Miner strikes tungsten
AUSTRALIA’S largest tungsten mine will be developed in North Queensland after a study identified as much as $3bn worth of the rare metal under an old open-cut pit.
Tungsten is one of the hardest elements on earth, used in aerospace, construction and technology, with much of the market controlled by China.
But now Asx-listed EQ Resources, backed by German metals trading group Cronimet, will expand the old Mt Carbine mine to produce up to 3600 tonnes of the metal a year, to be exported from the port of Townsville.
EQ Resources chief executive Kevin Macneill said resource remodelling identified higher grade ore zones, while drilling reduced the material needing to be processed, improving its viability.
The revised resource is 9.21 million tonnes grading at 0.63 per cent tungsten.
Combined with existing stockpiles, the company said total contained metal was about 67,000 tonnes, although only Indicated and Inferred resource classes were provided.
“We are delighted that the results of the diamond drilling program has changed the way we are looking at mining at Mt Carbine,” Mr Macneill said.
“At the time, we said it would be a game changer and that has turned out to be the case.
“What we are trying to do here is mine a lot smarter and greatly reduce barren rock reporting to the gravity plant.”
EQ Resources is producing about 300 tonnes of tungsten concentrate a year, as well as road building materials, and is looking to increase that to 1200 tonnes next year and up to 3600 tonnes in the following year.
About $26m needs to be spent upgrading the plant and mine.
Mr Macneill said employment of about 50 people currently would need to be increased to about 125.
He said they would be very skilled, high-paying jobs.
They were also looking to install an exothermic reaction plant to produce tungsten metal.
Mt Carbine was mined in the 1970s but has been closed since about 1985.
With China producing about 80 per cent of the world’s tungsten, and supply constrained, the price of the metal has increased to about US$30,000 a tonne.
Mr Macneill said they now had a clear picture of the high grade tungsten zones.
He said of the Indicated resource of about 2.4 million tonnes, the grade at 0.74 per cent WO3 (tungsten) was five times the historical bulk grade of 0.14 per cent, meaning much better economics.
Also, the bulk of the Indicated resources was accessible immediately beneath the existing pit.
The company plans further drilling and to continue work on its bankable feasibility study.