 Mt/y of bauxite from two mines at Weipa, in the north of Cape York Peninsula. The product is sent either directly overseas or to the Queensland Alumina Refinery at Gladstone in Queensland. Comalco has a 28% interest in QAL, which is the biggest alumina plant in the world. Comalco also operates a smelter at Boyne Island, near Gladstone, and at Bell Bay in Tasmania and has an interest in a smelter at Tiwai Point in the South Island of New Zealand. The company is considering the upgrading of its Bell Bay smelter from 150,000 t/y to 200,000 t/y, depending on the ability of the Tasmanian Government to supply electricity at a suitable price. Comalco also wants to expand the Boyne Island smelter depending on the goodwill of the Queensland Government to make power available.
Under an agreement with Japanese and European manufacturers, a company called Southern Aluminium has been set up at Bell Bay to manufacture cast aluminium wheels for the automotive industry. Comalco has an agreement with the U.S.S.R. to develop an advanced aluminium casting process, using the Soviet-developed electromagnetic casting system. The company has also contracted to build a $2,000 million alumina refinery on the Soviet Pacific coast, using 2 Mt/y of Weipa bauxite. The company is also investigating the possibility of building a refinery at Weipa, which would produce about 1 Mt/y of alumina. The cost estimate of the project is $A1,000 million.
The Canadian-owned Alcan of Australia operates a smelter at Kurri Kurri, in the Hunter Valley, where three potlines produce 150,000 t/y of aluminium. The alumina for the plant comes from the QAL refinery in which Alcan has a 21% interest. Alcan produces and manufactures aluminium in various shapes but, due to the poor local market for extrusions, has been obliged to restrict production.
Reynolds Metals of the U.S. and its partners have developed a bauxite mine at Saddleback in Western Australia. The company also has an alumina refinery at Worsley, about 200 km north of Perth.
A large bauxite deposit at Gove, in the Northern Territory, is mined by the Nabalco Alumina joint venture, in which Swiss Aluminium is the major partner. The alumina is sent to a smelter at Tomago in the Hunter Valley. CSR, one of the Gove Australian shareholders, and the AMP Society each have a 35% share in Tomago. A plan to expand the smelter has been given government approval and, when completed, the $A600 million project will increase production from 240,000 t/y to an estimated 420,000 t/y.
The Australian beach sands industry continues to grow in world importance and now produces 70% of the world's heavy mineral sands concentrate. Production is dominated by Western Australia, which is now said to be the source of 43% of world ilmenite, 27% of rutile, 40% of zircon and 60% of monazite. After a vigorous year in 1989, 1990 saw weaker prices and a slowing in demand which resulted in most producers having to curtail production.
The mining and processing companies have established a reputation for high quality-control standards and the industry is a world leader in the development of equipment and technology for processing mineral sands. Traditionally, the sands have been mined along the coast, but recent investigations have found very large deposits well inland. The major beach sand miner is Renison Goldfields Consolidated, whose mineral sands division is the world's largest producer and marketer. The division operates mines and dry processing plants at Eneabba, Capel and Narngulu in Western Australia, and has synthetic rutile plants at Capel and Narngulu; 106,800 t of rutile, 179,400 t of synthetic rutile, 263,400 t of zircon and 389,800 t of ilmenite were sold in 1990.
CRA has made the biggest discoveries of mineral sands in ancient beach lines. After extensive exploration of the Wimmera district of Victoria the company announced the existence of a major resource which it has named WIM 150, described as the biggest known mineral sands deposit in the world. Since then a further four deposits have been found. The deposits contain over 200 Mt of titanium minerals, zircon and rare earths. WIM 150 is scheduled to begin production in 1994, using dredges. The mineral sands are of a finer grain than elsewhere and the traditional gravity separation method is not considered suitable. Experiments with a flotation system of separation have been made at a pilot plant.
Westralian Sands is an old-established company in which Tioxide of the U.K. has a 40% interest. Based at Capel, the company has three mineral sand mines and a synthetic rutile plant. Production in 1989 was 369,000 t of rutile, 50,300 t of zircon and 2,200 t of monazite. The synthetic rutile division produced 98,000 t in the same period, and it is planned to double the synthetic rutile plant's capacity.
The West Australian company Minproc has a joint venture with Kerr-McGee Corp. of the U.S. to mine and treat mineral sands. The joint venture holds the big Cooljarloo deposit situated 170 km north of Perth with proved and probable 569 Mt of ore grading 3.2% metal. The project, with a probable life of 25 years, consists of the mine and wet concentrator at Cooljarloo and a dry mill at Muchea, 40 km north of Perth. Annual production will be 400,000 t of ilmenite, 35,000 t of rutile, 9,000 t of leucoxene, 600 t of zircon and 1,000 t of monazite. A 130,000 t/y synthetic rutile plant at Muchea will absorb 220,000 t of the ilmenite production to make synthetic rutile. This is railed 100 km to a plant at Kwinana which will produce 54,000 t of titanium oxide pigment, starting at the end of 1991.
Pioneer International, a company with interests in building materials, petroleum and mining, owns two sand mining operations which it has sold to the Japanese trading house Nissho Iwai for a reported $A200 million. One of the operations is Cable Sands, which has developed a new mine at Jangardup in south-west Western Australia. The other is Coffs Harbour Rutile, which has mines at Tomago and Harrington in New South Wales and interests in various valuable leases.
The major beach sand producer on the East Coast is Consolidated Rutile, which operates three mining plants consisting of a cutter-suction dredge and a wet concentrator on North Stradbroke Island, near Brisbane. Further processing is done at a plant in Brisbane. In 1990 the company processed 56.6 Mt of ore to produce 79,669 t of rutile and 64,642 t of zircon. Due to lower grades and other problems, production in 1990 was less than in previous years. Consolidated Rutile also has a mineral sands joint venture in the U.S. and is participating with a company from the French Saint Gobain group to build a plant to produce high-temperature ceramics using zircon as a base.
BHP has acquired an old-established company called Mineral Deposits which has for many years operated on the East Coast. This company has developed advanced equipment for mineral sands separation, which it sells throughout the world. Mineral Deposits recently developed a mine near Bundaberg, in Queensland, due to come on-stream in 1991 to produce an estimated 25,000 t of rutile, 30,000 t of zircon and 220,000 t of ilmenite. It is also working on the proposed Beenup deposit in south-west Western Australia. Considered to be one of the world's major ilmenite discoveries, Beenup has an estimated 500 Mt of ore containing about 4% heavy mineral. Mining of ilmenite, zircon and rutile will be carried out at the rate of 500,000 t/y.
Copper mining has long been established in Australia, and the Bureau of Mineral Resources estimates that demonstrated economic copper reserves amount to 5.3 Mt with paramarginal reserves of 33.5 Mt. Copper production for the year ending September 1990 amounted to 304,000 t at the mine, 196,000 t of blister copper and 250,000 t of refined copper.
