Suggestions from locals that the owners of the Beaconsfield Gold Mine in northern Tasmania search a nearby contaminated wetland could lead to a $30 million windfall.
- The mine shut down in 2012 and was bought last year for $2m
- The new owners could be sitting on a new “gold mine” worth $30m
- They are hoping to extract the gold from contaminated soil in nearby wetlands
The owners of the mine have begun removing 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil from nearby wetlands, in the hope of extracting millions of dollars worth of gold.
London-listed NQ Minerals got a pleasant surprise when they listened to a suggestion from locals to test the swamp at the east of the town for gold.
Since the 1870s, untreated water from the mine was pumped into the wetlands between Beaconsfield and the Tamar Estuary.
The company’s executive director, Roger Jackson, said testing found an average gold grade of 3.2 grams per tonne, with an estimated value of $30 million.
“We are not 100 per cent sure of what material in quantity or quality is there but we’ve got a reasonable idea.”
Local knowledge wins again
The Beaconsfield gold mine shut down in 2012, and was purchased by NQ Minerals last February for $2 million.
The mine gained global attention in 2006 when Brant Webb and Todd Russell survived two weeks underground after a mine collapse.
The wetlands area had never been tested for gold before, but locals suggested they should.
“We’ve been around a long time and around the country looking at various projects and one thing I’ve always learnt is locals know best about the local region,” Mr Jackson said.
“There’s been a lot of people work at the Beaconsfield mine, there’s a lot of experience and a lot of skills,” he said.
“There’s a lot of history in that area and it’s been an amazing mine so it was just interesting to talk to locals and that’s how I picked it up.”
‘A pretty expensive exercise’
But the find comes with a catch — it could cost up to $8 million to process the gold.
“This is a pretty expensive exercise to move this material and clean it up,” Mr Jackson said.
“It’s not our legacy, we’ve come along and bought the project and as part of that we’ve offered to clean this area up.
“Whilst it is a bonus, there is a lot of cost that goes against that.”
A fleet of six trucks and about 20 employees is working to transport the material to NQ’s processing plant, with the process set to take several months.
The owners remain confident the mine will reopen.
Construction of a 430-metre decline to access most of the gold underground could start later this year.
They have already discovered a resource of half a million ounces of gold.
“It’s never simple and mining is not a simple process, there’s a number of factors that we want to be sure of before we start up,” Mr Jackson said.
They hope to start mining underground in two years.
“The amount of material or gold that will be extracted from this particular clean-up is minor compared to half a million ounces that we’re talking about that we’ve already found underground,” Mr Jackson said.
Beaconsfield resident and local pub owner Andrew Heap has noticed a lot of work going on in the area.
“I thought it might have been a rehabilitation sort of process,” he said.
“I didn’t realise there’d be gold in there, that’s quite exciting really.”
West Tamar deputy mayor Joy Allen said it would be “a great benefit” for the town if the mine were to start up again.
“It’s great to know that all that gold has been there all that time and now somebody is going to reap the benefits of it and the town will reap it too,” she said.
“[Gold mining] has been happening for the last 100 years in Beaconsfield it’s just that we have had a break.
“But I think people are a little bit hesitant, some people are, about things that have happened in the past but employment wise, it’s better for shop owners, more people in the town, long-term is going to be a great benefit.
She was yet to speak to the company about their plans but said it would “be wonderful” to have the wetlands rehabilitated.