China Molybdenum Company (CMOC) and Sumitomo have given final approval for the development of a new block cave mine at their Northparkes Mines joint venture in New South Wales, Australia.

An investment of more than $200m will be made over a period of three and a half years at the project, called E26 Lift 1 North (E26L1N).

Construction of the new block cave mine is scheduled to commence this month and full production is expected to begin in mid-2022.

Once online, this project will produce around 40 million tonnes of copper-gold ore over a ten-year period.

Northparkes is a joint venture between CMOC, which has 80% stake, and Sumitomo Group, which has 20% interest.

CMOC executive chairman and CEO Steele Li said: “We are really excited to see this project come to fruition and to watch Northparkes continue to develop and grow. Northparkes plays a pivotal role in our strong and long-term presence in Australia as an internationally renowned mining company.”

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By GlobalData

The project will include 11km of underground development, an underground primary crusher, conveying systems and associated infrastructure.

During the peak construction period, the project will hire up to 180 people.

Currently, an upgrade of the ventilation system is underway to provide the mine with sufficient air flow.

The E26L1N mine also embraces an increased level of automation and digitisation.

Northparkes acting managing director Hubert Lehman said: “This is a major investment in the future of our business and a very exciting time for Northparkes. We look forward to continuing to contribute to the local community in which we live and work for years to come.”

Northparkes, which has secured the requisite approvals, licenses and permits, is claimed to be the first mine in Australia to use the block cave mining method.

“Northparkes is the world’s most automated underground block-cave mine and we are proud of our history and achievements.”

Northparkes is also claimed to have become the most automated underground mine in the world in 2015, with automated loaders responsible for 100% of ore production. The mine’s owners have permission to mine at the site until 2032.

As of 31 December 2017, Northparkes had reserves of 125 million tonnes of ore alongside resources of 471 million tonnes.

Lehman added: “We know the exploration potential of Northparkes and we believe we will discover more copper and gold deposits to take us even further into the future. Northparkes is the world’s most automated underground block-cave mine and we are proud of our history and achievements. The mine has been operating for 24 years and we have a vision of a century of mining together, here in NSW’s Central West.”