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Gold mining begins

Wednesday, 3rd February, 2010

* Open cut mining began at White Dam last week. * Open cut mining began at White Dam last week.

By Gina Wilson

Mining has begun at the city's closest gold mine.

Last week excavators and trucks began digging dirt containing the precious metal from the ground at the White Dam gold project, 80 kilometres due west of Broken Hill. The $20 million mine is majority owned by Perth company Exco Resources with Brisbane's Polymetals the project manager and holding the remaining 25 per cent stake.

Polymetals' managing director, Andrew Lawry, said despite mining beginning, the expectation of first gold production by this quarter had changed. Mr Lawry said the first ounces of gold would not be produced until the end of next month or early in April.

"We're slightly behind schedule, mainly due to weather delays," he said.

The mine is a heap leach operation whereby the ore is dug up and stacked onto a leach pad before being irrigated with an alkaline/cyanide solution. This extracts the gold metal, called a dore, from the ore.White Dam is expected to run for 3.5 years and extract around 23,000 ounces of gold. Work began in earnest last October when crews began mining the overburden.

The first blast in the pit occurred last month and will soon become more regular."Blasting is really when you get down to the harder stuff," Mr Lawry said. "It will be a daily occurrence eventually." He said all civil and structural work was complete, mechanical installation and plant construction was well advanced and electrical work began in December.

Meanwhile, with almost $20 million in its kitty, Exco Resources said it was in a good position to further progress work on its two major projects - White Dam and a copper mine in north west Queensland. Exco released its quarterly results on Friday indicating it had $19.9 million in cash, which was kicked along by a share placement plan which saw the company issue 41.3 million shares at 24.5 cents, valued at $10.1 million.

Barclays Capital has provided the funding for the White Dam project on a cash and gold linked loan structure.

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