Min­ers mov­ing for­ward

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Pre­dic­tions of the cen­tral Wim­mera be­com­ing a global hub for min­eral-sand min­ing op­er­a­tions are get­ting closer to be­com­ing re­al­ity.

With four of the world’s largest pro­posed sand-min­ing projects within a 70-kilo­me­tre ra­dius of Hor­sham, three are in a pi­lot-de­vel­op­ment stage with earth­work for test pits hav­ing al­ready caught public at­ten­tion.

A WIM Re­source Avon­bank test pit north­east of Hor­sham at Lon­gerenong, the re­sult of about six years of plan­ning, has con­firmed min­eral-sand ge­ol­ogy ap­pro­pri­ate for min­ing.

Con­trac­tors have now com­pleted civil works for a pi­lot separation plant, which Downer will start con­struct­ing on site next month.

WIM Re­source project man­ager Michael Win­ter­nitz said ex­pec­ta­tions were that plant con­struc­tion would take be­tween two to three weeks and the plant would then op­er­ate be­tween three to six months.

“We will have 10 em­ploy­ees op

er­at­ing the plant. We have fin­ished a re­cruit­ing pro­gram and had sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est, which is ex­cit­ing,” he said.

“We feel this is a dif­fer­ent project from usual min­ing op­er­a­tions.

“It’s only 15 kilo­me­tres from Hor­sham, which means peo­ple can travel to and from home to work ev­ery day. That’s quite rare for a min­ing project.”

Mr Win­ter­nitz said the pi­lot pro­gram was crit­i­cal in pro­vid­ing ‘de-risk­ing’ ex­pe­ri­ence and in­for­ma­tion as part of a bank­able fea­si­bil­ity study for the project proper, a full-scale mine with an op­er­at­ing life of 30 years.

“The pi­lot pro­gram will in­volve feed­ing 10,000 tonnes of ore through the plant and sep­a­rat­ing min­er­als from lighter sand that will go back into the test pit,” he said.

“After the six months of op­er­a­tion we will need to wait an­other three to four months to al­low the sand to set­tle and con­sol­i­date and start re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“This in­volves re­turn­ing the ‘over­bur­den’ to the pit, then the sub-soil and then the top-soil and re­turn­ing the land to the landowner.

“Pro­jec­tions are that the site will be back to farm­ing land by the mid­dle of next year.”

To port

Mr Win­ter­nitz said min­eral concentrat­e would leave the site via Dooen In­ter­modal Freight Ter­mi­nal on its way to the Port of Mel­bourne and ul­ti­mately China for fur­ther ‘down­stream’ separation.

He said con­fi­dence was high that the over­all project, sub­ject to ap­provals and the bank­able fea­si­bil­ity study based on the pi­lot, would pro­ceed.

WIM Re­source has pen­cilled in 2022-2023 for full-scale min­ing at Avon­bank.

“The over­all project will ul­ti­mately be a sig­nif­i­cant ma­jor eco­nomic driver for Hor­sham,” Mr Win­ter­nitz said.

“We’re talk­ing long term – 30 years. It’s not a quick in and out and we will be look­ing for state and fed­eral gov­ern­ment and com­mu­nity sup­port.

“As part of our ap­provals get­ting es­tab­lished we will now have a com­mu­nity ref­er­ence group with a pri­mary pur­pose as a con­duit for in­for­ma­tion be­tween com­mu­nity and com­pany.

“The group, which in­cludes a broad range of com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives, will have its first meet­ing in late Au­gust. Hav­ing this con­nec­tion is im­por­tant.”

WIM Re­source is also scop­ing out prospects for an­other mine site at Bun­galally, about 10 kilo­me­tres south of Hor­sham.

The com­pany has a Re­ten­tion Li­cence for the project, al­low­ing it to ex­plore and fur­ther de­velop plan­ning.

Mr Win­ter­nitz said the Bun­galally project was at a fledg­ing stage, sim­i­lar to Avon­bank about six years ago.

Last year Iluka Re­sources also es­tab­lished a test pit at its Wim­mera Project, be­tween No­rad­juha and Toolondo, and is well ad­vanced, Mur­ray Zir­con is sit­ting on an ex­pan­sive WIM 150 prospec­tive mine at St He­lens Plains east of Hor­sham and Don­ald is home to Astron’s Don­ald Min­eral Sands project.

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