15 March, 2023
All systems go for Mt Carbine
OPERATIONS are ramping up at Australia’s only primary producing tungsten mine at Mt Carbine, with a major new high-grade deposit detected, environmental approval to start mining in the open pit, and a campaign underway to attract more staff to meet production needs.
With the vast majority of the world’s tungsten supply controlled by China and Russia, the importance of the Mt Carbine operation cannot be underestimated, according to EQ Resources CEO Kevin MacNeill.
“We are delighted to be building Mt Carbine into a responsible mine of the future and becoming a major tungsten producer, helping to fill the value chain in the western markets as China and Russia currently control around 87 per cent of global output,” he said.
With tungsten being one of the hardest elements on earth, it is widely used in the production of defence equipment such as armoured tanks, as well products and components used in the aerospace, construction and technology sectors.
With the assistance of a $6 million Federal grant, EQ Resources has invested more than $21 million to date to bring the old mine back online which the company believes can be paid back within 1.5 years once open pit mining begins.
Mr MacNeill said drilling to the north and west of the original deposit had detected a much larger deposit with higher grade material.
“We are not yet sure if that deposit is an extension of the original one but finding this higher-grade ore has been quite exciting for the underground possibilities for the mine,” he said.
Mr MacNeill said the discovery had the potential to extend the mine’s life way beyond the current forecast of 12 years.
An old decline of around half a kilometre in length will most likely be used and expanded to access the underground deposit.
Currently, the operation is restricted by a limited capacity to crush the ore, but that will radically improve once a new crushing plant being constructed in Europe by Sandvik comes online late this year.
“The new Sandvik plant will provide expanded crushing capacity in the front-end of the process flowsheet. Nevertheless, as commissioning of the Sandvik Plant is scheduled for later in the year, the open pit ore will start to be processed using the existing crushing circuit supplemented with a portable jaw crusher,” Mr MacNeill said.
Mining can start in the Andy White open pit in June, and will ramp up in July-August but the operation needs at least 50 more workers including diesel mechanics, truck drivers, front end loader operators and welders.
“We hope to utilise a lot of people who live locally or it may be that someone who has been doing fly-in, fly-out, and who might like to work closer to home,” he said.
The company was encouraging women to apply, offering training in-house for jobs such as truck driving.
“The company has made substantial investment in recruiting locally and training a workforce to deliver on the production uplift. When in full operation, it will employ and contract more than 150 people from nearby Mt Molloy and surrounding communities as far south as Mareeba,” Mc MacNeill said.
The mining operation took another major step last week, earning an environmental approval to start mining in the open pit.
Over the past year, the company contracted specialists to undertake several studies to ensure the Mt Carbine operation meets world standards. These have included a hydrogeological study, fauna and flora studies, dust and noise assessments, the development of a blast management plan and an updated stakeholder program based on a detailed review of heritage sites around Mt Carbine.
“We are very pleased with the outcome of the study works and having engaged with recognised environmental experts . This will set ourselves the guidelines to implement the highest industry standards,” Mr MacNeill said.
“EQR sets itself the vision to be a leader of sustainably produced critical minerals, this path has been consistently followed since the reactivation of the Mt Carbine Mine.”
The company’s efforts to date were recognised in December last year when it won the 2022 AMEC Environmental Award.