Australian Mining News, State By State

Australian Mining News, State By State


Stephen Galilee: CEO, NSW Minerals Council

New South Wales

In June the NSW Minerals Council graded the NSW Government’s Budget a solid ‘B’, but that they ‘could try harder’ in a few key areas. In a statement NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said that overall it was a responsible budget based on “strong fiscal discipline”.

“Today’s allocation of an additional $100 million to the Hunter Infrastructure Investment Fund (HIIF) is welcome. However, unlike the pattern of previous HIIF funding allocations, it is important that the Upper Hunter receive its fair share of funding,” he said.

“Investing an additional $70 million in the important Resources for Regions Program will also provide a boost to infrastructure in mining communities in the New England North West, Central West, Hunter and Illawarra.”

“Two years ago in the 2012/13 Budget, mining was ambushed with nearly $80 million in new fees and levies. Mining workers across the state will be relieved that this year the NSW Government has resisted the temptation to impose further new taxes and levies on the sector. Mining is currently doing tough, we have seen thousands of jobs lost, and any new costs would have been likely to mean even further job losses,” Mr Galilee said.

The worker killed at the CSA Mine near Cobar in NSW on 11 June was retrieving a scaling bar from the water when his leg was sucked into an unguarded and unmarked drainage borehole, trapping the man underwater and drowning him, according to an Information Release issued by NSW Mine Safety.

“The worker was found below the surface of the water with his legs trapped in the borehole, being held by the pressure of the water. A number of rescuers recovered the worker, who was transported by ambulance to Cobar District Hospital. Efforts to resuscitate the worker were unsuccessful,” the Information Release said.

“…unemployment in the Hunter Valley rose more than 3 per cent to 9.2 per cent after a series of mine closures and cost-cutting exercises…”

An investigation report into the incident is currently being prepared for the Secretary of NSW Trade & Investment.

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, unemployment in the Hunter Valley rose more than 3 per cent to 9.2 per cent after a series of mine closures and cost-cutting exercises saw thousands of jobs lost from the region.

In the past six months more than 500 jobs were lost from the Integra coal complex, which includes the Camberwell open-cut and Glennies Creek underground mines. Jobs were also cut from Anglo’s Drayton mine, Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth, and the BHP-run Mt Arthur Coal mine.

Coal mines in NSW employed 21,953 workers last September, down from a peak of nearly 25,000 in June 2012.

SA Jason Kuchel CEO SACOME

Jason Kuchel CEO SACOME

South Australia

In June the South Australian Government released their Regional Mining & Infrastructure Plan and announced the formation of a Resources Infrastructure Taskforce to help drive growth of the resources sector in South Australia.

The Taskforce will work in conjunction with private industry and other agencies to develop innovative funding arrangements and facilitate the delivery of key infrastructure projects to move South Australia’s resource projects through to commercialisation.

The development of a cape size vessel port in the Spencer Gulf on the Eyre Peninsula, and the upgrade to a 275kV transmission line along the eastern flank of the Eyre Peninsula are two of the most urgent projects addressed by the Plan.

The Plan has placed a 12 month target for the development of a port business case.

Also in June South Australia’s peak mining body slammed The Australia Institute over a report they claimed was factually incorrect.

The report called The Age of Entitlement Lives On asserts that the South Australian mining and petroleum industries received $316 million in hidden subsidies over the past 6 years.

Jason Kuchel, Chief Executive of SACOME said “The actual number of subsidies and grants given to the mining and petroleum industries over the same 6 year period is $49.7million, compared to the $1,044million gained over the same period from fees and royalties”

“Analysis of the Government’s budget papers has shown that nearly all of budgeted programs and projects identified by the The Australia Institute do not provide a subsidy to the industry and only a handful can be considered as providing direct assistance to the industry.”

“The Plan has placed a 12 month target for the development of a port business case.”

“The Australia Institute has included figures in their report that were wholly funded by the industry or budget allocations for the department to carry out its regulatory duties.

The clearest example is the $19 million they identified for the Stuart Highway shoulder upgrade that was paid in full by BHP Billiton as part of their requirements for the Olympic Dam expansion.” Mr Kuchel said.

“It is clear that The Australia Institute has not conducted due diligence when researching, identifying, and analysing the programs that the relevant government departments are budgeted for.

SACOME calls on the Australia Institute to retract the report and issue an apology to not only the mineral and petroleum industries but each respective State Government for misrepresenting their budget allocations for their respective Departments.” Mr Kuchel said.


Port Of Hay Point 


In July the body of missing Mt Isa miner, Brett Kelly, was found by a team of searchers 20 days after he went missing in the underground copper mine in Queensland’s north west.

Search teams found the body after spending eight days sorting through 8000 tonnes of copper ore by hand, bucket by bucket, after it was excavated from the mine’s ore pass by machine.

The search team, comprising police forensic officers, Mount Isa Mines employees, and Safety and Health Mining Inspectorate officers worked 12 hour shifts, around the clock in their search efforts.

