Gold hope for Stawell
Stawell Gold Mine’s new owners are confident and hopeful a fresh exploration and development program at the site will unearth previously unknown deposits of the precious metal.
Arete Capital Partners chief executive Campbell Olsen, representing a private Victorian investment group, said hopes were high that investigations would reveal a mine that might continue producing gold for up to 30 years.
“That’s the hope. We’re confident it has considerable untapped potential and that’s why we will be working on extensive underground exploration and development,” he said.
Arete Capital Partners, an equity group specialising in natural resources, has been involved in the 100 percent sale of the mine from Canadian group Kirkland Lake Gold to the new owners for the past six months.
The multi-million-dollar sale comes 12 months after Kirkland Lake Gold shut down mining operations at Stawell to concentrate on efforts at Fosterville and represents a Christmas present full of hope for the Stawell district economy.
Mr Olsen said a Stawell workforce, which had done an outstanding job in overseeing a ‘care and maintenance program’ at the site, would immediately double to about 30 and lead the push to revitalise the mine.
He added the best long-term outcome would be that the mine ultimately returned to its role as a primary economic driver in Stawell, supporting hundreds of people.
Increased activity at the mine will pretty much start straight away and we would expect things to ramp up considerably in the New Year,” he said.
“The clear intention is to return the Stawell Gold Mine to production by expanding and harnessing existing exploration programs in the region to identify new feedstock to the mill and therefore resume gold production.”
Mr Olsen said as well as plans to expand the mine’s exploration status to production, the new owners would also consider a highly publicised project to establish Australia’s first underground particle physics laboratory at the site.
“We are very supportive of the concept, but it will be a case of getting all parties together for discussions. We’ve only taken over in the last week so it is something we need to talk about further,” he said.
Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive Michael Bailey said the government-backed laboratory project would hinge on the go-ahead from new owners.
He agreed that work on the laboratory could not continue until owners guaranteed access.
Mr Bailey said he could not provide a definitive guarantee that the project was secure.
“But the council would be disappointed and ‘incredibly’ surprised if it doesn’t happen,” he said.
“All the necessary plans are in place for the project to proceed and we are basically in a holding pattern and ready to go when we get the word.
“We remain highly confident the project will progress.
“The reality is the only thing that has changed is that a timeline has been pushed out.”
The main focus of a Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory, which would be one of only two underground particle physics laboratories in the Southern Hemisphere, would be to study ‘dark matter’.
The laboratory has attracted $1.75-million in funding from both federal and state governments and is likely to directly lead to the creation of more than 200 jobs. Construction started last year.
Mr Olsen said when it came to the mine’s primary function, mining targets would focus on the underground eastern flank of Stawell Gold Mine facilities as well as remnant underground mineralisation on a western flank.
“Both our targets for new mill feed are at depth – not at surface,” he said.
“The broader Stawell region is a proven gold province.
“It has a rich heritage in exploration, discovery and production of gold, buoyed by a skilled and highly-experienced mining industry workforce, many of whom still live in the region.”
Northern Grampians mayor Tony Driscoll said the council welcomed the investment and would work with the mine’s new owners to help with developments.
“Any investment in potential jobs and growth is welcome,” he said.
“The suspension of works at the mine in 2016 impacted upon many of our residents, and hopefully, this will provide much-needed expansion in terms of employment for our region.”