50+ JOBS: Key test reveals bauxite mine’s big win
A PROPOSED bauxite mine which could create more than 50 local jobs has cleared another key hurdle, with tests revealing the deposit is "the highest quality … bauxite in eastern Australia".
It's expected the company holds about 37 million tonnes of bauxite at its Binjour project.
However, there will still be hurdles to clear for the eagerly-anticipated mine, including the shabby state of certain key roads in between Binjour and Bundaberg.
In an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Monday, miner Australian Bauxite Limited (ABx) said the tests, conducted throughout 2019, have confirmed "the project can operate at a bulk-scale mining and screening scale and achieve the required bauxite specifications".
A project summary and financial assessment will be reviewed by the ABx board of
directors in mid-December.
If ABx resolves to proceed, a mining lease application will be lodged in early 2020.
The project is fully-funded by ABx's marketing partner Rawmin Mining of India, which will also supply similar bauxite from its Indian deposits to the two companies' customer, Chinese aluminium producer Tianshan.
Tianshan is building an alumina refinery in southern China in late 2020.
The type of bauxite located at Binjour, gibbsite-rich trihydrate (THA), is "ideal for refining into alumina", the announcement said.
"The (tests) … identified an extensive deep bauxite layer … which is the highest quality gibbsite-trihydrate bauxite in eastern Australia."
Aside from its Memorandum of Understanding with Tianshan, an MoU has also been signed with the Port of Bundaberg.
"ABx favours the use of Bundaberg Port because it lies well south of the Great Barrier Reef Park and is sand-bottomed from the point of loading through to international shipping lanes," the announcement said.
The MoU has identified a stockpile location for the bauxite which "requires no trucking though the Bundaberg Port Village, is well shielded by surrounding scrub and has no mangroves along the river banks in that location".
The announcement did, however, note that the mine's sales could be impacted by the company's ability to truck the bauxite from Binjour to Bundaberg Port.
"At present, the expectations are that high-efficiency trucking over a road distance of 200km to the Bundaberg Port will be required," it said.
"This road haulage stage is the inhibiting factor for annual tonnages sold."
In April, chief executive and managing director of ABx, Ian Levy, told the Times that the mine's expected 20-year lifespan could be extended "indefinitely" with upgrades to the North Burnett road network.
"There are about half a dozen bridges standing in our way," he said.
"They're innocuous bridges, often just culverts built 100 years ago."
He also mentioned a "road widening here or there".
However, Mr Levy today confirmed the number of bridges which would need work has been downgraded to two, and that road widenings would not be required until production ramps up in the future.
ABx has been exploring the Binjour deposit since its discovery in 2011 - 2012.
After nearly a decade in the works, by this time next month it should be known whether the mine will go ahead.
It's crunch time for the Binjour project.