Great Northern Minerals managing director Cameron McLean.
Great Northern Minerals managing director Cameron McLean.

Boom time for North QLD gold mines

POTENTIALLY millions of dollars of gold reserves and with it hundreds of jobs are being discovered in North Queensland.

Old gold mining areas are coming back online as companies look to explore what may have been missed under the surface.

Great Northern Minerals, which has changed its name from Greenpower Energy, is one of the company's leading the resurgence in some old gold mining areas in the region.

The company is working on three assets about 140km north west of Townsville. They have all previously been mined.

Managing director Cameron McLean said a lot of the exploration the company had done was based on historic data.

At its Golden Cup site, the resource has been estimated at 256,000 tonnes which is equivalent to 30,000 ounces of gold. In today's prices that's worth about $65 million.

It's hoped upcoming drilling at its three assets will find signifcantly larger amounts.

"It's one of those projects where it has been significantly de-risked because there has been drilling done there before, so we're just confirming that," Mr McLean said.

"It's very rare that an exploration company has a bit of a head start on a project like we've had.

"So it's not as much of a punt if it was more of a greenfields site."

 

Drilling at Great Northern Minerals prospect north west of Townsville.
Drilling at Great Northern Minerals prospect north west of Townsville.

 

More drilling at the three sites are planned for next year and there is a possibility the company could open a mine within 12 months.

Mr McLean said there were still questions about where its ore would be processed but decisions would be made on moving forward within 12 months.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive council Ian Macfarlane said prospects like Great Northern Minerals were becoming more common in North Queensland.

"The price of gold is at a reasonable level so companies are using the latest technology and reprocessing of old data to develop these sites," he said.

"There are opportunities that are opening up."

The gold price has risen sharply in the past 12 months. The spot price is $1477 an ounce up from about $1100 last year.

Mr Macfarlane said Great Northern Minerals was looking to work a proven area.

"These developments are a sign of confidence in the industry," he said.

Mr Macfarlane said new technology was helping mining companies get more out of the ground and process it better, which was a large part of the reason older sites were being redeveloped.

"It's always good to see businesses having a crack at an old prospect," he said.

Great Northern Minerals is not the only company that is starting to work older gold areas.

Resolute Mining has breathed new life into the Ravenswood gold mine, which was slated to close.

It has since been put back into production and a decision on expanding it in the future is expected in coming months.

Another company Laneway Resources opened its Agate Creek gold mine this year near Forsayth, which is a historic gold mining region.

Although not a gold mine New Century Resources is one of the biggest success stories in Queensland of a company going back over old ground.

The company is reprocessing zinc from the tailings at Lawn Hill, which used to be run by MMG.

Clive Palmer, who says he will reopen his Queensland Nickel refinery, is looking to process cobalt from its tailings dam.

Resources Minister Senator Matt Canavan said Australia's gold sector was on the up and up, which was great news for potential gold mining operations in North Queensland and workers who would be employed at those mines.

"Our gold exports increased by 48 per cent year-on-year to $7.3 billion in the September quarter and they are expected to continue growing next financial year," he said.

"Increasing prices for gold on the world market is also driving new investment in exploration and the reopening of mines that were previously closed."

Senator Canavan said almost 320,000 Queenslanders relied on the resources sector for their jobs.

"So it's exciting to see former gold mines in North Queensland potentially being brought back into production, creating even more opportunity for local residents," he said.