Glencore has begun hoisting at its new Ernest Henry underground operations near Cloncurry.
The $589 million shaft hoist investment began operating today, and marked a significant milestone for the miner.
In 2009, the then owner of the miner Xstrata approved a massive investment in to Ernest Henry to transform from an open cut operation in to an underground mine.
The opening of the kilometre deep shaft was carried out by QLD minister for natural resources and mines, Andrew Cripps, and was attended by a number of Glencore executives.
The operation will now begin to ramp up copper production from three million tonnes to six million tonnes per annum in 2015, and double annual metal production to 50 000 tonnes of copper and 70 000 ounces of gold over its newly extended mine life to 2026.
Glencore COO for North Queensland copper, Mike Westerman, stated that this commissioning adds more than a decade to the mine's life.
Our assets in Mount Isa and at Ernest Henry accounted for around 14% of Glencore’s global copper production in 2013,” Westerman said.
“This investment in Ernest Henry has effectively added 14 years to the life of the mine to 2026. We’re pleased to have this opportunity to sustain production at a higher rate, continue to support around 500 employees plus contractors and deliver ongoing benefits to the Cloncurry community and economy.”
Speaking at the opening, Cripps said "the $589 million commitment to continue to grow the mine will provide a major boost to Queensland’s economy and has secured jobs that would not have otherwise existed".
“It proves the sector is on board with the State Government’s strong plan for Queensland’s resources sector to ensure a brighter future for generations of Queenslanders," and was supported by the current Newman Government's ResourcesQ initiative.
Four production levels are already using the sub-level caving mining method and have trucked ore to the surface via the decline since December 2011 while the project was underway.
As at December 2013, Ernest Henry had total ore reserves underground of 74 million tonnes at 1.04 per cent copper and 0.53 grams per tonne gold.
- more than 50 kilometres of underground development accessed by a six kilometre decline
- constructing associated infrastructure, including the underground primary crusher and 1.2 kilometres of below surface and overland conveyors to transport ore to and from the hoisting system
- installing a 75 metre high permanent headframe to house the hoisting system and with a capacity to lift around 1,000 tonnes per hour
- reconfiguring the concentrator to align with the underground production rate.