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Saturday, 30th December, 2017

Perilya has been given approval to recommence production at the North Mine. Perilya has been given approval to recommence production at the North Mine.

By Andrew Robertson

Broken Hill’s mining future has been secured for at least the next decade and beyond after Perilya was given the green light to recommence production at the North Mine.

The reopening of the North - which is crucial to Perilya’s continued presence in the city - will deliver a major boost to the local economy with the eventual creation of 140 new jobs.

For the past 18 months the Chinese-owned company has been busily upgrading infrastructure and carrying out development exploration at the existing lead, zinc and silver mine.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment finally granted full approval last week following a lengthy assessment process which forced Perilya to strengthen measures aimed at mitigating emissions.

While its plans may have been delayed Perilya’s local manager of operations, Bruce Byrne, said yesterday the company always expected to be given approval.

“We worked pretty hard to put together a solid environmental assessment plan and really all we’ve been doing in the last five to six months is strengthening that and refining that,” Mr Byrne said.

He said gaining full approval meant the company could now prepare to move into production.

“We’ll do that over the next three to four months and we hope to be producing in the second quarter of 2018.

“We’ve got between 40 and 50 there already. We’ll ramp that up over the next 12 months (and) we’ll look to have 80 or 90 there by the end of the year and it will continue to ramp as we get deeper into the mine.”

Perilya will access deeper deposits at North Mine, which was last actively mined in 2008, where some 4.2 million tonnes of ore is expected to be extracted at a rate of 300,000 tonnes a year, and to a depth of 2,250 metres.

Material will be trucked to the company’s Southern Operations for processing. 

On top of the 140 full-time jobs, an additional 40 jobs are expected to be created during construction work that will have to be carried out as part of the $54 million project.

Perilya has previously said the North Mine, with its relatively higher grades of ore, will become its major operation locally, with Southern Operations and the Potosi Mine continuing to contribute.

It’s a major reversal of fortunes for the local mining industry, which just 18 months ago was dealt a blow when Perilya sacked over 100 workers and cut production in response to low metal prices.

“It definitely gives Perilya and mining in Broken Hill a certainty out to 2032,” Mr Byrne told the BDT.

“We’re definitely in a much stronger position. The last 12 to 18 months we have seen good commodity prices.

“2017 in particular has been a good year for us, we’ve met our production targets both at Southern and Potosi operations and we’ve got very robust plans for 2018. We’re set up well for 2018.”

But Mr Byrne said the cyclical nature of metal prices meant the company had to ensure its operations remained sustainable in terms of output and employment.

“We’ve already done the work at Southern Operations to get it to what we believe is a longer term and sustainable operation. We will do that at the North (and) we will do that gradually over a period of time.” 

Mayor Darriea Turley said the approval was “great news” for Broken Hill and showed the local economy was turning the corner.  

She said it should provide confidence to other mining companies looking to develop projects locally.   

“There are other mining companies looking to develop around Broken Hill and it shows that the government is willing and able to work with them to ensure that mining has a future in NSW.”

Perilya was asked to revise aspects of the project after government agencies raised a number of concerns, including around air and dust emissions.

The Department of Planning and Environment said the revised project was not predicted to cause any exceedances of the air quality criteria or increase blood lead levels.

It said Perilya would also need to upgrade the intersections along the haulage route and maintain historic mining structures with significant heritage value on the site.

The department received nine submissions from public authorities and another nine from the general public, most of which were in support.

The project is expected to generate up to $5.8 million per year of royalties to the State of NSW.

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