Wannaway not going away, because there is more nickel?

Australian nickel producer Mincor Resources has ended remnant mining at its Wannaway mine, due to the long-expected depletion of viable ore reserves. The mine will be placed on care and maintenance as of close of business on August 8 while the company continues drilling beneath the old workings, where recent high-grade nickel intersections have demonstrated substantial new ore potential.The company said that the cessation of operations at Wannaway was not expected to have a material effect on group production for the financial year, which is forecast at between 19,500 and 20,500 t of nickel in ore. Mincor said that Wannaway had been expected to close in January 2005, once the original 400,000-t ore reserve had been mined. However, “the dedicated and highly skilled Wannaway workforce had succeeded in keeping the mine operating on a safe and profitable remnant-mining basis for three and a half years beyond that time.”

“We are sad to see the remnant ore finally run out at Wannaway”, said Mincor’s Managing Director David Moore, “but it is really just the start of a new chapter in the life of this extraordinary mine – we have high-grade nickel intersections down below and we hope to see a new mineral resource take shape there in the months to come. In the meantime I want to pay tribute to the hard work, skill and dedication of our Wannaway team, who have done a remarkable job of running the operation on a profitable remnant-mining basis. Most impressively of all, they have done it safely, and to this day Wannaway holds the record for the longest period without a Lost Time Injury among all our mines.”

Wannaway was discovered by WMC Resources and first commenced operations in 1984, producing 647,000 t of ore at 2.3% Ni for 14,871 t of nickel metal until it closed in 1998. Mincor acquired the operation and re-commenced mining in October 2001, with an ore reserve of 400,000 t at 3.2% Ni. This reserve was depleted, as per schedule, by July 2004, and after a further six months of mining the operation was scheduled to close in January 2005. However, it continued as a remnant mining operation until August 2008. In total, Mincor produced 522,000 t of ore at 3.03% Ni for 15,812 t of nickel metal – 24% more than the original ore reserve.

Mincor is Australia’s third largest listed nickel producer. The company is targeting a long term production rate of 20,000 t/y of nickel in ore, and is pursuing an aggressive exploration growth strategy, with eight drilling rigs currently active in the worldclass Kambalda Nickel District of Western Australia.