Five of the biggest new mines

JP Casey 8 October 2018 (Last Updated June 18th, 2020 13:19)

All mining operations are built on finite mineral reserves, and as old mines are exhausted, new ones are built in their place to keep the mining industry moving.

Five of the biggest new mines
BHP’s Newman hub, where the South Flank mine will replace the existing Yandi operation. Credit: BHP

Due to the logistical difficulties of planning a mining operation, and the need for legal approval from the country where the mine is based, there can be significant periods of time between the announcement of a new operation and the start of production.

Here are five of the biggest new mines in the world.

 

Quellaveco copper mine, Peru

Anglo American and Mitsubishi will spend between $5bn and $5.3bn on the new copper project in Peru, which will take advantage of one of the world’s largest deposits of the mineral, with over 1.1 billion tonnes of ore at 0.55% copper reported to be beneath the project.

The company expects to start production in 2022 and increase output to 300,000 tonnes per year at a price of $1.05 per pound the following year.

The project will create 9,000 temporary jobs during construction, and a further 2,500 positions at the site once operations begin. The mine’s potential for encouraging economic growth in Peru and the Moquegua region contributed to the project’s approval by the National Society of Mining, Petroleum and Energy.

In July, the society’s president Pablo de la Flor said: “It is a project that will inject some energy into the local economy and will have a positive impact throughout Moquegua and southern Peru.”

The Anglo American board also approved the plans in July, following 18 months of consultation with what the company called ‘community representatives from the Moquegua region’. Anglo American made 26 commitments to minimising environmental damage and maximising local investment in relation to the mine.

 

South Flank iron ore mine, Australia

With its Yandi iron ore mine facing exhaustion within a decade, BHP announced a $2.9bn replacement, dubbed the South Flank project, to replace production in the central Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The Yandi mine has produced over one billion tonnes of ore since production started in 1991, and BHP aims to increase production with the South Flank project, where an 80 million tonnes per annum crushing and screening plant has already been built.

The new mine is also expected to improve the quality of the ore recovered, increasing the iron grade from 61% to 62% and the proportion of lump from 25% to 35%.

The project will also create 2,500 construction jobs and 600 permanent positions, with the mine scheduled to begin operation in 2021 and produce ore until at least 2046.

The South Flank mine will replace Yandi as one of BHP’s four mining hubs in Pilbara, all of which are significant producers of iron ore. The Newman hub, which includes the world’s largest open cut iron ore mine at Mount Whaleback, has an annual production of 80 million tonnes.

 

Eagle gold mine, Canada

When completed, Victoria Gold’s Eagle mine will be the largest mine in the history of the Canadian territory of Yukon. The project, located in Victoria’s Dublin Gulch property, is expected to eclipse the company’s Olive project in terms of reserves, with 116 million tonnes reported by Victoria, compared to 7 million at Olive.

Production is estimated at 12.5 million tonnes per annum over a ten-year lifespan, with the mine expected to have paid for itself after 2.8 years.

The Eagle mine will employ up to 400 people and cost $288m, and will take advantage of easy access to the site to ensure efficient operations. Victoria has year-round access to the proposed site, with an all-season camp to accommodate 250 people already onsite and an airstrip located just 80km away.

Victoria Gold first received approval for the mine in 2013, earning a quartz mining licence following a recommendation from the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board. The project was granted a water use licence from the territory’s Water Board in 2015, the final permit required for work to begin.

The project has also received approval from the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation, an autonomous people who have historically owned the land where the proposed mine will be built.

 

Letlhakane uranium mine, Botswana

A uranium deposit of 365.7 million pounds, one of the largest in the world, is located 80km from Francistown in eastern Botswana, and will form the basis of A-Cap’s Lethakane mine.

Australia-based A-Caps plans to extract 3.75 million pounds of uranium annually over a lifespan of 18 years, all of which is located within 80m of the surface.

The company completed over 149,000m of diamond drilling and reverse circulation ahead of operations, and was granted a 22-year licence to mine for uranium in 2016, after the Botswanan Government approved the company’s environmental impact statement.

The mine will be located next to A-Cap’s Foley coal mine, a project producing 148 million tonnes of coal per annum.

The Letlhakane project will be A-Cap’s third operation in Botswana, and the proposed site has access to power and transport links over water, road and rail. In 2017, A-Cap entered into negotiations with local communities who live on the land where the proposed mine will be built, eventually agreeing to resettle villages displaced by the mining operations

 

Carmichael coal mine and rail project, Australia

Australian miner Adani and rail company Carmichael are working together to construct a coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland, Australia, and connect it to the state’s Goonyella rail system.

The mine, which cost $11.67bn, roughly A$16.5, is expected to produce 27.5 million tonnes per annum when production starts, rising to 60 million tonnes per annum. It will consist of six open-cut mines and five underground operations.

The rail line will cover 189km, connecting the mines to the ports of Hay Point and Abbot Point, which have been used to export coal for three decades.

The project will also create a large number of jobs, with the Queensland Government anticipating the need for up to 2,475 construction jobs to build the mines and railway, with a further 3,920 permanent positions at the projects.

However, neither the company nor the state has set a date for operations to commence, as the mine’s environmental impact statement is still being debated.

While the mine is considered to be ‘approved, with conditions’, earlier this year the state’s coordinator-general fixed 14 August 2019 as the date for an evaluation report of the project, so no work can begin yet.