Archive | Australia/New Caledonia/Papua New Guinea Mining

Constraints shackle [Australian mining] boom – by Wayne Cole (National Post – June 23, 2011)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Australia’s road to resource riches is proving bumpier than first thought as miners struggle to meet ambitious investment plans, another reason for the country’s central bank to go slow on further interest rate rises.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has long assumed it would have to tighten policy to temper inflationary pressures from a mining boom. But the sector’s race to meet red-hot demand in China and India is running into other constraints, from dire weather to a dearth of skilled labour.

“The mad rush to spend is already dissolving into delays and cost overruns, so there’s no way the mining industry is going to meet its investment targets,” said Brian Redican, a senior economist at Macquarie.

A record A$430-billion ($442billion) in resources investment is either underway or on the drawing board in Australia, a real stretch for an economy with an annual output of A$1.3-trillion. Continue Reading →

Is a Profitable Nickel Laterite (HPAL) Mine a ‘Black Swan’? – by Patrick Whiteway (Canadian Mining Review Blog – January 31, 2011)

Canadian Mining Review: Discussing ideas and issues related to mining in Canada 

Thoughts on mining nickel laterites inspired by two recent books: ‘Linkages of Sustainability’ and ‘The Black Swan.’  

It’s October 2008 and I’m relaxing in a second-row seat of an air conditioned tour bus. It’s crossing the Swan River in beautiful downtown Perth, Australia, when the driver suggests to passangers that the river should be called the Black Swan River. That’s because 300 years ago, he explains, European explorers first visited this part of Western Australia and saw black swans for the very first time. Up until then, the only swans they had seen were white ones. Seeing black swans on this wide, lazy river revolutionized their thinking.

Reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s best-selling book “The Black Swan,” could revolutionize your thinking. This book is all about highly improbable events. Taleb skillfully questions how we think about these events that turn out to have serious consequences. He calls them ‘black swans’ and as I’ll show here, they have a significant role to play in the mining industry.

As a Canadian mine engineer who has visited and written reports on many mines in Canada, I can tell you that improbable events, sometimes called simply luck, surprises, randomness or human error, have enormous consequences for the success or failure of many mines. The only successful, high pressure acid leach (or HPAL) nickel laterite operation in Australia is one of my favorite examples. Continue Reading →

Honourable Norman Moore MLC, Western Australia Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Vancouver Speech (March 3, 2011)

This speech was given at the Canada-Australia-New Zealand Business Association Luncheon, Sutton Place Hotel, Vancouver, Canada on March 3, 2011.

“Despite the global financial crisis, Western Australia has enjoyed
a decade of average annual economic growth of about 14 per cent,
which is an outstanding result by any measure.”
(Western Australia Minister Mines and
Petroleum, Norman Moore, Mar/3/2011)

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to thank Nerella Campigotto, President of the Canada-Australia-New Zealand Business Association, for inviting me here today. I always enjoy the opportunity to talk about Western Australia’s resources industry.

I have been a member of the Western Australian Parliament since 1977 am currently the longest serving sitting member. I serve the state government proudly and have seen many changes to the economy over the past thirty-four years. Nonetheless, I remain focused on the future.

Both the Australian and Western Australian governments place great importance on ensuring their economies reach their full potential. Far from simply enjoying the short-term material benefits of increased employment and wealth, we aim to build a sustainable long-term industry, with all the benefits this brings.

Western Australia is blessed with geology that makes it highly prospective for most mineral commodities and we have a highly skilled exploration sector seeking to exploit that prospectivity. Continue Reading →

The Thunder From Down Under – A History of Nickel Laterites – by Stan Sudol

The Canadian Mining Journal is Canada’s first mining publication.

