The evaporation dam and tailings storage facility will be the first targets for mineral extraction as new owners begin work at north Queensland’s Century mine.
Century Bull expects to employ up to 50 people at peak operations, with the workforce to be sourced from the lower Gulf area and other communities in north Queensland.
The company specialises in ‘economic rehabilitation’ and is taking over the mothballed MMG assets in joint venture with Attila Resources.
Managing director Patrick Walta said there was a potential to extend commercial activities at the lower Gulf site beyond the next 30 years.
“Economic rehabilitation activities at Century may include activities in the evaporation dam, tailings storage facility, mining of other in-situ deposits inclusive of on-lease and off-lease phosphate resources, which would support the capping of the existing waste dumps,” he said.
The Century tailings deposit alone holds a JORC-compliant resource of 71 million tonnes at 2.73 per cent zinc – or 1.94 million tonnes of contained zinc.
The Silver King and East Fault Block ore deposits on the tenement package contain more than 600,000 tonnes of zinc and there are large phosphate deposits amenable to processing via the existing plant.
Economic rehabilitation model
Century Bull is linked to the Raging Bull group, which is also involved in the Mount Morgan Tailings Rehabilitation Project with Carbine Resources and the Queensland Government.
Mr Walta said the traditional mining lifecycle involved stages of intense economic activity followed by many years of often passive and poorly funded rehabilitation activities, which could result in negative consequences for the environment.
“Our model for economic rehabilitation simply focusses on ways to make the rehabilitation of old, unloved mining assets our core business driver, ensuring positive environmental outcomes delivered through an active onsite presence undertaking economic rehabilitation,” he said
Raging Bull believed there were plenty of opportunities, not just in Queensland but throughout Australia and globally, to implement its model for economic rehabilitation where traditional miners might otherwise view projects incorrectly as mere liabilities, he said.
The Century mine has been on care and maintenance since mining and processing ceased in early 2016
Mr Walta said Raging Bull first reached out to MMG during 2014 about the site’s future.
“Following our first enquiries, MMG commenced a formal Expression of Interest during 2015 and following that, Raging Bull with Attila Resources were successful in completing the transaction with MMG to acquire the Century Project,” he said.
MMG is providing $34.5 million in cash over three years towards rehabilitation assistance and establishing a $12 million trust to benefit lower Gulf communities.
It has committed to the ongoing provision of bank guarantees of $193.7 million for the benefit of Century Bull, enabling the operation to meet financial assurance obligations with the Queensland Government.
MMG chief executive officer Jerry Jiao said the renewed future for Century was a great outcome for the communities and businesses of the lower Gulf and for the State of Queensland.
“It provides new life for the substantial Century assets, while supporting dedicated rehabilitation and ongoing employment, training and business opportunities,” Mr Jiao said.
Planned start this year
Mr Walta said the evaporation dam, downstream from the tailings storage facility, was Century Bull’s first target for economic rehabilitation at the Century site.
“The water contains dissolved minerals which can be extracted with a view to reducing the overall disturbance footprint of the evaporation dam and pumping the remaining water back into the open pit,” he said.
“We have already commenced discussions with the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection about obtaining the necessary approvals to commence this rehabilitation activity.”
The company hopes to begin that work this year and aims to commence economic rehabilitation of the tailings storage facility during 2018.
The new owners say the former operators focused on throughput maximisation rather than recovery maximisation in terms of ore processing at Century mine, which had an original deposit of more than 100 million tonnes at 12 per cent zinc.
Three independent metallurgical studies have shown that the tailings may be reprocessed through the existing plant with minor modifications to achieve a recovery of about half of the remaining zinc mineralisation
Mr Walta said Century Bull was reviewing the works required to bring the plant online and fit for purpose.
Invitation to local business
Mr Walta said while Century Bull did not expect to release any major tenders in the immediate future, it would be very pleased to hear from potential suppliers, particularly businesses from the lower Gulf and surrounding communities who felt they could add value to the business.
Businesses are encouraged to send capability information via firstname.lastname@example.org
Those who may be interested in working at Century, particularly people from the lower Gulf who may have had experience at the previous Century mining operations and the Karumba Port are encouraged to contact Century Bull via the same email address.