Australia's biggest copper producer is the Mount Isa mine in western Queensland, owned by MIM Holdings, whose copper sales in 1990 were 192,027 t. Ore treated amounted to 5.9 Mt grading 3.1% copper, and 179,260 t of anode copper were produced. The company's refinery at Townsville produced 185,173 t of refined copper. Reserves at Mount Isa amount to 70 Mt of proved ore grading 3.2% copper, while probable reserves amount to 55 Mt grading 3.7% copper. The company is working on the development of the large 3000/3500 copper orebodies which lie beneath the existing workings.
The old-established Mount Lyell copper mine on the West Coast of Tasmania is faced with deeper orebodies and falling grades. The mine is part of the Renison Goldfields group. The 50-series orebody is now being mined following the installation of a new underground crushing system and a 1.2 km overland conveyor to carry the ore from the shaft to the concentrator. Ground movement and two equipment accidents have caused delays to operations. In 1990, 1.3 Mt of ore were milled at a grade of 1.28% copper and some gold and silver. A total of 59,206 t of copper concentrates, 360 kg of gold and 2,021 kg of silver were produced in the year. Reserves consist of 3.2 Mt measured and 15 Mt indicated. It is planned to end mining by 1995, but the company is reviewing potential areas to the north and south of the lease.
North Broken Hill Holdings owns a group of mines at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. The mines are practically worked out but 237,910 t of ore were milled in 1990 to produce 8,663 t of copper and some gold. Ore reserves are small but tailings dumps amount to 4.5 Mt grading 1 g/t gold. A company called Ausmelt has been given the right to treat the stockpile materials using a new Australian technology called Sirosmelt.
NBH-Peko's Parkes low-grade copper-gold prospect in Western New South Wales is still the subject of engineering development studies. Proved copper-gold reserves amount to 2.9 Mt, probable reserves are 32.8 Mt and indicated reserves amount to 20.1 Mt. When in production the mine could produce about 30,000 t/y of copper plus gold.
The Golden Grove base metal mine in Western Australia, in which Australian Consolidated Minerals has a 35% interest and Esso 35%, has recoverable reserves of 10.5 Mt, of which the copper ingredient amounts to 1.2%. Development was completed in August 1990 at a cost of $A130 million, and production began in November at the rate of 800,000 t/y. Exploration at the nearby Gossan Hill indicates a resource of 12.1 Mt containing 3.4% copper.
CRA operates a base-metal mine at Cobar in western New South Wales, which in 1990 produced 17,595 t of copper in concentrate. Gunpowder Copper Ltd has reopened the Mammoth mine at Gunpowder, 120 km north of Mount Isa. Using in situ and heap leaching, the operation produces cathode copper at the rate of 7,500 t/y. Reserves are said to be 6.4 Mt containing 3.4% copper.
The giant Olympic Dam copper-uranium-gold mine in South Australia, developed at a cost of $A750 million, treated 1.52 Mt of ore in the 1989-90 year. The majority shareholder is Western Mining Corp. The ore grade was 2.53% copper and 37,801 t of copper were produced.
Site construction work and open-cut mining has proceeded during the year at the Thalanga project near Charters Towers in Queensland. This is a joint venture between Pancontinental (50%), Outokumpu of Finland and Agip of Italy. The project, which cost $A100 million to develop, was officially opened in May 1990. A heap leaching operation is used to treat the gold-silver bearing gossan ore, and underground operations began early in 1991. Reserves of 4.6 Mt will give a mine life of nine years.
Other copper projects include the Woodlawn base metal mine near Canberra, which produced 5,165 t of copper in 1990 and has a life expectation of 10 years. At Moonta in South Australia the Poona copper-gold opencut is reported as being exhausted and a decline has been driven to develop underground working. The Burra mine, also in South Australia, has been recommissioned by the Adelaide Chemical Co. as a producer of copper sulphate.
In the Pilbara the Telfer gold mine operated by Newmont is finding a growing percentage of copper in the ore. Agip has developed the Karratha gold-copper mine and plans to install an Isamelt smelter that could also treat ore from Telfer and from Western Mining Corp.'s Nifty copper mine now under development.
In recent years Australia has become the world's largest diamond producer, based on mines in the Kimberley district of northern Western Australia. There the Argyle joint venture, the biggest diamond mine in the world, in 1990 processed 5.7 Mt of ore and gravel to produce 34.4 Mct of rough diamonds, amounting to about 30% of world production. The deposit has an expected life of 15 years. Near-gem quality stones account for 39% of production, and 55% are industrial grade diamonds. Only 5% of the Argyle stones are of gem value. Most diamonds are sold through the De Beers Central Selling Organisation.
Poseidon's Bow River mine in the East Kimberleys processed 2.75 Mt of ore in the past year for the production of 700,000 ct. Poseidon also has a joint venture prospect in the Phillips Ranges in the Kimberley region, where diamonds have been found. A number of other exploration companies are searching for diamonds in various parts of Australia, including the Copeton area of northern New South Wales, but with little reported success.
Australia is the world's leading producer of sapphires, most of which are mined in the New England district of New South Wales. The value of the stones sold is not known as most sales are carried out privately between the miners and overseas buyers, mainly from Thailand. However, the Bureau of Mineral Resources estimates the value of stones sold to be about $A21 million.
Over 90% of the world's natural opal is found in Australia and mined, as in the case of sapphires, by small syndicates at Andamooka, Coober Pedy and Mintable in South Australia; Lightning Ridge in New South Wales and some localities in Queensland. Opal production is estimated as being about $A139 million, while exports amount to $A70 million. Other gemstones found in Australia include jade, garnet, beryl, rock crystal, turquoise and zircon.
In 1990 gold production in Australia reached 242.2 t but this is expected to be the peak figure as from 1991 the industry is faced with corporate tax for the first time. A study by Smith New Court Australia, which examined 272 gold projects, concluded that production will fall to 171 t by 1993. The report says that average cash operating costs in 1990 were $A324, with total costs at $A472/oz.
The biggest gold producer is Western Mining Corp. which in 1989-90 mined 938,890 oz of gold, a 14% rise on the previous 12 months. The company's major gold operations in Australia are managed by two wholly-owned companies: Great Boulder and Hill 50 Gold Mines, and by Central Norseman Gold, which is 50% owned. Western Mining has a 51% interest in the giant Olympic Dam gold-copper-uranium mine in South Australia. In 1989-90 1.5 Mt of ore were treated to produce 18,126 oz of gold, as well as copper and uranium.
At the Kambalda gold operation near Kalgoorlie 203,447 oz were produced. Ore was treated at the Kambalda plant until it was closed at the end of 1989, and then all treatment was carried on at the new St Ives plant. Proven Kambalda reserves amount to 20 Mt of ore grading 4.5 g/t and 4.9 Mt of low-grade ore grading 1.3 g/t.
