Xstrata Copper has completed the construction of a magnetite base plant at Ernest Henry Mining (EHM) in Queensland, Australia.

The plant part of a A$589m (US$542m) project that aims to transform EHM into a major underground copper-gold operation.

The facility has produced the first magnetite concentrate with first exports expected to start in the first half of 2011 from Townsville port.

EHM general manager Myles Johnston said magnetite processing will extend EHM’s operational life up to 2024, and the transformation of open pit mining operations to a major shaft underground mine will be commissioned in 2013.

Xstrata Copper North Queensland COO Steve de Kruijff said the magnetite processing operation at EHM will produce around 1.2 million tons of magnetite concentrate per annum at full capacity.