White Dam celebrates
Friday, 11th June, 2010
It's taken more than 20 years and $50 million but the transformation of a sheep paddock into a gold mine was formally acknowledged yesterday.
The South Australian Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Paul Holloway, cut the ribbon that signalled the White Dam gold mine officially opened in front of about 70 people.
In doing so Minister Holloway acknowledged the benefits the mine would bring to the region.
"Polymetals and Exco Resources are to be congratulated on becoming only the second significant gold mine to open in SA and the state's fourth gold producer," the minister said.
"The White Dam gold mine will bring significant benefits to this region including the employment of local people.
"Forty per cent of Polymetals current work force is local, including staff from Broken Hill, and it (will) generate around $2.8 million in local wages for the life of the project."
Exco Resources has a 75 per cent stake in the project, which is expected to operate for about three years, with Brisbane-based Polymetals Group holding the remaining interest.
Staff, traditional owners, pastoral owners and Exco Resources shareholders were at the mine, 80 kilometres west of Broken Hill, to witness the opening.
The group was given a guided tour of the site with an explanation of how the site had been transformed from a sheep paddock to a mine producing 50,000 ounces of gold per year.
The timing of the mine's production has been impeccable; the gold price reached a new high on Wednesday of $US1251 per ounce as investors looked for safety away from volatile markets.
Exco's managing director Michael Anderson admitted they had been lucky.
"The timing has been superb along the way."
Polymetals chief operating officer Tim Dobson said it had not only been a long time between the discovery of the White Dam deposit, two decades ago, and the first gold pour, back in April, it had at times been a battle against nature.
"A company called Aberfoyle found gold in what's called soil anomalies ... and it's taken 20 years from that point to the point where we had enough confidence to be able to mine it and get a profit out of it," Mr Dobson said.
"It was just 217 days from financing approval to the first gold pour ... (and) in that 217 days we had biblical weather extremes ... through rain, dust and locust plagues, but that didn't stop us and we made a lot of things happen very quickly to get this (mine operational)."
More than $14.3 million has been spent on capital expenditure at White Dam and around five million tonnes of ore will be extracted from the open pit mine over its life.
To date the mine has shifted almost 3.4 million tonnes of ore, stacked almost 900,000 tonnes of material onto the leach pad while 5,765 ounces of gold has been poured.
White Dam uses the heap leach method to extract the precious metal. Microscopic, invisible gold is removed from the ore by irrigating it with a cyanide solution. The gold-infused liquid is then collected in ponds before being treated and made into gold bars weighing about 18 kilograms.