Cannington still has a good innings ahead as it marks 20 years of mining, according to vice-president operations Rob Jackson.
The site’s reserve life was increased to 10 years during 2016-17 and owner South32 was investing heavily in exploration, Mr Jackson said.
“The great thing about Cannington is that we have options for our future and we don’t have to act on those until 2020,” he said.
“Transitioning from underground to open-cut is an option that has the potential to extend the life of the operation.
“But we are also actively exploring in the north-west region and this year we will invest $2 million through the drill bit, seeking additional value options.
“We know the region is highly prospective and we have a great relationship with the community here and we hope to be here for a while longer yet.”
After the discovery of the ore body about 200km south-east of Mount Isa in the shire of McKinlay in 1990, mining operations at Cannington commenced in 1997.
The initial nameplate capacity was 1.5 million tonnes, expanded to 3 million tonnes in 2005.
For a number of years Cannington was the world’s largest single mine producer of silver and lead and a substantial supplier of zinc to domestic and global markets.
“Over time though, as with any mine, it becomes more challenging to extract resources and grades start to decline,” Mr Jackson said.
“Current analysis puts Cannington in the top five silver producers in the world.”
Mr Jackson said 2.9 million tonnes of ore was mined last financial year and the operation expected to achieve 2.8 million 2017-18.
“Workforce numbers remain stable at approximately 400 employees and 400 contractors,” he said.
“What is interesting is that despite being a predominantly FIFO operation, we have around 20 employees who have worked at the site since commissioning, which I believe is a fantastic contribution and speaks to what a great work environment we have.”
Cannington is 100 per cent owned by South32, which came into being following a demerger from BHP Billiton in May 2015.
“We are a relatively new company and that’s exciting. We aren’t a behemoth so we can implement change quicker and be more agile,” Mr Jackson said.
“For an operation like Cannington, it suits us down to the ground. It allows us to chase or create value wherever we can, give our people ownership over their operation and, in turn, build an exciting new culture.”
Mr Jackson said the 20-year anniversary would be marked with an intimate celebration dinner on site.
“We have a fantastic group of chefs here who will no doubt have a very special menu planned and we will also bring in rising country music singer Ali S, who hails from just down the road at Boulia and is a member of the Yulluna Peoples – one of our local Traditional Owner groups,” he said.