STAND­ING RES­O­LUTE

In­no­va­tive think­ing and new tech­nolo­gies has seen Res­o­lute Min­ing ex­tend mine life at its Ravenswood project in QLD out to 2032. Its suc­cess is set to con­tinue as it be­gins a tran­si­tion back to open cut min­ing, and jour­ney to be­come a 500,000ozpa pro­ducer

The Australian Mining Review - - FRONT PAGE - AMY BLOM

“I am con­vinced that min­ing, par­tic­u­larly un­der­ground min­ing is go­ing both elec­tric and au­to­mated as tech­nol­ogy im­proves.”

De­spite al­most clos­ing Ravenswood mine in 2016, Res­o­lute Min­ing has now an­nounced a 14-year mine life with staged plans to re­turn to 5 mil­lion tonne per an­num open cut min­ing. Along with Ravenswood, its op­er­a­tions in Africa and a ded­i­ca­tion to in­creas­ing out­put through new tech­nol­ogy, Res­o­lute ex­pects to grow an­nual pro­duc­tion to 500,000 ounces by 2021.

IN­NO­VA­TION and ex­pe­ri­ence was the key to suc­cess­fully ex­tend­ing the life of the Ravenswood mine in QLD, ac­cord­ing to Res­o­lute Min­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive and manag­ing di­rec­tor John Wel­born.

Just over two years ago, the Ravenswood gold op­er­a­tions were hang­ing in the bal­ance, with the Mt Wright de­posit ex­pected to close in mid-2016 due to de­pleted re­sources.

Res­o­lute has since been able to ex­tend the mine life at Ravenswood to 2032 by go­ing against the grain and tran­si­tion­ing away from un­der­ground min­ing to open pit min­ing.

Mr Wel­born told The Aus­tralian Min­ing Re­view the move meant Res­o­lute had found its way out of an un­cer­tain time at Ravenswood, which was about 95km south west of Townsville and 65km east of Char­ters Tow­ers.

“It’s some­what counter-in­tu­itive be­cause most mines go from open cut to un­der­ground as you get deeper and you ex­ploit the sur­face ma­te­rial and then chase the ore body deeper, which is what we’re do­ing at Syama, our main op­er­a­tion in Mali,” Mr Wel­born said.

“The Mt Wright ore body has been a won­der­ful and very suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion for Res­o­lute; we mine 2.5 grams per tonne (g/t) ore body to 900m un­der­ground at a cash cost across that time­line of $850 an ounce, so that is a phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ment of our op­er­at­ing team.

“Un­for­tu­nately, ge­o­log­i­cally, the ore body pinches out at the depth we’re now at; we’ve de­pleted it and in fact, as of to­day we’ve ac­tu­ally mined more gold than we ever de­fined in our re­served re­sources model, so in fact we’re ef­fec­tively over-draw­ing on our re­serves at Mt Wright.”

Find­ing a Fu­ture

Res­o­lute read­ily ac­quired Ravenswood from Xs­trata in 2006, which at that point was a 5 mil­lion tonnes per an­num (mtpa) open pit op­er­a­tion based on the Sars­field pit.

Mr Wel­born said Sars­field was a rel­a­tively large, but mod­est grade ore body.

Res­o­lute found greater suc­cess at Ravenswood by build­ing its un­der­ground mine 10km away from the Sars­field pit at Mt Wright.

The gold miner ran its mill at 1.3mtpa, ex­clu­sively min­ing the Mt Wright de­posit.

Its ex­pan­sion plan would see a staged re­turn to 5mtpa open cut min­ing, with the orig­i­nal plan to mine Nolans East, fol­lowed by Sars­field and the rel­a­tively new dis­cov­ery at Buck Reef West.

How­ever, a suc­cess­ful ap­provals process with the QLD Gov­ern­ment has al­lowed Res­o­lute to pri­ori­tise op­er­a­tions at Buck Reef West, which is a higher-grade and less com­pli­cated ore body than Sars­field.

Res­o­lute now plans to open up and start min­ing the Buck Reef West de­posit from July 2019, with plans to mine Sars­field from 2025.

Mr Well­born said min­ing would con­tinue at Mt Wright un­til the end of FY19, with min­ing al­ready fin­ished at Nolans East.

“What we’ve been able to do by main­tain­ing our pro­duc­tion at Mt Wright is find a fu­ture by go­ing back to open pit min­ing at Sars­field, Nolans, and the rel­a­tively new dis­cov­ery im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to Sars­field, which is Buck Reef West,” Mr Wel­born said.

“We’ve man­aged to de­fine a 14-year mine life for the as­set based on the 4 mil­lion ounces of re­sources we’ve de­fined within a 4sqkm ra­dius of our 5mtpa ca­pac­ity mill, so that’s quite ex­cit­ing.”

Mr Wel­born said All-In Sus­tain­ing Costs at Ravenswood were now just be­low $1100 an ounce.

“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin with cur­rent gold prices and we be­lieve there is again po­ten­tial to in­crease that pro­duc­tion to up to about 140,000 ounces a year,” Mr Well­born said.

Au­to­matic Suc­cess

Mr Wel­born said the suc­cess of the ex­pan­sion had not just been about in­no­va­tive think­ing, but also the sup­port of the QLD Gov­ern­ment and Res­o­lute’s em­brace of new tech­nolo­gies.

“When talk­ing about Ravenswood, Buck Reef West and Sars­field, the abil­ity to keep this mine go­ing has been driven by a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship with the QLD Gov­ern­ment in achiev­ing all of the min­ing, en­vi­ron­men­tal and her­itage ap­provals we re­quire,” Mr Wel­born said.

“The se­cond im­por­tant thing not to miss is that the re­sources at Sars­field and Buck Reef West have been known about for some time.