Hill 50 Gold's Mount Magnet operations, also in Western Australia, produce gold mainly from the Saturn open cut (131,345 oz last year from 1.5 Mt of ore grading 2.64 g/t). Reserves amount to 1.7 Mt of underground ore and 7.4 Mt in the open cut. Exploration has revealed a new orebody called The Boomer, about 2 km from the main operation. The company has also purchased the adjoining property of Metana Minerals. Western Mining Corp.'s Lancefield mine produced 96,446 oz from an underground mine and an open cut, after treating 693,000 t of ore. The mine has reserves of 2.3 Mt grading 7 g/t in the open cut and 2.3 Mt grading 7 g/t underground.
The Central Norseman Group (50% owned) incurred a financial loss in the year, although production increased by 5% to 95,228 oz. The lower gold price and lower grades caused the company to close the Regent Shaft and to scaledown operations. Two new open cuts were started. Reserves are now 750,000 t grading 9.5 g/t underground and 320,000 t grading 2.3 g/t in the open cut.
The Leinster operation produced 80,422 oz, 18% less than in the previous year. This mine has reserves of 5.4 Mt grading 3.4 g/t underground and open cut reserves of 1.4 Mt grading 2.1 g/t. The Goodall joint venture, in which Western Mining has a 60% interest, is in the Northern Territory, about 100 km south of Darwin. Production from the open cut came to 54,654 oz, and grades were lower as the mining advanced from the enriched ore to the sulphides. Reserves are 2.5 Mt grading 3.6 g/t. In addition to a small 21,000 oz/y operation at Kalgoorlie, the company has a 72% joint venture at Stawell, in Victoria, that produced 47,520 oz in 1989-90. Underground reserves are 1.8 Mt grading 4.2 g/t, with 370,000 t grading 1.4 g/t left in the open cut.
The discovery of large areas of lateritic-hosted gold underneath the bauxite deposits of the Darling Ranges in Western Australia has led Alcoa to develop the Hedges mine, managed by Western Mining. In the first nine months of 1990 2 Mt of ore were treated to recover 136,118 oz, or a grade of 1.92 g/t. In the same area, the Boddington mine has been set up in which Reynolds Metal of the U.S. holds 40%, Shell 30%, BHP, also the manager, 20% and Kobe of Japan 10%. In the past year 6 Mt of ore were treated and 500,000 oz of gold extracted. The presence of copper in the ore precluded the use of a simple CIP plant and a full crushing, grinding and flotation plant has been installed. Reynolds also has a 50% interest in the Mount Gibson gold mine which produces 100,000 oz/y, and recently purchased Mawson Pacific which produces at the rate of 70,000 oz/y. It has gold mining operations at Southern Cross and Marvel Loch in the Yilgarn area of Western Australia.
BHP Gold was set up to hold BHP's gold mining activities which include Brown's Creek in New South Wales and various operations in the Parkes area of the same State. In 1990 Newmont Australia merged with BHP Gold, diluting BHP's stake to a 23% interest in the expanded company. Newmont Gold already operates the Telfer mine, one of the biggest in Australia, with reserves amounting to 10 Mt grading 2 g/t gold and annual production about 260,000 oz.
The Bond group has now disappeared from the mining world, and its half share in the Golden Mile |Super Pit' has been purchased by the Normandy-Poseidon group, now under the umbrella of Poseidon Gold. The group has an interest in mines that produced 213,463 oz in 1990 and an interest in Pan Australia and Gold Mines of Kalgoorlie, which in the same period produced 730,721 oz of gold. The Super Pit at Kalgoorlie, 50% owned by Homestake, represents an amalgamation of all the previous separate pits in the Fimiston-Paringa area and has resulted in a rationalization of surface mining activities. Gold production in 1990 was 231,114 from 3.1 Mt treated. Proved and probable reserves total 766.45 Mt containing 7.2 Moz.
Poseidon Gold has a 90% interest in the Kailtails project, which is treating 57 Mt of tailings in the Kalgoorlie area at the rate of 750 t/h. Head grade of the tailings is 0.72 g/t. Poseidon also has a 49% interest in Pan Australia Mining which owns the Mount Leyshon mine near Charters Towers in North Queensland. With heap leaching and a CIP plant this mine produced 184,558 oz in 1990. Its measured resources amount to 29.1 Mt at a grade of 1.6 g/t. Other Poseidon interests include a diluted 12% share in Newmont Australia. This company has announced that it has begun underground mining at the New Celebration gold mine south of Kalgoorlie. Proved reserves amount to 353,000 t assaying 10.1 g/t and have been identified to a depth of 200 m.
BHP has a 45% interest in the Coronation Hill project in the Northern Territory. Other partners include Pioneer Mines (45%) and Norgold, the gold arm of North Broken Hill Peko (10%). The deposit is immensely valuable, including gold and platinum metals, but the delicate environmental situation has held up permission to develop.
ACM Gold, the gold branch of Australian Consolidated Minerals, had a record gold production in 1990 of 268,343 oz. The company has purchased a 49% interest in North Flinders Mines which owns the Granites gold mine in the Northern Territory, with 120 Mt of ore grading 4 g/t. Production in 1989-90 was 112,225 oz. ACM Gold also operates the Westonia mine, the Wirralia mine and the Golden Crown, which had a record year, although reserves are modest. The Big Bell mine, 50:50 owned by ACM Gold and Placer Pacific, has 7.3 Mt of probable reserves grading 2.3 g/t, but results have been poor. ACM Gold has a 38% interest in the old Beaconsfield mine in Tasmania which is now being dewatered.
At the little bush town of Temora in southern New South Wales, Paragon Resources has developed an open-cut mine producing 700,000 t/y of ore, from which is extracted 72,000 oz of gold at the low cost of $A174/oz. A further 2.8 Mt of proven reserves remain. The company has several other smaller gold mining operations and expects in 1990 to produce over 100,000 oz in the year.
Pancontinental Mining, a diversified company with interests in base metals, tantalum and uranium, operates the Paddington gold mine where 1.2 Mt of ore was treated to produce 90,003 oz. Reserves at Paddington are 2.6 Mt, sufficient for another five years, and potentially recoverable ore lies below the existing pits.
One of Australia's biggest producers is the Kidston mine in North Queensland, 280 km west of Cairns, in which Placer Pacific holds 70% of the shares. In 1990 throughput of ore was 4.3 Mt and gold production was 205,361 oz. Based on known reserves the mine has a life of seven and a half years. In addition to its Kidston investment, Placer Pacific has a 50% interest in the Big Bell mine and a 60% joint venture interest in the Grannie Smith mine south of Laverton and about 220 km north-east of Kalgoorlie. Construction was completed at the end of 1989 at a cost of $A81 million and production began in February 1990. The mine consists of three open pits and production of ore is at the rate of 45,000 t/d. After three years, when excavation of harder unoxidized ore begins, the throughput will fall. The first year's production is expected to be 224,000 oz. Development is based on 21 Mt of ore grading 1.7 g/t.
