Copper miners have struck gold

A HUGE copper deposit discovered on the Yorke Peninsula is expected to lead to a jobs boom for the Ardrossan region, a minerals exploration company predicted yesterday.

The Hillside project between Port Julia and Ardrossan is globally significant, in the top 25 per cent of existing and undeveloped open-pit copper projects, explorer Rex Minerals said.

“This is a significant boost to Yorke Peninsula,” Rex chief executive Steven Olsen said.

“We already have 20 staff plus the drilling crew there but you obviously could get into the hundreds of people employed (once a mine is developed).

“In the space of only six months, dedicated resources drilling has seen Hillside emerge as a great discovery.

“Ongoing drilling success could soon show that Hillside is one of Australia’s largest copper projects behind Olympic Dam and Mt Isa.”

Rex yesterday announced its first estimate of the Hillside deposit according to industry-accepted standards.

It told the stock exchange it had an inferred resource equal to 700,000 tonnes of copper and 650,000 ounces of gold, based on drilling results from one third of the site.

Hillside’s target is now up to 2.3 million tonnes of copper and annual production estimates could go beyond those produced by OZ Minerals’ $1.2 billion Prominent Hill mine in the state’s north.

South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel was cautiously optimistic about the potential.

“They still have a way to go,” he said.

“Most people want to get a mine life of more than 7-10 years  …  certainly it’s shaping up to be a very promising resource.

“We’re talking about 100 jobs during construction and probably at least several hundreds of jobs during the operation of the mine,” he said.

Proximity to roads, ports, power and the city would cut mine development, making it a “win-win” for the company and communities on Yorke Peninsula, Mr Kuchel said.

Mr Olsen said most of the copper and gold found at Hillside was only 10m below the surface – making the deposit well suited to shallow, large-scale, low-cost bulk mining.

Rex was now exploring the potential of leaching copper oxide closer to the surface to generate cash to fund further development which it plans to do alone.

“It’s not really necessary (to seek a funding partner). Owning the project 100 per cent has been a core focus for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rex had $31.5 million in cash to continue drilling its targets over the next 18 months to further hone its resources estimates.

It would go to its shareholders for further funding down the track. Shareholders were delighted with the news, sending shares 15 per cent higher before they settled at an 8 per cent premium, up 14c to $1.81.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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