“The rea­son why the Ravenswood ex­pan­sion project wasn’t de­fined ear­lier is that we’ve aug­mented the eco­nom­ics of the project through the use of tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion of the ore body, which al­lows us to process less ton­nage and in­crease the mine head grade of what is a mod­est grade ore body, sig­nif­i­cantly im­prov­ing the eco­nom­ics.

“The abil­ity to get the en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­provals we need has also been tak­ing the QLD Gov­ern­ment on a jour­ney around new tech­nolo­gies and new ways of deal­ing with that ma­te­rial, so I think that’s the other as­pect of the story.”

Mr Wel­born be­lieved Res­o­lute’s em­brace of new tech­nolo­gies would be re­peated across the Aus­tralian min­ing sec­tor as an ef­fec­tive way of in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion and max­imis­ing profit with­out be­ing overly re­liant on mar­ket forces.

Among the tech­nolo­gies cham­pi­oned by Res­o­lute has been au­to­ma­tion, with Syama set to be the first pur­pose-build au­to­mated un­der­ground mine, which would al­low Res­o­lute to in­crease pro­duc­tion and safety, while low­er­ing costs.

“You can have more much con­trol with au­to­ma­tion be­cause you can track and dig­i­tally man­age ev­ery kilo­gram of ore with some de­gree of cer­tainty, so we be­lieve we’ll get bet­ter ma­chine life and much bet­ter main­te­nance sched­ul­ing,” Mr Wel­born said.

“One other as­pect is that with the use of re­ally high tech­nol­ogy, in­no­va­tive and adap­tive au­to­ma­tion al­lows us to train our lo­cal African work­force in a way that we haven’t been able to do be­fore.

“I use the anal­ogy of my 80-year-old mother who could never work out how to use a VHS video recorder for me in the 1980s when I was at univer­sity and wanted her to record a show for me, but she’s happy to surf the in­ter­net on her iPhone and send me text mes­sages.

“That’s be­cause that tech­nol­ogy has no in­struc­tion book; like au­to­mated tech­nol­ogy, it’s in­tu­itive and easy to use.”

Mr Well­born said many of the ben­e­fits of au­to­ma­tion could and al­ready had been trans­lated into the Aus­tralian min­ing sec­tor.

This in­cluded tele-re­mote tech­nolo­gies Res­o­lute pi­o­neered at Mt Wright, in­clud­ing tele-re­mote bog­ging.

“I am con­vinced that min­ing, par­tic­u­larly un­der­ground min­ing is go­ing both elec­tric and au­to­mated as tech­nol­ogy im­proves,” Mr Well­born said.

“The train­ing and con­trol ad­van­tages are par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant for re­mote op­er­a­tions whether they be in Aus­tralia or in Africa.”

Mr Wel­born said if done well, au­to­ma­tion could have no neg­a­tive im­pact on work­forces, while max­imis­ing ben­e­fits to share­hold­ers.

“When we’re talk­ing about au­to­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, there’s a theme around what Res­o­lute has been able to do with its as­set base over the last cou­ple of years, which is very much the cre­ation of share­holder value through the adap­tion of new tech­nolo­gies,” Mr Wel­born said.

“At Syama, we have taken what was a $US880 All-In Sus­tain­ing Cost mine down to less than $US750, largely through three main areas of ap­ply­ing tech­nol­ogy; au­to­ma­tion in our un­der­ground min­ing, re­fine­ments and im­prove­ments to our pro­cess­ing in­fra­struc­ture to get higher re­cov­er­ies and ef­fi­cien­cies, and more en­vi­ron­men­tally pow­er­ful so­lu­tions in our power gen­er­a­tion.”

Out­look

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Wel­born, Res­o­lute’s out­look for the fu­ture would be cen­tred on growth.

“We’re a 300,000 ounce a year pro­ducer on our way to 500,000, and we’ve been fo­cussed over the last cou­ple of years on the trans­for­ma­tion of Ravenswood and Syama,” Mr Wel­born said.

“I’ve said suc­cess there would al­low us as a com­pany to spread our wings and do even more ex­cit­ing things; I think that’s the next phase of our growth.

“I think there are won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties for us in Africa – we’ve been op­er­at­ing in that re­gion for more than 20 years, and ge­o­log­i­cally, po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally I’m con­vinced it’s an area of huge op­por­tu­nity for Res­o­lute.

“Our port­fo­lio in­vest­ments in ju­niors, largely with ex­po­sure to emerg­ing and grow­ing re­source po­si­tions on the African con­ti­nent, is very much fo­cussed on where our next mines are com­ing from.”

Mr Wel­born said Res­o­lute re­mained fo­cussed on 10-year mine lives ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing more than 100,000 ounces in a year, and rep­re­sent­ing real value for share­hold­ers.

Res­o­lute has owned and op­er­ated Syama, orig­i­nally owned by BHP, for about 10 years and ex­pects it to have a 14-year mine life.

The com­pany also op­er­ates the Bib­iani gold mine in Ghana.

Bib­iani, formerly op­er­ated by An­glo Gold Ashanti, is cur­rently in care and main­te­nance, though Res­o­lute’s plans to de­velop it were pro­gress­ing well.

It has a 10-year mine life and an All-In Sus­tain­ing Cost of just over $US750 an ounce.

To­gether, the three mines would push Res­o­lute’s pro­duc­tion to 500,000 ounces by 2021.

Shares in the com­pany were con­tin­u­ing to track up sit­ting at $1.06 as at 18 Oc­to­ber.

Al­lim­ages:Res­o­luteMin­ing. Pho­tog­ra­phy:RoslynBudd.

Mill 1 scats screen at Nolans pro­cess­ing plant.

Res­o­lute has staged a re­turn to open cut min­ing from un­der­ground min­ing at Ravenswood.

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