North Broken Hill Peko still operates the Peko mines at Tennant Creek, which suffer from low reserves, low grades and higher than expected operating costs. Annual output is to be increased to 420,000 t of gold-copper ore, and in 1990 gold production was 13,991 oz. The company's share of the Peak Hill mine in Western Australia was 30,849 oz, of the Golden Valley joint venture 6,714 oz and of Bottle Creek 15,347 oz. The company also has a very large gold-copper operation near Parkes, in western New South Wales, in which several associated deposits have over 40 Mt of proved ore assaying from 1.1 to 2.2 g/t. Mining lease applications have been lodged.
CRA has not been prominent in gold mining and has only one gold mine, The Peak, at the old mining centre of Cobar. The mine, due to start operation in the second half of 1992, will produce 100,000 oz/y. Situated 9 km from Cobar, it has proved reserves of 4.5 Mt assaying 7.1 g/t, plus some copper, lead, zinc and silver, which will be mined at the rate of 450,000 t/y.
Renison Consolidated Goldfields has a small plant near Burraga in New South Wales which has measured and indicated reserves of 1.7 Mt at 3.3 g/t. In the past year 576,000 t of ore was treated to produce 74,000 oz of gold. The company asserts that the mine is the lowest cost producer in Australia and in 1989-90 average cash cost was $A141/oz. Renison has another gold mine at Pine Creek, a township 220 km southeast of Darwin. Last year 1.1 Mt of ore was treated at a grade of 2.7 g/t to recover 81,000 oz of gold. Measured and indicated reserves are 16.2 Mt. The carbon-in-pulp plant has been enlarged to treat up to 1.5 Mt/y of ore and a heap leach operation treats the substantial resource of low-grade oxide ore.
A company that has had considerable success in recent years is Dominion Mining, now producing 350,000oz/y. In Western Australia it has five mines: Meekatharra, Labouchere, Gabanintha, Mount Morgan and Tower Hill. It also operates the Cosmo Howley mine in the Northern Territory.
Gwalia Consolidated operates the Sons of Gwalia mine in Western Australia which has 2.9 Mt of proved ore grading 3.4 g/t plus probable and inferred ore. In 1990 the mine produced 76,454 oz of gold from its open-pit operation. The mine has been worked underground since 1896, when the manager was Herbert Hoover, later President of the U.S. In addition to the Sons of Gwalia mine the company has the Day Dawn project near Que and the Barnicoat project near Laverton. In total, the company produces about 100,000 oz/y.
The Plutonic gold mine, previously owned by Pioneer Mineral Exploration, was taken over last year by Plutonic Resources, a company beneficially owned by Malaysia Mining Corp. and Tronoh Mines Malaysia. A 1.2 Mt/y processing plant has been constructed and mining has begun on the 4.7 Mt of proven ore grading 3 g/t gold. The mine, which will produce about 120,000 oz/y, is located 180 km north-east of Meekatharra, in Western Australia.
The Australian iron ore industry had a good year, producing 109.8 Mt in 1989-90. Demand from Japan was high, although a decline in demand is expected in the coming year. The market for Pilbara iron ore in China, Republic of Korea and Taiwan continued to grow. The value of exports to all countries during the period was $A2,150 million.
Most iron ore mining is carried out in the Pilbara district of Western Australia where three large companies operate -- CRA, BHP and the Robe River associates. The biggest producer is CRA's Hamersley Iron. The company works the Paraburdoo, Mount Tom Price and Channar mines and had a record production of 43.3 Mt in 1990. The Channar mine, developed at a cost of $A280 million, is a joint venture with the Chinese steel industry and will produce 200 Mt of ore over a period of 20 years. The company has recently had approval to develop the Marandaroo deposit 40 km from the Mount Tom Price township, and production is scheduled to start in 1994. Full capacity will be 10 Mt/y.
The second biggest producer in the Pilbara is BHP, whose Mount Newman mine in 1990 produced 31.7 Mt. The failure of a pit wall, overburden problems and industrial trouble reduced production capacity during the period. The mine's reserves are 1,200 Mt, including 950 Mt of ore grading 64.4% iron. BHP now owns 100% of the Goldsworthy iron ore mining operation. While Goldsworthy is a small producer of about 5 Mt/y, it holds the lease to Area C, said to contain 4,500 Mt of high-quality ore.
BHP is also developing the Yandi deposit 90 km north of Mount Newman which will start production in 1992. Yandi has a measured resource of 320 Mt of high-grade pisolitic ore particularly suited for sinter feed and will produce 5 Mt/y. Yandi will replace production from the Koolan Island mine, due to close shortly.
BHP had another iron ore operation at Whyalla, in South Australia, where a steelworks is supplied with ore from the Middleback Ranges. Deposits in the north and centre of the range have been worked out and the new Iron Duke deposit has been developed over two years at a cost of $A40 million. The deposit has 30 Mt of highgrade proven recoverable ore.
The third of the Pilbara mining operations is Robe River, 35% owned by North Broken Hill Peko. Sales in 1990 were 22.7 Mt. Robe River's reserves amount to 112.2 Mt proven ore, 585 Mt measured and 630 Mt indicated; the reserves have an iron content of 57%. Production is to be increased from 23 Mt to 30 Mt.
A small iron ore mining operation has been active in Tasmania for over 20 years. Savage River Mines, in the north of the island, mines and crushes the ore and pumps it as slurry to the coast, where it is made into pellets and sent to Japan. The deposit is said to be nearing the end of its useful life.
Australia produces about 6.6 Mt of raw steel from BHP's steel works at Newcastle, Port Kembla and Whyalla. Consideration has been given to schemes for the direct reduction of ore, and CRA plans to build a demonstration plant at Kwinana. The plant, which will use the Hismelt process, will be a joint venture with Kobe Steel of Japan and Kloeckner of Germany.
Lead, Zinc and Silver
Pasminco, the giant base metal mining group created by the merger of CRA's and North Broken Hill Peko's mining and smelting operations, reported a 6% profit fall for its second year's operations. This was mainly due to the weakening price of metals and to some operating problems. Ore production from the group's mines was 4.4 Mt, with recovered zinc being 365,200 t, lead 210,606 t and silver 310,000 kg.
At Broken Hill the tonnage of ore treated and concentrate produced was slightly less than in the previous year. Productivity improved at the North Operation, although there were some adverse ground conditions in the lower parts of the mine.
It was decided that further mining at the 2K orebody was unlikely due to depth, poor ground conditions, high temperature and the limited size of the resource. At the South Operation work continued on the decline and on a new ventilation shaft. Work has also begun on tailings retreatment and some 50,000 t of bulk concentrate are expected to be produced from this. Reserves, proved and probable, at the South Operation amount to 37.3 Mt, grading 10% zinc, 8.5% lead and 80 g/t silver. Proved and probable reserves at the North Operation amount to 3.7 Mt at about the same grade.
Difficulties face the Elura mine, near Cobar. The tonnage treated in 1990 was 1.1 Mt, about the same as in the previous year. The ore graded 8.65% zinc, 5.6% lead and 124 g/t silver. Reserves at the main orebody are 10.4 Mt. Rising costs and lower base metal prices in 1990 forced the mine to cut back on some operations and to dismiss miners. In February 1991 a further 236 miners were dismissed, leaving only 60 to work on production, which has been cut to 400,000 t/y.
