Most base-metal prices have improved over the past year including zinc (35%), lead (20%) and copper (10%), driving global interest in new projects including many in Australia. Although Coal is the single-most important mineral in New South Wales the metal mining industry is still significant with many new projects. NSW has a long history of metal mining, mainly in the central and western part of the state. Gold was first produced in the state in the early 1850s. For several decades from the 1880s, Broken Hill – which produced silver, lead and zinc – dominated mining in Australia and was a globally important supplier of these three metals.
New developments include:
Cowal Gold Mine
Cowal Gold Mine, near West Wyalong, construction is to commence in coming months on deepening of the existing open pit, increasing the tailings-storage area and upgrading the leach circuit within the processing plant. These developments will result in an extension of the mine life by eight years, to 2032. Annual gold production at Cowal is around 250,000 ounces for the operator, Evolution Mining.
Hera – Nymagee Project
Hera Mine (between Cobar and Parkes), construction is likely to commence by late 2017 on development of a new underground mining area, known as North Pod. Hera produces gold (around 50,000 ounces per year), as well as lead, zinc and a small amount of silver.
Aurelia Metals is undertaking a scoping study on the development of the Nymagee copper-lead-zinc project deposit, a few kilometres north of Hera.
Newcrest Mining is currently undertaking a pre-feasibility study for the expansion of its gold-copper processing plant at Cadia Valley, near Orange. If confirmed, construction in relation to the expansion will commence by 2019 with gold production expected to be 750,000 ounces. It is low cost.
Broken Hill Mine
Broken Hill, the Chinese-controlled company, Perilya, plans to open the Broken Hill North underground mine, a $40-million project. Subject to government approvals, construction will start next year.
In addition to expansions of existing mines, there are several major projects entailing new or redeveloped mines. These include:
- Dubbo Zirconia by Alkane Resources (zirconium and rare earths)
- Bowdens by Silver Mines (silver)
- Kempfield by Argent Minerals (silver and other metals)
- Woodlawn by Heron Resources (copper and zinc)
- Syerston by Clean TeQ (nickel, cobalt and scandium)