SLOW AND STEADY: Goondicum mine manager Alastair Bauer said they are taking a measured approach.
SLOW AND STEADY: Goondicum mine manager Alastair Bauer said they are taking a measured approach. Mackenzie Colahan

Goondicum ilmenite mine learns from mistakes

WITH Goondicum mine on track to restart in November, the Central & North Burnett Times toured the site to find out what's different this time around.

The mine at Yarrol, 45 minutes northeast of Monto, is in the midst of a pre-commissioning phase that includes 13 construction projects to ensure the new operation runs smoothly.

Between 27 to 30 full-time staff are on-site daily, half of which are employed from the local area.

Previous iterations of the Goondicum ilmenite mine were dogged by what industry professionals call "availability" issues.

In layman's terms, mechanical and technical inefficiencies, which, in their case, caused a labour-intensive production process and difficulties separating asset minerals from the thick clay soil.

Mining projects are prone to unpredictability, but the new and improved Goondicum is learning from its mistakes.

Project manager Alastair Bauer said they're taking a more conservative approach by lowering target availability.

"We wanted to de-risk our operation and learn from previous performance," Mr Bauer said.

"We will be building on the availability rating we were achieving in the past.

"With the improvements we wanted to set ourselves a realistic and attractive goal.

"The new target is quite conservative and we believe it can be exceeded."

 

The mine will operate 24/7, aiming to process 375 dry tonnes per hour, achieving a yield of between six to six-and-a-half per cent ilmenite.

Goondicum has promised investors the streamlined plant will more efficiently remove impurities, reducing the phosphate content of the ilmente to almost zero, resulting in a higher grade product.

The premium ilmenite has unlocked new markets, leading to the establishment of a major off-take arrangement with Hainan Wensheng High-Tech Materials Co, the largest mineral sands processor in China.

Mine owners Melior Resources are confident of repaying their US$12.34 million debt within three years of restarting operations.

"There is 85 million tonnes of ore below us," Mr Bauer said.

"We could have started a lot earlier but have purposely delayed production by several months to ensure all our ducks are in a row.

"The current mine life is nine years, but it's likely it will be extended to between 15 and 20 years."

An eastern access road is also in the pipeline.

The proposed road would connect to the Bruce Highway, cutting the current 280 kilometre route to the Gladstone port via Biloela by 100 kilometres.

At this stage the road remains a proposal but a final decision is expected to be made within 12 months of production resuming, should things go to plan.

Goondicum has commenced job interviews and is in the process of hiring 15 long-term operators.

Training is due to begin in October and new applicants are invited to drop their details to the Monto office on Faraday St.


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