Region set for a new gold rush 20 years after mine closed
MOUNT Morgan could be set for a modern-day gold rush.
Mining operations were the lifeblood of the town for more than a century and could be again if Carbine Resources can prove the extraction of the remaining gold and copper is technically and economically viable.
If it does, the mine site that has lain dormant for over 20 years could be heaving with life again as early as 2016.
Carbine, a junior mining company based in Western Australia, is looking to extract metals from the existing tailing resources at Mount Morgan and, in doing so, help the environmental remediation of the site.
A century of mining has left behind up to one million ounces of gold and 60,000 tonnes of copper.
Carbine's executive director Patrick Walta said the ultimate goal was to build a processing facility at the mine site.
Carbine was currently completing a scoping study to confirm the technical and economic viability of the project.
The next step would be a bankable feasibility study, to be completed in the first half of 2015.
"We've got a long way to go but the early signs are very positive," Mr Walta said.
"We're slowly working through the toll gates but, based on current timelines, we're looking at being up and running in 2016."
Mr Walta said Carbine had managed to "crack the metallurgical nut" that had prevented other interested companies from reviving the Mount Morgan mine.
The consumption of cyanide, which is used to leech the gold, was prohibitive and was one of the factors that led to the closure of the mine in 1981.
Initial testing has shown that Carbine's process, which involves the selective removal of copper prior to gold recovery, could reduce cyanide consumption by 80%.
Carbine's process also involved the flotation of acid-forming pyrite from the remaining tailings, which would drastically reduce current environmental issues at the mine.
Mr Walta said Carbine was progressively taking ownership of the project from current owner Norton Goldfields.
If the project is realised, it could employ up to 50-full time staff and have a production rate of one million tonnes of tailings a year.
"It will be a great thing for the local community and the environment," Mr Walta said.
"Everyone we talk to has some sort of association with the mine.
"It is such a rich part of the history of the Rockhampton region."
The historic Mount Morgan Mine is 38km from Rockhampton and is covered by 30 mining leases over 677.5 ha.
It was in production from 1882 to 1981 and was once the largest gold mine in the world.
Between 1981 and 1991, 28Mt of tailings was retreated before operations were suspended due to low gold prices and high cyanide costs.
During its operational life, the mine produced 8.4Moz of gold, 400,000t of copper and 1.2Moz of silver from the mining and processing of about 50Mt of ore.