This article was originally published – August/2005

Everything you wanted to know about laterites but were afraid to ask

The last few years of the 20th Century were not very kind to the nickel industry. In October and December of 1998 the LME price for nickel dipped to US$1.76 a pound, the lowest level ever, if you factor in inflation. The imploding Russian economy was dumping nickel on western markets, the Asian currency crisis was annihilating economic growth and metal demand, and new lower-cost mine production was threatening to come on stream.

Of great concern to Canadian nickel giants Inco Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd., the second and third largest producers after Russian MMC Norilsk, was an upstart Australian company called Anaconda Nickel Ltd.

Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, Anaconda’s chairman, was well known in Australian mining circles for his legendary salesmanship and determination. One could almost imagine him pounding the table like Nikita Khrushchev and boasting that “he would bury the West with low-cost laterite nickel.”

Continue Reading →

Australia Prepares to Overtake Canadian Uranium Production – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

Australia will quadruple uranium production pushing itself ahead of Canada as the world’s largest producer. Australian state premier Mike Rann made this boast to a group of Indian journalists at the Citi Australia and new Zealand Investment conference earlier this month, according to a report in The Hindu of March 8, 2009.

The single project that would rocket Australian uranium production ahead of Canadian is the expansion of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine. The company is looking at the feasibility of expanding output from 4,300 t/y to 19,000 t/y. That would create a single mine that could produce 35% of the world’s current uranium needs.

The newspaper account did not specify whether all those tonnes per year were elemental uranium or uranium oxide. A quick peek at the BHP Billiton website confirmed that the annual output is tonnes of U3O8.

Continue Reading →

Western Australia Lifts Uranium Ban – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

The six-year ban on uranium mining in Western Australia has been lifted, newly elected Premier Colin Barnett announced on Nov. 17, 2008. New mining leases will no longer exclude the hunt for uranium.

Australia is the world’s second largest producer of uranium (19.7 million lb U3O8 in 2006), behind Canada (26.7 million lb). Between them they account for half the world’s production. With the hunt on again for new uranium producers in Western Australia, that country may give Canada a run for the its top-ranked status.

The change in policy will benefit companies with advanced projects in Western Australia.

Canada’s Cameco Corp. looks like it was ahead of the curve when it partnered with Mitsubishi Development (30%) to pay US$346.5 million to buy the promising Kintyre deposit earlier this year. The project, located 1,250 km northeast of Perth, is in the advanced exploration stage. The original uranium discovery was made in 1985, and former owner Rio Tinto eventually outlined eight separate deposits. Cameco estimates that the Kintyre project may host between 62 million and 80 million lb of U3O8 with grades averaging 0.3% to 0.4% U3O8. These numbers do not comply with 43-101 definitions.

Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – James “Philosopher” Smith (1827-1897)

The legendary Tasmanian prospector and discoverer of tin at Mt Bischoff in 1871

James Smith was born in 1827, the second of three children to John Smith and Ann Grant, who married after coming to Tasmania as convicts. James had an unsettled family life and in 1836, at the age of 9, he became the ward of John Guillan, a Launceston miller and merchant.
Smith wrote little about his early life, though it appears he had a rudimentary education in Launceston. At an early age he started working at Guillan’s flourmill at the Supply River, where he also began to take an interest in exploration and minerals. Smith’s fellow apprentice Charles Monds probably introduced him to Congregationalism (also known as Independent), which would provide much of his moral framework.

Smith’s zest for self-education was already evident in his adolescence. He bought books on many topics, possibly doing so as a result of the influence of the popular Scottish geologist Hugh Miller, who encouraged ‘self-culture’ – the idea that workingmen could improve themselves by achievement and study, particularly of the Bible. Smith and the journeymen he lived with attended the Independent Church where, according to Monds, Smith’s developing faith set him on his successful life’s course. It is also likely that membership of the church community shaped Smith’s lifelong friendships and business associations, perhaps even where he subsequently lived, for James Fenton, the pioneer Forth settler and Smith’s neighbour, was a Congregationalist and Charles Monds’s brother-in-law.

Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Jupiter Mosman (1861-1945)

The Aboriginal horseboy who discovered the Charters Towers goldfield in Queensland

Jupiter Mosman, whose tribal name is unknown, was born in north-western Queensland and, as a small boy, ‘came in’ to Kynuna Station. There he was ‘acquired’ as George Clarke later wrote, by Hugh Mosman who gave him his non-indigenous name. Soon afterwards the Mosman brothers and John Frazer sold Tarbrax to the McIntyres of Dalgonally and set off for the Cape River diggings. They visited Ravenswood where they became friendly with the prospector George Clarke and decided to look for gold around the Seventy Mile Pinnacle (Mount Leyshon).

Clarke described Jupiter riding behind Mosman, strapped to him and never allowed out of his sight. The party rode through the gap on the western side of what is now called Towers Hill and camped on a creek where, in December 1871, Jupiter discovered the gold-bearing quartz of the North Australian reef: the first mine of the Charters Towers goldfield, the field that ensured the survival of north Queensland as a European settlement.

Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Andrew Fisher (1862-1928)

Andrew Fisher, past prime minster of Australia, symbolised the powerful political influence exercised by the mining fields and miners on that country’s growth as a democratic nation.

Andrew Fisher was three times prime minister of Australia. He led the nation at the time of Gallipoli landing. He had also been a minister in the first Queensland Labor Government (1899) and the first federal Labor government (1904). By occupation he was a coal miner, then a gold miner and finally a mine engine driver. He symbolised the powerful political influence exercised by the mining fields and miners on Australia’s growth as a democratic nation. Significantly his government began the transcontinental railway, so vital to Western Australian and its eastern goldfields.

Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister of Australia in a period when a wide variety of national institutions and policies were being shaped. He was personally respected on all sides of politics.

Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – May Brown (1875-1939)

May Brown was a famous mining entrepreneur; the Northern Territory’s ‘wolfram queen’.

May Brown, mining entrepreneur, the Northern Territory’s “wolfram queen”, was born in Sydney on 24 May in 1875. She first visited the Northern Territory in 1890 when she joined her sister, Florence, who with her husband ran hotels in the ‘Top End’. May Brown continued to visit the Territory until 1901 when she settled in Sydney after marrying George Seale, a former amateur boxing champion. In 1902, they had a son, George, who later married Mary Fisher, a Territorian.

May’s first husband, George, died in 1906 and six months later she married James Burns, a Territory wolfram miner. The pair moved to Pine Creek a small township near Burns’ Wolfram Creek and Crest of the Wave mines. May started to work in the mines alongside her husband and their Chinese tributers.

Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Lang Hancock (1909-1992)

Lang Hancock discovered and promoted  the vast iron ore deposits in the Pilbara of Western Australia

On 16 November 1952 prospector and pastoralist Lang Hancock and his wife Hope were flying over the Hamersley Range in Australia’s rugged Northwest. Bad weather forced Hancock to fly low over the headwaters of the Turner River. From the cockpit Hancock noticed large bands of red rock on the hills below and wondered if they might be iron ore. Six months later he returned to the Turner River and confirmed his discovery; a discovery that provided the impetus for the establishment of the huge iron ore mines in Australia’s Northwest. Hancock’s aerial prospecting earned him the title “The Flying Prospector”.

Langley Frederick George Hancock was born June 10 1909. He was a descendent of the pioneering Hancock family who had arrived at Cossack on the Sea Ripple in 1864. His father, George Hancock, built the homestead at Mulga Downs station and it was here that Lang Hancock spent most of his childhood, eventually becoming the station manager.

Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Edward Townley Hardman (1845- 1887)

Edward Townley Hardman was a geologist who discovered payable gold in Western Australia’s Kimberley District
Western Australia

As an inductee in the category of Prospectors and Discoverers, Edward Townley Hardman is recognised for his important role in the first discovery of payable gold at Halls Creek in Western Australia in 1885.

