Townsville’s Yabulu refinery and redundant mines across the country could be restarted as profit-making concerns under a processing model refined in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
New Century Resources has shown that, under the right conditions, you can reinvent a business from the fag end of a mine life.
In doing so, New Century Resources has added weight to a relatively new term that has entered the mining lexicon.
‘Economic rehabilitation’ means turning a book liability into profit and the company has done just that with the existing Century mine.
The Yabulu refinery north of Townsville was classic case said New Century Resources managing director Patrick Walta.
“The tailings have significant mineralisation, that’s well known,” said Mr Walta. “… and as a processing plant, probably with some small augmentation, there’s a huge opportunity to reprocess those tailings, correct the pH and find a proper solution.
“We see Yabulu and say ‘well there’s some ownership structural issues there’, but absolutely, on a purely technical basis there is a great opportunity for a company to go in and restart Yabulu with an environmental focus.
“That is ultimately facilitating the clean-up of those tailings dams (and) making sure that they don’t have any more water discharge issues.”
A revamped Yabulu would be a fillip for local mining, he said.
“Potentially (also) bringing in some of those cobalt ores from around Queensland for processing. Absolutely, there are lots of opportunities,” Mr Walta said.
“Things have got to be done slightly differently, but fundamentally, you’ve got a lot of sunk capital (and) a lot of investor capital approvals in place.
“Maybe (it) just needs a fresh team of a new mindset.”
Century mine was a matter of being the right fit, he said.
“We said, well, we’re a small focused junior miner. This will be a single-asset company that can come in and we can run lean and mean and we can rehabilitate the site a lot cheaper or, more importantly, our hurdle rates are a lot lower.
“So even though MMG had demonstrated the technical and economic viability of tailings reprocessing it effectively didn’t make (MMG’s) hurdle rate. “