Gold hope for Stawell

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

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.”

Physics lab­o­ra­tory

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.”

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