After graduating with a Diploma in Mining from the Royal College of Science in Dublin, he joined the staff of the Geological Survey of Ireland then was chosen by the Colonial Office for the position of Government Geologist in Western Australia. Hardman accompanied expeditions to the Kimberley district in the mid 1880s and after panning for gold in several watercourses, discovered the colony’s first commercial goldfield in the headwaters of the Elvire River, later to become known as Halls Creek.

During his time based in Perth, Hardman was also active in examining the geology of the South West. He is generally credited with being the first to find tin at Greenbushes and to report on the prospects for finding artesian water in the Perth area.

Hardman will always be remembered for his pioneering geological work in Western Australia leading to the first discovery of gold in the East Kimberley and to the beginnings of the State’s mining industry. The success of his work led directly to the establishment of the Geological Survey of Western Australia as the colony’s first scientific organisation.


Tim Griffin

For more profiles of the men and women who made Australia a global mining powerhouse, go to:

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Kitty Pluto (Unknown – Unknown)

Kitty Pluto was one of the most successful Aboriginal prospectors on the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.

Aboriginal people have been involved in Australian prospecting and mining from its beginning. Aboriginal guides and assistants were as crucial to frontier prospectors as they were to explorers; their bushcraft was used to find mineralisation as well as tracks and water. On the small remote fields of the north, their labour was particularly important. Henry Reynolds cites the Mulgrave mining warden writing in 1891, that local Aborigines were “Very useful to the miners, who have so many difficulties to contend against, in a country so much broken and covered with so dense a jungle”. On the Rocky goldfield, on Cape York, local Aborigines carried in all supplies because the country was too hard for packhorses.

Aborigines also prospected and mined, either alone, or as partners or assistants of non-indigenous miners. Unfortunately, they are seriously under-documented and we know only a few of them by name. Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Tom Flanagan (1832-1899)

Tom Flanagan was one of the prospectors whose discovery of gold in 1893 paved the way to mining in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia

2. Hannan’s reward claim was registered in two names, Patrick Hannan and Thomas Flanagan, on June 17th 1893.

Kalgoorlie#47; Boulder’s Golden Mile is recognised as the richest mile in the world. The gold mines and the nearby city owe their existence to the discovery of gold made by Patrick Hannan, Tom Flanagan and Dan Shea in the area in 1893.

Born in Ireland, Hannan, Flanagan and Shea had migrated to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century. Flanagan arrived in July 23, 1860 at Melbourne and went to the fields at Bendigo in Victoria; Hannan arrived in Melbourne in 1863 and most likely went to join relatives in Ballarat; and Shea probably arrived at the end of the 1860s

By the time they came to the newly discovered fields to the east of Perth in Western Australia, all three had prospected or worked in mines in various colonies.  Continue Reading →

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Athol Stanley (Stan) Hilditch

Athol Stanley (Stan) Hilditche (1904-1992) was a prospector and discoverer of major iron ore deposits in the Pilbara region of Western Australia

Few Australians outside of the mining industry would readily associate Stan Hilditch with the vast iron ore mines of WA’s Pilbara; in the popular view of discovery and progress, other names tend to spring to mind. Yet, Stan Hilditch was central to the discovery and foundation of the Mt Newman mining operations. Upon his pioneering contribution has been built an outstanding legacy in the form of one of the largest iron ore mines in the world: at the time of his death in 1992, the mine had produced considerably more than half a billion tons of iron ore over a period of 23 years and the operators expected that more than this again would come from known reserves.

Aside from the extent of his investigation and discovery in the Pilbara, Stan Hilditch is also remembered for what one Chair of BHP noted as ‘his tenacity, vision and unassuming nature [that] represented the very best qualities of the people of Australia’s mining industry.’

Stan Hilditch was born in Newcastle, NSW, in 1904, and came with his family at a very early age to the Eastern Goldfields of WA. Continue Reading →