The company's Rosebery mine on the west coast of Tasmania has been treating ore from Aberfoyle's Que River mine, in addition to its own production. This will cease in 1991 and an exploration programme has been launched to find additional deposits. Ore treated in 1990 came to 782,273 t, of which 289,260 t came from Que River. The ore assayed 10.5% zinc, 4.3% lead and 113 g/t silver, plus some copper and gold. Reserves at Rosebery are 2.7 Mt proven and 3.8 Mt probable.
Pasminco has a small open-cut mine at Beltana, in South Australia, which produced a high grade, low arsenic ore, and has been mined on a campaign basis. Reserves are only about 200,000 t, grading 44% zinc and 2.5% lead. In 1990 ore crushed came to 4,748 t, assaying 40% zinc.
Pasminco Metals operates the EZ smelter at Risdon, near Hobart, the BHAS smelter at Port Pirie in South Australia and the Sulphide smelter at Cockle Creek, near Newcastle. The company also owns the Avonmouth smelter in the U.K. and has a 50% interest in the Budelco smelter in Holland. Further treatment of the mine product in 1990 amounted to 294,100 t of zinc, 200,200 t of refined lead bullion and 228,300 kg of silver. Pasminco has set up its own exploration company and is examining potential areas around Broken Hill, in Tasmania, in Queensland and near the Elura mine in New South Wales.
Pasminco has an agreement with CRA Exploration under which Pasminco can earn 40% in the new Dugald River lead-zinc-silver operation, 85 km north-east of Mount Isa. So far the indicated resources, to a depth of 1,000 m, are 30.8 Mt averaging 13.1% zinc, 2.1% lead and 39 g/t silver.
CRA also has two other promising lead-zinc prospects. One is the Century lead and zinc resource in north-west Queensland, 250 km from Mount Isa. It is described as |a potentially worldclass resource' and is close to the surface and easily exploited by open-cut methods. The mineralized zone is 30-40 m thick and averages 7% zinc, 1% lead and 30 g/t of silver. Tests suggest that conventional techniques are applicable for separation and concentration. The other is the Admiral Bay lead-zinc prospect 120 km south of Broome in northern Western Australia. This promises to be a very large orebody.
Australia's other lead-zinc giant is MIM Holdings, which operates the Mount Isa mine and the Hilton mine 20 km to the west, in North Queensland. In 1990 MIM Holdings had a good year, although the income from sales declined towards the end of the year due to the easing of metal prices, forecasting a poorer result for 1991. In 1990 4.6 Mt of lead-zinc ore were treated to produce 160,000 t of crude lead and 18,484 t of lead-in-concentrate. Zinc-in-concentrate amounted to 209,223 t and refined silver, produced at the Northfleet refinery in the U.K. from Mount Isa concentrate, amounted to 12.0 Moz.
In May 1990 the Premier of Queensland officially opened the Hilton lead-zinc-silver mine, where production has now reached 1.0 Mt/y. The concentrator can process 750,000 t/y and the concentrate and excess ore is trucked to Mount Isa for further treatment.
Proved lead-zinc-silver ore reserves at Mount Isa amount to 47 Mt grading 5.4% lead, 6.6% zinc and 135 g/t silver. At the Hilton mine proved ore amounts to 9 Mt grading 6.2% lead, 8.4% zinc and 147 g/t silver. There is a further 13 Mt of probable ore. In addition, measured and indicated resources come to over 100 Mt. For many years the company has held leases at McArthur River in the Northern Territory. Measured reserves are 227 Mt grading 5.4% lead, 11.0% zinc and 4.1 g/t silver. The development of the mine would present great problems of transport and power supply due to the extreme isolation of the area. A new $A2 million programme of drilling and metallurgical testing has been initiated with a view to an underground mining operation.
In March 1991 Mr Barry Sullivan, the executive general manager of Mount Isa-Hilton, announced that the company planned to cut a minimum of $A100 million from operating costs within two years. This amounts to about 20% of Mount Isa's operating costs and will probably mean a cut of up to 500 in the workforce. The company wants to alter existing work practices and bring about a 40% increase in productivity over the next five years.
Aberfoyle Ltd, a company with a long association with mining in Tasmania, processes about 1 Mt/y of ore from the Hellyer lead-zinc-silver mine. In 1990 the concentrator processed 995,091 t, leaving a proved reserve of over 14 Mt. The orebody contains 12.7% zinc, 6.8% lead and 156 g/t silver. Operations have been expanded and the mill capacity raised to 1.2 Mt/y. The company also operates the Que River mine in the same area, which is beginning to suffer from falling ore grades. Ore deliveries in 1990 were 10% down on the 282,000 t produced in the previous year.
The Thalanga joint venture is 50% owned by Pancontinental Mining and 25% each by Outokumpu of Finland and Agip of Italy. The mine is situated near Charters Towers, in north Queensland, and the main orebody amounts to 4.5 Mt of proved and probable ore, grading 10.4% zinc, 3.2% lead, 2% copper, 85 g/t silver and 0.5 g/t gold. A plant was set up and commissioned early in 1990. The three partners are also investigating the Lady Loretta project 130 km north of Mount Isa. The deposit has 8.2 Mt of measured and indicated ore grading 18.4% zinc, 8.4% lead and 125 g/t silver. Metallurgical test work and engineering studies based on an earlier feasibility study have already been carried out. Under consideration is a plan to mine 500,000 t/y at an average grade of 16.9% zinc, 8.3% lead and 126 g/t silver for a mine life of 12 years. Adjacent to Lady Loretta a drilling programme is in progress to confirm a near-surface prospect.
A company called Denehurst, which purchased the Woodlawn mine near Canberra, reports that the lead, zinc, copper, silver and gold operation is working profitably. In 1990 605,018 t of ore were treated. The deposit, including the reserve of 3.5 Mt and an additional 2.5 Mt at the Narby Currawong deposit, has another ten years of life. It is also planned to treat tailings left over from previous mining.
Australian Consolidated Minerals has a 45% interest in, and is the manager of, the Golden Grove joint venture in Western Australia. The mine has begun operation and concentrates are regularly shipped from the port of Geraldton. The Scuddles orebody has reserves of 10.5 Mt grading 11.7% zinc plus copper, gold and silver. The nearby Gossan Hill reserve has an orebody of 2.3 Mt grading 10.6% zinc. Planned production of ore is 800,000 t/y.
BHP has a 58% interest in a base metal operation at Cadjebut in Western Australia. It is asserted that there are 25 Mt of lead-zinc ore in the area and it is the first time that an orebody of the Mississippi Valley type has been found in Australia. Production began in 1988 and the concentrate is carried by road to the port of Windham for shipment. According to BHP, the mine |progresses well' but others have asserted that the project has not lived up to expectations.
Nicron Resources operates a small lead-zinc mine at Woodcutters in the Northern Territory. Proven and probable reserves amount to 4.46 Mt grading 12.3% zinc, 5.5% lead and 3.5 g/t silver. There is an additional 2.69 Mt of indicated ore. Nicron is 76% owned by Aztec Mining, which in turn is 38% owned by AMAX of the U.S.
