Event Review: Victorian Gold Panel
Austmine recently held our Gold Panel Smart Mining Networking event in Melbourne on 27th February 2020.
The panel for the event was:
Exploration in Regional Victoria
The panel began by reflecting on the recent rejuvenation of the Victorian gold industry. The discoveries and mineral production at Fosterville has led to considerable investment in new exploration and investment in the region.
Geoff McDermott, Navarre Minerals, pointed towards technological change as a key reason for this renewed optimism, with the ability to find high grades further below the surface.
“Effectively two thirds of Victoria is undercover. This is the new frontier for the local mining industry and that is the opportunities we are exploring. We are now commencing our biggest drilling program of 50,000 metres and have increased staff and thrown our hat in the ring for the government tender of exploration licences.”
Geoff believes that this would not have been possible without the impact of Fosterville and Costerfield on the investment sector.
Ryan Austerberry, Costerfield, commented that Mandalay’s drilling is also going deeper, while Felicia Binks, Kirkland Lake Gold, mentioned that they hit their 20g/tonne orebody at 650 – 700m below the surface. This has led to further exploration at depth and they are currently 1.2km below the ground.
Innovation for Victorian Gold Mining
As investment flows back into the Victorian industry, there is a renewed appetite from local mining companies to explore value-adding innovations.
Felicia explored Fosterville’s innovation programs, beginning with the usage of bacteria oxidisation to attack other minerals and recover gold 15 years ago. Since then they have utilised the latest resin and cyanide treatment for their mine water plant and are increasingly focused on the impacts that electric vehicles can have on operations. Kirkland’s sites in Canada have widespread usage of EV’s, which accounts for 75% of mobile equipment on site at the Macassa operations.
Ryan discussed Costerfield’s focus on innovation in their energy management with their requirement of more power at site leading to a co-generation project utilising gas rather than diesel. They are also investigating solar but that takes up a lot of land.
Automation has also been a major focus for Costerfield as they move towards almost fully mechanised mining. This has involved partnering with their suppliers to customise equipment to be specific for their operations. Central to this has been the development of underground networks allowing for tele-remote equipment such as boggers and loaders. Long-term a fully networked mine and 5G underground are of interest.
Geoff explored Navarre’s investment in imaging technology to look below the surface and find high grade orebodies. He also compared the ground at their deposits as ‘like trying to drill through a vanilla slice,’ with a hard layer at the surface, soft ground in the middle and another hard layer at the bottom. This means that drilling technology must be best-in-the-market.
Navarre have recently embarked on an artificial intelligence program to identify geology through pattern recognition. Utilising their existing data and mines such as Fosterville, they have worked with CSIRO to machine learn what their own deposits might look like and simulate this.
Social Licence and Community Engagement
The population density and nature of Victorian gold operations means that they are much closer to communities than anywhere else in Australia. This creates an emphasis on community engagement and social licence.
Felicia discussed the importance of partnering with community groups and investing in local infrastructure to ensure there is a long-term benefit and outcome for stakeholders. During this process of community engagement, she signalled the need to be flexible and communicate via different information mediums as critical to success.
Fosterville has been a leader here and Felicia discussed a project undertaken with Deepcore Drilling. They have collaborated around sound-proof sheds for exploration, allowing drilling around the clock without disruption to the local community.
Geoff commented that as an exploration company they are the first face that landowners see. Therefore, it is all about building trust upfront and allaying fears of intrusive mines in their community. Navarre have undertaken a process of community engagement that includes education at local schools, presenting at community functions and partnerships with not-for-profits like Project Platypus.
Aligned with community engagement, the recent gold royalty scheme rolled out by the Victorian Government was discussed. While this will affect the smaller operations far more than Fosterville, all the panellists were on the same page by imploring that the money raised needs to be re-invested into the regions and local communities that will be affected by the tax. They also raised concerns about its impact in on discretionary spending such as innovation programs and the view from investors of Victoria as a favourable mining market to invest in long-term.
Austmine would like to thank Kirkland Lake Gold, Mandalay Resources and Navarre Minerals for their participation.