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14 August 2019
By DEAN LAWSON
Predictions of the central Wimmera becoming a global hub for mineral-sand mining operations are getting closer to becoming reality.
With four of the world’s largest proposed sand-mining projects within a 70-kilometre radius of Horsham, three are in a pilot-development stage with earthwork for test pits having already caught public attention.
A WIM Resource Avonbank test pit northeast of Horsham at Longerenong, the result of about six years of planning, has confirmed mineral-sand geology appropriate for mining.
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Contractors have now completed civil works for a pilot separation plant, which Downer will start constructing on site next month.
WIM Resource project manager Michael Winternitz said expectations were that plant construction would take between two to three weeks and the plant would then operate between three to six months.
“We will have 10 employees operating the plant. We have finished a recruiting program and had significant interest, which is exciting,” he said.
“We feel this is a different project from usual mining operations.
“It’s only 15 kilometres from Horsham, which means people can travel to and from home to work every day. That’s quite rare for a mining project.”
Mr Winternitz said the pilot program was critical in providing ‘de-risking’ experience and information as part of a bankable feasibility study for the project proper, a full-scale mine with an operating life of 30 years.
“The pilot program will involve feeding 10,000 tonnes of ore through the plant and separating minerals from lighter sand that will go back into the test pit,” he said.
“After the six months of operation we will need to wait another three to four months to allow the sand to settle and consolidate and start rehabilitation.
“This involves returning the ‘overburden’ to the pit, then the sub-soil and then the top-soil and returning the land to the landowner.
“Projections are that the site will be back to farming land by the middle of next year.”
Mr Winternitz said mineral concentrate would leave the site via Dooen Intermodal Freight Terminal on its way to the Port of Melbourne and ultimately China for further ‘downstream’ separation.
He said confidence was high that the overall project, subject to approvals and the bankable feasibility study based on the pilot, would proceed.
WIM Resource has pencilled in 2022-2023 for full-scale mining at Avonbank.
“The overall project will ultimately be a significant major economic driver for Horsham,” Mr Winternitz said.
“We’re talking long term – 30 years. It’s not a quick in and out and we will be looking for state and federal government and community support.
“As part of our approvals getting established we will now have a community reference group with a primary purpose as a conduit for information between community and company.
“The group, which includes a broad range of community representatives, will have its first meeting in late August. Having this connection is important.”
WIM Resource is also scoping out prospects for another mine site at Bungalally, about 10 kilometres south of Horsham.
The company has a Retention Licence for the project, allowing it to explore and further develop planning.
Mr Winternitz said the Bungalally project was at a fledging stage, similar to Avonbank about six years ago.
Last year Iluka Resources also established a test pit at its Wimmera Project, between Noradjuha and Toolondo, and is well advanced, Murray Zircon is sitting on an expansive WIM 150 prospective mine at St Helens Plains east of Horsham and Donald is home to Astron’s Donald Mineral Sands project.
The entire August 14, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!