Mr Kelly was initially reported missing from the mine site on Wednesday, June 18. The site was searched and the initial search-and-rescue phase of the operation ended two days later after searchers came to the conclusion that Mr Kelly fell into the ore pass.

Investigations into how Mr Kelly fell into the one kilometre deep ore pass are continuing, with a report to be prepared by the coroner. The Byerwen Coal mine, west of Mackay, is one step closer to going ahead after the project received approval by Queensland’s independent Coordinator General in July.

The $1.76 billion project developed by the QCoal Group is expected to create up to 350 construction jobs and up to 545 jobs during the operational life of the mine.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the Coordinator General’s approval is subject to 122 conditions to responsibly manage the impacts of the project.

The mine will be open cut with the potential to supply up to 10 million tonnes of coking and thermal coal per year for the global steel market.

“The Coordinator General has set strict conditions to protect groundwater resources, surface water quality and fauna, as well as controls on air quality, dust and noise,” Mr Seeney said.

The Coordinator General’s report will now go to the Commonwealth Environment minister for federal approval.

In June it was announced that the troubled Dudgeon Point Coal Terminal project will not be going ahead after the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP) made a request to the Queensland Coordinator- General to cancel their declaration of a coordinated project.

The project, earmarked for the Port of Hay Point, south of Mackay, was put on hold in 2013 after an industrywide downturn in the coal market saw demand for a new coal terminal greatly reduce.

In a statement the Corporation said, “Although NQBP has completed numerous environmental and social studies for the EIS (Environmental Impact Statements), all of the required studies had not been completed when the project was paused.”

“Although this particular development proposal will be withdrawn, it does not necessarily indicate that expansion to the coal export facilities will not be required at the Port of Hay Point in the future,” said Brad Fish, CEO of NQBP.

Northern Territory

Northern Territory iron ore miner, Sherwin Iron, delivered a devastating blow to the Top End’s resources sector in July by announcing the company would go into voluntary administration, just weeks after announcing the temporary shutdown of the Roper River iron ore mine.

According to the ABC, Sherwin Iron went into a trading halt after the company failed to secure a $10 million financial loan.

Over the past year the company has exported 270,000 tonnes of ore to China from the Roper River mine located approximately 400km south east of Darwin.

The disappointing news came less than a fortnight after fellow Top End miner, Territory Iron, announced it would be closing the Frances Creek Mine near the town of Pine Creek by November of this year.

The closure of Frances Creek Mine is expected to cause a loss of around 300 jobs. Territory Iron informed locals of the decision at a town meeting.

Speaking to the ABC, mining services contractor Ray Wooldridge said those who attended the meeting were told operations would start winding down at the mine immediately.

“Basically [they said] it would be all over by November, apart from a small exploration crew and an environmental crew to look after the mine shut-down,” Mr Wooldridge said.

The news comes as a huge blow to the community of Pine Creek as the mine is the town’s largest employer.

In a statement published in the local Pine Creek community newsletter, a spokesperson for Territory Iron said, “The month of June has seen a reduction in production and processing of shippable ore due to challenges faced with accessing our proposed satellite pits at Elizabeth Marion,”

“Unfortunately, we now have been notified by NT Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that the proposed approval for mining at Elizabeth Marion will require an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) before any work can commence.

“The decision is unexpected, given the small size of the proposed works.

“The EIS will be commenced immediately however this process is expected to be completed by mid to late 2015.

“The unprecedented combination of the EIS requirement and declining iron ore prices is creating some of the largest challenges Territory Iron has had to face.”

“Our current minable resources are also further challenged with declining iron ore prices which remain 30 per cent down on what was projected this year.

“The unprecedented combination of the EIS requirement and declining iron ore prices is creating some of the largest challenges Territory Iron has had to face.


Port Headland

In July Western Australia’s Department of Mines and Petroleum charged Inline Engineering Services Pty Ltd and The Pilbara Infrastructure Pty Ltd in relation to an incident that occurred in July 2011 at Fortescue Metal Group’s Anderson Point Port Facility, near Port Hedland.

The incident occurred on 8 July, 2011, when Mr Bevan Coutts was assisting in the removal of a gearbox from a train indexer and was caught between the indexer arm and a steel structure. Mr Coutts suffered an immediate amputation of his left leg, and crush injuries to his right leg, which was later medically amputated.

The companies were charged under section 12 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act of Western Australia and section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure the safety of Mr Coutts was not adversely affected by the work being undertaken.

In July BHP Billiton celebrated the shipment of its one billionth tonne of iron ore to Japan with customers, joint venture participants and employees in Port Hedland,Western Australia.

BHP Billiton President Iron Ore Jimmy Wilson and BHP Billiton President HSE, Marketing and Technology Mike Henry were joined by joint venture participants ITOCHU Corporation (ITOCHU) and Mitsui & Co., Ltd (Mitsui) to mark the milestone in front of the Saiko bound for Japan.

