Gold miner Westgold Resources (ASX: WGX) has restarted operations at the Big Bell underground mine in Western Australia and expects it to become the “largest single mine in the Murchison region”.
The company today announced underground sub-level cave mining has recommenced at the site, which is located within Westgold’s Cue Gold Operations and has been idle and flooded since 2003.
Westgold said the first mass cave blast was initiated on Monday and “paves the way for the planned ramp up in mine output that targets steady-state production rates by the end of CY 2020”.
Westgold executive chairman Peter Cook said Big Bell used to be one of the largest single mine gold producers in the Australian gold sector.
“Big Bell is key to Westgold’s plans as it represents the last critical piece in our Murchison strategy.”
“Our dominant land position, three operating process plants, over 9-million-ounce resource base and our unique position as owner operator provides the strategic platform to underwrite more than 300,000 ounces of production per annum in the longer term,” Mr Cook said.
Returning Big Bell to its former glory
Gold was first discovered around Big Bell in 1910 and a total of about 2.7Moz of gold was produced from the area prior to Westgold ownership.
Most recently, about 1.17Moz of gold was produced from underground mining during 1995 to 2003.
In 2003, technical and economic factors including a gold price of under $500/oz saw the mine close and the processing plant was sold a few years later.
Westgold acquired the project in 2011 and in 2016, it started setting up and re-establishing the mine for long term, sustainable gold production as part of its Central Murchison gold strategy.
The mine has been progressively dewatered and access drives have been rehabilitated with new development extended to enable the extraction of remnant and new ore horizons.
According to Westgold, Big Bell has been re-established as a “technology-driven modern mine” through the installation of new technology, a substantially more sophisticated ground stress management and support regime, and an improved extraction method that is expected to reduce geotechnical risk.
“After nearly three years of substantial capital reinvestment and hard toil, we are on the cusp of returning Big Bell to its former glory,” Mr Cook said.
“Big Bell will become our largest single mine in the Murchison region and restarts with a 10-year mine life with excellent resource extension potential,” he added.