Diversified miner Glencore is set to ramp up copper production from its Ernest Henry Mining, near Cloncurry in north-west Queensland, Australia, from 3 million to 6 million tonnes per year by 2015 after transitioning to an underground operation.
The culmination of the AUD$589 million investment in the Ernest Henry Mining was celebrated yesterday, starting operations from a new kilometre-deep hoisting shaft.
The milestone was officially commemorated by Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, The Hon Andrew Cripps, who was joined by Glencore Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg, Head of Copper Telis Mistakidis and community leaders.
The new extension is set to generate over 500 jobs.
“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. The transition to underground shaft mining will see mine operations extended to at least 2026 and will provide jobs for more than 500 employees and contractors,” the Minister said in a statement.
“Mining is now a larger employer of full-time workers in the State than both the agricultural or hospitality sectors, which highlights the importance of the sector to Queensland families as well as economic growth.”
With the transition, the company expects to ramp up annual metal production to 50,000 tonnes of copper and 70,000 ounces of gold in concentrate over an extended mine life to 2026.
“Our assets in Mount Isa and at Ernest Henry accounted for around 14% of Glencore’s global copper production in 2013. 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,” said Chief Operating Officer for copper assets in North Queensland, Mike Westerman.
According to the media release by Glencore, the underground project started in December 2009 and has involved over 50 km of underground development accessed by a 6 km decline; construction of associated infrastructure, including the underground primary crusher and 1.2 km of below the surface and overland conveyors to transport ore to and from the hoisting system; and the installation of a 75-m-high permanent headframe to house the hoisting system and with a capacity to lift around 1000 t/h.
“As at December 2013, Ernest Henry had total ore reserves underground of 74 million tonnes at 1.04% copper and 0.53 grams per tonne gold,” it says in the media release.