Two other lead-zinc prospects are still at the investigation stage. They are Balcooma, in North Queensland, and Benambra in north-west Victoria.
In 1989-90 Australia's production of nickel metal rose by 2,000 t to 60,000 t. In the course of nickel refining over 3,000 t of cobalt was produced, of which 75% came from the Yabalu refinery in Townsville, Queensland.
The biggest nickel producer is Western Mining Corp., which has several mines in the Kalgoorlie district of Western Australia. In 1988-89 the mines produced 37,570 t of nickel in concentrate, and in 1989-90 the figure rose substantially to 46,760 t. This makes WMC the third biggest producer in the world.
The company has several mines at Kambalda, south of Kalgoorlie, a mine at Leinster, 357 km north of Kalgoorlie, and also the Windarra project, near Laverton, where the underground operations were closed because of ore exhaustion, although work continued on the open cut. Production from Kambalda was 29,717 t of contained nickel, from Leinster 11,957 t and from Windarra 5,088 t.
Reserves of proved and probable ore at Kambalda, at June 1990, were 15 Mt grading 2.8% nickel, at Windarra 140,000 t grading 1.3% and at Leinster 39 Mt underground grading 1.9% nickel, and open cut 4.7 Mt grading 2% nickel. WMC has a 56% interest in the Carnilya Hill mine which contains 290,000 t grading 2.3% nickel. The Redross open cut was completed and another started at a locality called 132 North, three km north of Mount Edwards. A new mine at Blair was brought into production and the Mount Edwards mine was re-opened. WMC now has 11 nickel mines in the Kambalda area.
The company has also a nickel smelter at Kalgoorlie which in 1990 produced 66,000 t of matte and a refinery at Kwinana, near Perth, that produced 24,130 t of nickel in all forms. Faced with rising costs and a weakening market WMC plans a $A300 million expansion to make its nickel operations more competitive. The W.A. Government has been approached to reduce the cost of electricity and gas, and discussions have been had with union and workers about abolition of work practices that add to the cost of production. The plan envisages increasing production by more than 30,000 t. The Kalgoorlie smelter and the Kwinana refinery would have their capacity doubled. WMC has told the W.A. Government that if electricity charges are not reduced the company may look overseas for lower cost refining capacity.
A nickel operation based on the Greenvale lateritic nickel deposit 45 km from the major north Queensland town of Townsville supplies nickel ore to a nickel refinery a few km south of the city. The mine, rail line and refinery employ about 700 people and are important economic factors in the area. In 1990 the operation produced 18,000 t of nickel and some cobalt.
A few years ago the operation fell into the hands of Alan Bond, the entrepreneur whose undertakings disintegrated in 1990. The Greenvale operation was held by a separate company and was not involved in the collapse. As the Greenvale mine is nearing exhaustion Bond intended to import nickel ore from New Caledonia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Marlborough nickel deposit near Townsville was also investigated and was said to contain 28 Mt of ore. As Greenvale is the biggest employer in the area and as the mine earns about $A300 million in foreign exchange annually, there are strong reasons to keep it in operation. The Queensland Government has 28% interest in the company.
With a better price for nickel in the past few years some interest has been shown in re-examining prospects found during the nickel boom of the 1970s. The Mount Keith low-grade nickel deposit held by Australian Consolidated Minerals is located north-west of Kalgoorlie. It has 155 Mt of ore grading 0.58% nickel in the open-pit to a depth of 300 m, and a further resource grading 0.6% nickel to a depth of 420 m. ACM is now associated with Outokumpu of Finland with the aim of developing the deposit and shipping the concentrate to Finland for further treatment.
The first stage is to develop an open cut and to build a concentrator at a cost of $A360 million. Annual production would be 140,000 t/y of concentrate containing 20% nickel. Of this, 90,000 t would go to Finland and the rest would be sold on the world market. It is expected that the first shipment of concentrate would be in 1992. Outokumpu is also interested in the Forestonia nickel project and has purchased a 50% share from Metals Exploration. Holder of the other 50% is Cyprus Mines Australia-Arimco consortium. A feasibility study is under way.
Dominion Mining has a resource of 50 Mt of ore grading 0.5% nickel at Yakabindie, near Mount Keith, where a feasibility study is said to have produced favourable results. The aim is to produce 6 Mt/y of ore and 20,000 t/y of nickel concentrate containing 20% nickel, 0.05% cobalt, 30% iron and 27% sulphur. Like the other nickel producers, ACM and Dominion are concerned about the high price of electric power for these operations.
Defiance Mining has purchased the old Carr Boyd mine from Western Mining Corp. and estimates the measured, indicated and inferred reserves amount to 600,000 t grading 1.54% nickel and some copper. It is proposed to have the ore processed at WMC's Kambalda concentrator.
Tin and Tungsten
The continued depression in the price of tin has had a serious and adverse effect on tin mining in Australia. At the end of 1987 the Bureau of Mineral Resources estimated that Australia's demonstrated resources of tin were 306,000 t, of which 185,000 t were classified as economic and an additional 688,000 t were inferred.
Australia's major tin producer is the Renison mine in Tasmania, owned by Renison Goldfields Consolidated. It is the world's largest underground tin mine and the only major producer in Australia, and one of the few underground tin mines capable of competing with alluvial mining.
In 1990, the centenary of tin mining on the Renison leases, the mine treated 142,000 t of ore grading 1.34% tin, and tin sales were 7,001 t. Measured resources amount to 4.6 Mt grading 1.28% tin, plus 7.4 Mt of probable ore at the same grade. Access to the workings is by means of a decline and workings extend to 500 m below the surface. Mining is by mechanized cut-and-fill. The concentrator, due to the complexity of the ore, employs both gravity techniques and froth flotation for the recovery of tin. The concentrate, containing 50% tin, goes to Malaysia for toll smelting.
In April 1990 the low price of the tin led to the dismissal of 85 miners and the re-organization of work practices to increase productivity. At the end of the year a further 100 miners were dismissed and ore production was cut back to 525,000 t/y. In March 1991 the management announced that the mine would be shut down until further notice and placed on care and maintenance.
The other main producer is the Greenbushes mine in Western Australia, 200 km south of Perth. The mine, which now belongs to Gwalia Consolidated, produces tantalum and spodumene and in the course of this operation also produced 270 t of tin metal in 1990. Existing resources of tantalum containing a tin percentage amount to 39 Mt.
The flooding of the tungsten market by low-cost products from China has led to North Broken Hill Peko closing its scheelite mine on King Island in Bass Strait, Australia's main producer of tungsten since 1940. The only other producer is Tasmania Mines whose Tara mine has also suffered from Chinese competition and has cut production to one shift a day.
It does not seem likely that the Australian Labor Party will change its attitude to uranium mining and that therefore the |three mines' policy will remain. The three mines allowed to operate are ERA's Ranger and Queensland Mines' Nabarlek in the Northern Territory and the Roxby Downs uranium-copper-gold operation in South Australia. The government's method of controlling the industry is through the granting of export licences.