Mr Henry acknowledged Japan’s industrial transformation and the importance of twoway trade in driving economic growth. “In the late 1960s and through the 1970s, Japan grew to become an economic powerhouse through its expertise in steel manufacturing, heavy industry, technology and electronics,” he said.

“In July BHP Billiton celebrated the shipment of its one billionth tonne of iron ore to Japan…”

“As Japan’s economy grew, the iron ore we exported came back to Australia as high-quality manufactured products like motor vehicles and the rolling stock and rail equipment we rely on in the resources industry.

“Today the high-quality iron ore we export from the Pilbara is an essential ingredient for Japan’s high-tech steel industry which leads the world in technology and efficiency.”



In May the Victorian Government announced $15 million has been committed in the 2014-15 Victorian State Budget for a new program called TARGET to drive exploration for minerals such as copper and gold in regional and rural Victoria.

Energy and Resources Minister Russell Northe said the new TARGET program would see the Government co-fund exploration work with companies searching for new mineral resources with a focus on the State’s northeast, north, west and parts of the east.

“Victoria was built on its rich mineral resources with the 1850s gold rush quickly putting our great state on the global map and driving a flourishing economy with vibrant local communities,” Mr Northe said.

“This new initiative will see the Government working with industry to drive exploration and development of new mineral resources for the benefit of all Victorians.

“The quality geological data acquired through the TARGET program will help attract future investment from the mining sector and encourage further exploration in Victoria, within the context of a highly competitive global industry.”

Under the TARGET initiative, grants will be available for co-funded exploration works including drilling and geoscience surveys. An expert panel will provide advice on the granting of funds and the activities carried out under the initiative. Data captured by the Geological Survey of Victoria under the initiative will be made available online to other exploration and mining companies.

Victoria’s Nowa Nowa Iron Project in East Gippsland was granted an official mining lease in April by the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation.

The Nowa Nowa Iron Project is 100% owned by Eastern Iron and is located in eastern Victoria, approximately 50km east of Bairnsdale.

The lease has been granted to Gippsland Iron Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastern Iron. The area covered by the Mining Licence is approximately 484Ha.

The company is investigating the potential to mine high-grade iron ore from several magnetite and hematite deposits situated north of the village of Nowa Nowa and close to the Princes Highway.

Eastern Iron intends to extract the iron ore from the Five Mile deposit at Nowa Nowa using open pit mining techniques, carry out simple dry low intensity magnetic separation processing on site and transport the product to a port south of Eden in southern NSW.

Eastern Iron’s Managing Director, Greg De Ross, commented. “…the grant of the mining licence is an important milestone towards developing the Nowa Nowa Iron Project. Since acquiring the project in early 2012, the Company has been pursuing a fast-track evaluation program leading to the expected completion of the Definitive Feasibility Study by the middle of this year. This is a remarkably short timeframe and underlines the Company’s determination to progress this project.”

Henty Goldmine

Henty Goldmine


Operations at Tasmania’s Mt Lyell copper mine ceased and 200 jobs were lost after a rock fall in late June put an end to plans to re-open the mine.

Mine owners, Copper Mines of Tasmania (CMT), gave workers the grim news in July saying the mine would now be put into care and maintenance mode.

Speaking to The Mercury newspaper, CMT’s general manager Scot Clyde said the decision had not been made lightly and came as the last resort.

“The discovery of a rock fall in the mine’s ventilation drive on Friday 27 June was a bitter blow as we were preparing for a staged restart of operations following the long shut down,” he said.

“Clearing the rock fall and restoring ventilation would have required a further shut down of some three months with a further substantial financial cost to support our workforce on standby pay for that period.

“CMT will still need to clear the rock fall and restore ventilation to keep the mine ready to open if and when an opportunity to do so arises in the future.

The mine had been scheduled to re-start production early this month after being closed for 6 months in the aftermath of three tragic deaths at the site.

On 9 December last year, two members of a maintenance crew were killed at the mine after falling to their deaths down a mine shaft. Then on 17 January this year, just 6 weeks later, a loader operator was killed after becoming engulfed in a mud slide.

The company said there would now be ongoing drilling and exploration for new ore bodies on the Mt Lyell lease, with the aim of re-opening the mine further down the track.

In July, owners of the Henty Gold Mine on Tasmania’s West Coast announced that they will stop production at the end of next year if more ore is not found. The mine, which was purchased by Unity Mining in 2009, employs about 150 staff.

Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council’s CEO, Jeremy Kouw, said it was a particularly challenging time on the West Coast with the additional closure of the Mt Lyell mine. “Our thoughts are with the staff and their communities,” Mr Kouw said.

In more positive news, the Mt Lindsay Tin/Tungsten Project is on track to proceed with Venture Minerals announcing in July that the Tasmanian Minister for Resources, Paul Harriss, had granted the mining lease for the project.

The open cut project now needs to secure Commonwealth environmental approval before it can go ahead.

The project had met with fierce opposition from environmental groups, however the Minister dismissed their objections, saying they were, “utter rubbish”.


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