Red River Resources has unveiled plans to restart operations at the disused Hillgrove gold and antimony mine by the end of the year.
- The Hillgrove Mine shut down in December 2015 with more than 100 workers losing their jobs
- In 2016, the mine announced a $5.5 million exploration program
- Red River Resources, which took over in 2019, conducted a restart study with plans to begin work later in 2020
The mining company took over the site east of Armidale last year after it was closed by Bracken Resources in 2016.
Mining activity began at the site in 1857 and has produced 738,000 ounces of gold in its lifetime.
Managing director Mel Palancian said work would soon start on treating existing gold stockpiles before underground mining operations could restart.
High gold prices meant the mineral would be the company’s main focus.
“The gold prices in the last 12 months have really been taken for a run, from $US1,200 to $US1,300 an ounce to about $US1,900 an ounce,” he said.
“In amongst all of that we’ve identified the Baker’s Creek stockpile as our stage one restart, so we’re getting the plant ready to process that stockpile.
“That should see us through for the first 12 months and then after that we’ll go back underground.
About 40 people will be employed at the site in the first phase.
The company said there were no plans for expansion of the mine, as yet.
Learning from past mistakes
Mr Palancian said mining for gold, instead of antimony, had historically proven to be the most financially viable way to operate the mine.
“We’ve just gone through the Hillgrove project and tried to understand what went well and what didn’t go so well; Because the mine has had an off-off, stop-start [history] in the last few decades,” he said.
“So we want to learn from those mistakes and try and avoid them.
“You’ll see our focus on gold.”
Big benefits for local economy
Long-time Armidale resident and CEO of the Foundation for Regional Development, Peter Bailey said reopening the mine would have flow-on effects for the local economy.
He said it is rare to have a mine in such close proximity to a major regional centre and he hoped it would attract new residents and create more employment opportunities in the area.
“The only sad thing about the mine, is it has come and gone two or three times,” Mr Bailey said.
“It comes for five or six years and then disappears again.
“The preference is to have them back up and running again, rather than what might happen in the future.
“The gold prices are astronomical, so hopefully there might be a long term future.”
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