Maroon Gold, a new private equity backed vehicle, has achieved its first gold pour after a $5 million project to refurbish and modernise the Blackjack processing plant at Charters Towers.
The company is feeding the plant with ore from its 100 per cent-owned Far Fanning mine, where it is using Tomra X-ray sorting technology to sort stockpiled material prior to haulage and processing at the Blackjack plant.
Far Fanning is among a cluster of gold projects that the company has acquired in the Charters Towers area, providing the foundations for an initial five-year operation, according to Maroon Gold managing director Ashley Pattison.
The company has accumulated a JORC resource base of more than 600,000 ounces of gold across the projects.
They include the Great Britain deposit on the outskirts of Charters Towers, surface rights to the historic low-grade stockpiles at the Hadleigh Castle mining lease (in joint venture with a private company), Granite Castle, and a dozen mining leases around the Blackjack plant – where high-grade production dates back to the early 1900s.
Maroon Gold also has a strategic agreement to mine and process high-grade gold material from Laneway Resources’ Agate Creek gold project, near Kidston in North Queensland. Recent infill drilling of the Agate Creek project showed ‘outstanding high grade results’ that bode well for the project partners.
That operation is due to kick off upon a mining lease being granted.
“All the native title agreements were resolved before Christmas, so we’re hoping that the mining lease comes through before the end of this month – which would see mining commence late February/early March,” Mr Pattison said.
Stage 1 of the project would run about four months and employ about 20 people.
Commenting on the strategy behind Maroon Gold, Mr Pattison said; “We took advantage of the mining downturn in 2017 and 2018 to accumulate a portfolio of distressed and stranded assets in and around the Charters Towers area and have been able to aggregate a quality portfolio of assets under the control of one entity, including the Blackjack processing plant.
“To be honest, it all centres on the strategic Blackjack processing plant, purchased in late 2017 for $12 million from Citigold, which had shut down operations in November 2014.
“We have spent just under $5 million refurbishing the plant and modernising it.
“This is in addition to a further $30 million spent to accumulate the substantial asset base in the region, including the plant purchase.
“Commissioning of the plant took place over the Christmas period and the first week of January.
“Our first gold pour was last week and commercial production is expected in February post ongoing refinement of the plant.”
Siteforce Australia was the main contractor for the plant refurbishment, with Gekko Systems and Sepro carrying out work on the state-of-the-art gravity circuit installed.
Mr Pattison said Maroon Gold started operations at Far Fanning in October and aimed to commence full scale open-pit mining activities by June 2019.
The workforce at Far Fanning was expected to lift from 10 to about 40 by the end of the year, he said.
“The life of mine at Far Fanning is two and a half years at a rate of about 40,000 ounces per annum,” he said.
The workforce at Blackjack processing plant is 33 strong and that is also expected to increase as operations ramp up.
Mr Pattison said Maroon Gold was expecting to produce 45-50,000 ounces of gold per annum from its cluster of projects.