BLACK GOLD: Eclipse director Rod Dale and geologist Peter Spitalny get down to earth at Eel Creek.
BLACK GOLD: Eclipse director Rod Dale and geologist Peter Spitalny get down to earth at Eel Creek. Arthur Gorrie

Eel Creek 'black gold' - explorers 'hose down' toxic dust

IT IS the element on which the electric car and mobile phone revolutions depend, along with high grade steel manufacture and the kind of advancing battery technology that is making renewable electricity generation more practical.

And one day, it might even help re-open the Mary Valley railway.

But the element is manganese and its ore, sometimes toxic, is not always popular with the neighbours.

Exploration geologists on site have played down concerns about toxic dust pollution, saying dust-control sprinklers at the mine and sealed containers from there to market should alleviate any problems.

Just black rocks to most of us as we drive past on Eel Creek Rd about 16km out of Gympie, the outcrops are a potential industry for geologists like Eclipse Metals director Rod Dale and consultant Peter Spitalny.

Mr Dale was on site on Tuesday with Mr Spitalny on land owned by Gympie butcher Geoff Buckley.

They are on a flying visit from Perth, where the company is based.

Eclipse director Rod Dale takes a manganese sample rock for analysis.
Rod Dale says this rock is going back to Perth. Arthur Gorrie

They said contemporary mining methods would eliminate toxic dust and the ore would be transported in sealed containers, possibly on the Mary Valley line.

Mr Dale said recent test results were promising, but that minerals and markets do not always keep their promises.

"First you identify areas of potential yield.

"Then you look at the market potential (which includes the vagaries of world commodity prices).

"It is linked to iron ore because of its use in steel manufacture.”

"And most lithium batteries contain more manganese than lithium,” Mr Spitalny says.

Getting to export mining is a step-by-step process.

After testing and surveys and more sampling comes test drilling "and then you're really spending money.

"At the moment we can only say it's interesting, but it is interesting enough for us to fly over and take a look,” Mr Dale said.