Magellan sets its sights high

WESTERN Australia’s first pure lead mine was officially opened last week. The $26 million Magellan lead mine, 40 kilometres from Wiluna is expected to become the fifth largest lead producer in the world and is aiming to ultimately supply about 3 per cent of the world’s mined lead production. Owned by Canadian base metals mining and exploration company Ivernia, the opening of the mine is the culmination of one year of development from the award of mine construction contracts to commissioning. With 16 million tonnes of reserves containing an estimated one million tonnes of lead, the operation is WA’s first operating pure lead mine. And at a time of rising mining costs across the state, Magellan is expected to be one of the world’s lowest cost lead producers. Ivernia chairman Trevor Eyton, who travelled from Toronto for the opening of the mine, said the company was already benefiting from the lower cost operation. “The shallow oxidised lead deposit results in open pit mining and simple concentrate recover, enduring Magellan will be one of the world’s lowest cost lead producers,” he said in a statement. The mine is expected to deliver $4 million in royalties to the state government annually from next year. Lead-acid batteries are the most common use for the metal, accounting for about three quarters of global consumption. Magellan’s first bulk shipment of lead concentrate totalling 5,000 tonnes was made from the port of Esperance in July. It is scheduled to produce 43,000t of lead in concentrate this year and reach 100,000t in 2006. Ore from the mine is expected to be processed on-site through a process of conventional milling and flotation concentration. The procurement, construction and management contract for the main processing facilities and related infrastructure was awarded to Roche Mining. Construction activities began in mid-May last year. The capital cost required to develop the Magellan project to reach the commissioning stage was expected to end up at approximately 30 million Canadian dollars, which translates to about $26.2 million. It is estimated that lead recoveries will vary from 77 to 88 per cent. The company expects that lead concentrate will undergo refining on site to ultimately produce up to 70,000t per annum of marketable soft lead metal. The price of lead began to climb from around $US500 a tonne towards the end of 2003 and since mid-last year has averaged over $US900. WA-based Abra Mining listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in early April after raising $9 million in an oversubscribed IPO. The company listed with the express purpose of developing its namesake lead-zinc-silver project, 200km from Meekatharra.

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