There are several proven prospects capable of producing uranium but none have been able to obtain an export licence for [U.sub.3][O.sub.8]. In view of the present low price of uranium oxide and the oversupply of the market, it is probably a good thing for the world uranium producers that Australia has not been able to produce more uranium and perhaps cause a further fall in the price.
According to the Bureau of Mineral Resources, reasonably assured resources of uranium recoverable at less than $A80/kg are estimated at 470,000 t, equal to 29% of the market economy countries' RAR in the lower-cost category. Additional estimated resources recoverable at less than $A80 are put at 267,000 t. The Bureau also considers that there is a 75% chance that undiscovered potential resources in Australia could exceed 2.6 Mt.
Australia's mine production of [U.sub.3][O.sub.8] in 1989 was 4,088 t, of which 825 t came from the Roxby Downs mine in South Australia and the rest from the Northern Territory. Exports were 3,723 t or 1,337 t less than in the previous year. The value of exports was $A275 million. Buyers include Japan, Germany, Republic of Korea, the U.S., the U.K., Belgium and Finland. Uranium resources are found in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Energy Resources of Australia, in which Broken Hill North Peko holds 65% of the shares, owns and operates the Ranger mine in the Alligator River uranium province. In 1989-90 ERA mined 1.09 Mt of ore with an average grade of 0.31% [U.sub.3][O.sub.8], to produce 3,084 t of uranium oxide. Reserves at No. 1 orebody are 5.2 Mt of stockpiled ore grading 0.3% [U.sub.3][O.sub.8], and 4.8 Mt of proven ore grading 0.28% [U.sub.3][O.sub.8].
Another deposit in the same area is Jabiluka, held by Pancontinental Mining and others. Discovered in 1971, 230 km east of Darwin, it has reserves in excess of 53 Mt grading 0.39%, making it the largest high-grade uranium deposit in the world. All mining and environmental approvals have been obtained and all it lacks is an export permit. North Broken Hill Peko has a 13.9% shareholding in Pancontinental and other major shareholders are Comega of France (14.9%) and Rheinbraun of Germany (5.36%). The German metals and industrial chemical group Degussa AG has raised its shareholding from 9.4% to 14% and another substantial shareholder is the Belgian company Acec-Union Miniere NV and its related company Compagnie Royal Austurienne des Mines SA, having a shareholding of over 10%.
It is reported that Pancontinental and North Broken Hill Peko are discussing the possibility of a joint venture development of the Jabiluka project, whereby the ore would be transported to the Ranger mill, some 15 km away for processing. This would depend on the government accepting not so much a |three mine' policy as a |three mill' policy.
The Nabarlek mine, owned by Queensland Mines (in turn held by Pioneer International), has exhausted its original uranium deposit. Nabarlek still has a stockpile of low-grade ore which it intends to process. The Nabarlek No. 2 orebody has so far not been developed as anticipated, as it was not possible to come to an agreement with the Aboriginal landowners. Queensland Mines has reported that it has concluded a farm-in agreement with a major uranium user which would buy the Nabarlek mill and would pay for any future exploration and development.
The third deposit in the Northern Territory is the Koongarra, owned by Denison Mines of Canada. It has 11,300 t of [U.sub.3][O.sub.8] and is also ready to go ahead as soon as an export permit is available. The French company Total Mining has explored for uranium and has discovered two potential commercial deposits, one at Ben Lomond in Queensland, and the other at Manyingee near Onslow in Western Australia. Another victim of the uranium ban is the Honeymoon prospect in South Australia, 65% owned by MIM. The deposit contains 3,400 t of [U.sub.3][O.sub.8] which could be leached. The Beverley prospect in South Australia also awaits better times.
CRA has announced the discovery of a uranium deposit in the Rundall River area, 1,000 km north-west of Perth. The company has reported the presence of 35,000 t of [U.sub.3][O.sub.8] possible and probable reserves and has started a feasibility study. Known as the Kintyre deposit, $A30 million has already been spent on exploration. The deposit is considered to be of world-class potential and intersections have been encountered with other minerals such as gold, bismuth, base metals and platinum group metals. The deposit can be mined by open cut and the ore treated by leaching. The W.A. Government has announced its intention to excise the Kintyre deposit from the Rundall River National Park.
The Roxby Downs mine was officially opened in 1989. It is capable of producing 1.5 Mt/y of ore for the production of 1,000 t of [U.sub.3][O.sub.8], 45,000 t of refined copper, 27,000 oz of gold and 500,000 oz of silver. The project, which has taken 14 years to reach its present stage, cost $A750 million to bring into production. The operators are Western Mining Corp. (51%) and BP (49%). BP is seeking to dispose of its share. Delivery of [U.sub.3][O.sub.8] to customers has already begun.
Australia produces a variety of other minerals and also is self-sufficient in all types of roadmaking and construction materials. But despite extensive exploration it still appears to be deficient in chromite, platinum group metals, mercury, mica and natural sulphur.
Manganese is mined by BHP at Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpenteria. The year 1990 was the best since mining began in 1966, with a production of 2.294 Mt of which 1.15 Mt were exported. Reserves of proved recoverable manganese ore are 32 Mt.
Temco, owned by BHP, operates a plant in Tasmania which produced ferro-alloy and manganese sinter. A plant to manufacture electrolytic manganese dioxide for dry cell batteries is due to start production in Newcastle in 1991. The only other manganese operation is the Woodie Wooddie mine in Western Australia which is worked by Portman Mining, and the first shipments for overseas customers left Australia in September 1990. The mine plans to produce about 250,000 t/y for five to six years.
Some bismuth is produced in association with copper-gold mining at Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory, and antimony is mined in northern New South Wales and at Costerfield in Victoria.
Gwalia Consolidated's Greenbushes mine in Western Australia produces some tin and also 300,000 lb tantalum, 20,000 lb of spodumene concentrate, 50,000 lb of glass grade spodumene and 10,000 lb of kaolin annually. The pegmatite orebody is said to be the largest known in the world and the zone has a measured, indicated and inferred resource totalling 7.9 Mt.
Pancontinental, in a joint venture with Goldrim Mining, has opened a tantalite mine at Wodgina, in the Pilbara district of Western Australia. An open-pit mine and a gravity concentrator have been built at a cost of $A10 million. The mine is designed to produce 200,000 lb/y of tantalum, requiring 85,000 t of ore. Drilling has indicated the presence of a further 2 Mt/y of ore. North Queensland Resources has also started production of tantalite in the Finiss Range, south of Darwin, where it has 5 Mt of reserves. Cove Mining reports that pre-production work has begun on the Mount Farmer pegmatite deposit some 80 km west of Mount Magnet, in Western Australia.
Exploration plans by various companies for platinum group metals continues without positive results. Helix Resources is working at Fifield, in New South Wales, on a platinum prospect. The most likely platinum group metals prospect is at Coronation Hill in the Northern Territory, but due to environmental problems development has so far not been allowed.
