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Downpour provides golden opportunity

Wednesday, 11th May, 2016

Steve Radford (left) and Chris Giles with the first gold bar from the Portia gold mine, north-west of Broken Hill. Steve Radford (left) and Chris Giles with the first gold bar from the Portia gold mine, north-west of Broken Hill.

By Andrew Robertson

What do you do when you’re stuck on a gold mine in the middle of nowhere with the only road and airstrip out of action for days because of rain?

If you’re Chris Giles, you make a gold bar.

The recent widespread rainfall might have been welcomed by graziers and gardeners but it also cruelled plans to mark an historic day in the history of Havilah Resources.

Following months of digging the soft clay and sand overburden from its Portia gold mine, 120km north-west of the city, Havilah had been eagerly preparing for the first pour of gold.

It was to happen this week. The media was to be invited to cover the event which would officially herald Havilah’s transition from mineral explorer to junior miner.

Then the heavens opened.

The dirt road and airstrip were turned to mud, so no-one was getting in and a handful of senior people still can’t get out, including Dr Giles, Havilah’s managing director.

Broken Hill’s own Steve Radford, the head of Consolidated Mining and Civil, Havilah’s mining partner, also became stranded after flying in on Saturday.

The mine’s manager is also there but not many others. The mine has been idle for the last two weeks after a pit wall collapsed and crews are not due back at the mine until tomorrow.

Speaking by satellite phone yesterday, Dr Giles told the BDT the stranded group had decided to make the most of the situation.

“We’re all stuck on site because of the rain ... so we’re all going nowhere and we’re all here on our lonesome, so we had quite a party just together.”

The party was to celebrate a successful first gold pour that went ahead, as planned, on Monday, albeit without the fanfare.

“We were just testing out the furnace and we had concentrate here we wanted to try,” Dr Giles said.

“We were planning on doing it yesterday or today anyway ... We had our metallurgist here and he’s poured gold plenty of times before so he mixed up the witch’s brew of fluxes and chemicals you have to mix with the concentrate to stop it spitting and spluttering and make the gold behave itself.

“We had one go and we decided to put it back in and mix it up again because it wasn’t quite mixed enough, and the next time we got quite a good gold pour.”

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