Pancontinental and Queensland Metal Corp. and Radex Australia have constructed a $A180 million magnesia project on the Kunawarara magnesite deposit 70 km north-west of Rockhampton in Queensland. At full production the mine will produce 150,000 t of deadburn magnesia and 25,000 t of electro-fused magnesia, mainly for European customers. A magnesite deposit has been found near Bunbury, Western Australia, by United Reefs which is investigating the possibility of developing the deposit in the event of a steel works being constructed in the area. Barrack Minerals has set up a silicon plant nearby which has a production of 24,500 t/y.
Western Mining Corp., which has a talc mine at Three Springs in Western Australia, has an 85% interest in a big phosphate deposit in Queensland. A recent feasibility study indicated that it was not economic to develop the operation at the present time. The country's dry climate has facilitated the mining of salt; mostly in Western Australia. In 1989-90 production was 7.1 Mt, of which 6.1 Mt were exported, mainly to Japan.
Australia has no known deposits of potash or natural sulphur.
Coal continues to be a leading export earner for Australia. In 1989-90 the amount of saleable black coal produced came to 160.1 Mt, of which 51.2 Mt came from underground mines. New South Wales and Queensland are the main producers, with lesser amounts coming from Western Australia and South Australia.
Coal exports were 103.4 Mt of coking coal and 44.5 Mt of steaming coal, bringing a total income of $A5.8 billion, which was $A2 billion more than the previous year. Japan took 41.9% of coal exports and substantial quantities went to the Republic of Korea and to Taiwan. The average price of coking coal was $A59/t and for steaming coal $A41/t, in both cases higher than the previous year. However, according to Mr Leigh Clifford, head of CRA's energy division, 40% of New South Wales coal companies are making a loss due to adverse exchange rates and high operating costs. Productivity gains which followed the new industrial award of three years ago have already been overtaken by rising costs, and Australia's position in the world market is threatened by competition from South Africa and the U.S.
Australia's substantial reserves of black coal make it an important participant in the world coal market. The Bureau of Mineral Resources estimates that the economically demonstrable resources of coal total just over 70,000 Mt, of which almost 50,000 Mt are economically recoverable. Most reserves are bituminous in rank. Current production rates suggest a resource life of from 200-300 years.
Australia's major coal producer is BHP, which manages a number of mines in the Bowen Basin of Central Queensland. In 1990 these mines produced 35.5 Mt, of which BHP's share amounted to 18.5 Mt. BHP's steel-making group also produced 7.6 Mt of coal for its own purposes. Like other mining companies, BHP has in the last three years been much concerned with the restructuring of the industrial award system, with a view to increasing the productivity and efficiency of its workforce.
CRA, another coal giant, has recently closed its Coal Cliff colliery on the South Coast of New South Wales. The mine has been in operation for 114 years. Last year the company purchased BP's Australian coal assets, and the CRA coal mines are now divided into three operating groups. Kembla Coal & Coke works mines on the New South Wales South Coast, Pacific Coal has the Blair Athol and Tarong mines in Queensland, and Novacoal has the Howick and Western Mains mines in the Hunter Valley. In 1990 the run-of-mine coal production from Kembla Coal & Coke was 4.5 Mt, from Pacific Coal 7.5 Mt and Novacoal 3.8 Mt, making a total of 21.3 Mt. CRA also has a joint venture arrangement with Mitsubishi in the big Oaklands coal deposit in southern New South Wales, which is expected to provide coal for an electric power station to be built towards the end of the 1990s.
MIM Holdings, owner of the big Mount Isa copper-lead-zinc mine, has a majority holding in three big coal mines in Queensland. One is Newlands (MIM 75%), which produced 4.2 Mt in the last year, the Collinsville mine (MIM 75%), which produced 2 Mt, and the Oaky Creek mine, which produced 2.4 Mt of quality coking coal. The company also operates a coke works at Bowen and two coal loaders at Abbot Point and Dalrymple Bay. Total coal production was 8.8 Mt, of which the MIM share was 6.9 Mt.
While the industry is threatened by gloomy forecasts of declining production in the Japanese steel industry and the replacement of hard coking coal for steelmaking by cheaper coal using the pulverized fuel injection method, there is still a great potential for further development. Although development has been postponed for the moment, there are plans for 11 new mines in the Hunter Valley and the other big producers have development plans ready.
In addition to its black coal resources, Australia has enormous brown coal deposits in eastern Victoria, with estimated reserves of 202,000 Mt. The deposits are mined to provide fuel for the State electricity system and other uses include the manufacture of briquettes, which have been produced for many years. In 1990, 607,000 t of briquettes and granulated brown coal were sold.
The Coal Corp. of Victoria has sponsored research into coal liquefication and a pilot plant has been set up under the auspices of the Japanese, Victorian and Australian Governments. The plant has been operating at the rate of 50 t/d to produce naptha and middle distillate products. The possibility of constructing a 5,000 t/d demonstration plant is being considered.
In 1990, crude petroleum production in Australia was 33,487 Ml. Naturally occurring LPG was 3,653 Ml, ethane 182 MN and natural gas 20,529 [MN.sup.3].
Production from the Bass Strait Field, the biggest in Australia, continues to decline. It is estimated that over two-thirds of the oil has been extracted. The result is that Australia can supply only about 70% of its petroleum needs. In 1990, imports of petroleum products came to 6,693 Ml, although this was offset by the export of 4,910 Ml.
Exploration effort is directed particularly towards the North-West Shelf and the Timor Sea, and there are hopes that considerable petroleum resources will be found there. Onshore expenditure in 1990 was $A92 million. 1990 was a record year for offshore exploration with $A960 million spent and 62 wells completed. According to a survey by the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association, expenditure on exploration in 1991 will reach $A1,400 million. In 1991, between 43 and 62 wells are planned and expenditure will be between $A330 million and $A457 million.
MINERAL PRODUCTION (1990)
Bauxite (Mt) 40.6 Alumina (Mt) 11.2 Aluminium (Mt) 1.2 Coal, black saleable (Mt) 162.5 Coal, brown (Mt) 47.7 Copper (t) 316,000 Diamonds (Mct) 34.6 Gold (t) 242.2 Iron ore and concentrate (Mt) 121.3 Lead (t) 563,000 Manganese (Mt) 1.9
Ilmenite concentrate (Mt) 1.6 Synthetic rutile (t) 272,000 Rutile concentrate (t) 226,000 Zircon concentrate (t) 441,000 Nickel (t) 67,000 Crude oil (Ml) 33,487 LPG (Ml) 3,653 Natural gas ([MN.sup.3]) 20,529 Salt (Mt) 7.5 Silver (t) 985 Tin (t) 7,377 Tungsten (t) 1,086 Uranium (t) 4,163 Zinc (t) 937,000
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||review of Australia's mineral mining industry in 1990|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1991|
|Previous Article:||Trinidad and Tobago.|
|Next Article:||Papua New Guinea.|