Exploration Forecasts and Exploitation Realities at the Woodsreef Mine, New South Wales, Australia

Butt, Barrie ; Znamensky, V. S.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 13
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
The opportunity for an exploration geologist to follow a successful exploration project through the feasibility, financing, construction, development, and exploitation phase is rare. In addition, it is not often that the exploration geologist can be present during the mining of a deposit to explain why certain actions were taken or interpretations made, and to find out how these interpretations turned out in actuality. At the Woodsreef chrysotile asbestos mine in New South Wales, Australia, mining has been- in progress for seven years and the writer of this chapter has been intimately associated with the project during the five years of exploration and seven years of exploitation. The Woodsreef mine has had major production problems, the majority of which have stemmed from the unique characteristics of the ore body and fiber. Because of the latter feature, much research has been undertaken by Woods- reef and other scientific organizations in Australia, England, and Canada regarding the Woodsreef fiber. The answers to some of the problems have negated some accepted concepts of asbestos ore milling and led to the development of new techniques. Some of these new techniques include the adoption of microscopic fiber counts as a routine procedure, the modification of accepted evaluation procedures, the development of new machines for dedusting fibers, and the recognition of a fiber with a unique milling behavior pattern and, possibly, properties. The problems experienced can be broadly divided into those associated with the geology and the physical properties of the fiber. It is possible that the same features may manifest themselves in other deposits around the world, and if they can be recognized during the exploration stages, a feasiblity evaluation may be just a little closer to the actual. The Woodsreef chrysotile asbestos deposit (latitude 30°24' S, longitude 150°44' E) is located 80 km north of Tamworth, NSW, Australia. The mine has been in production for six years and has a present scheduled mining rate of 33.11 Mt/y. An eight rock line mill treats an average of 7000 t/day, after beneficiation, and yields fiber grades in the range of group 4 to group 6 with some floats. The estimated re- serves of 30.56 Mt, with an ore to waste ratio of 1:3.0, are contained in two main zones that are designated the North and South zones. Mining started in the South Zone in 1972 and then, be- cause of the higher ore value, moved to the North Zone in 1975. Presently, there are two distinct open cuts referred to as the South and North pits that will eventually be worked together. The Woodsreef mine is owned by Woodsreef Mines Ltd. and is operated by Chrysotile Corp. of Australia Pty. Ltd., and is one of only two producing asbestos mines in Australia. The second mine is at Baryulgil, (latitude 29°13' S, longitude 152°37' E), and is operated by a subsidiary of Woodsreef Mines Ltd. This operation produces about 500 t/y for a captive market. An exploration program is being conducted in the area surrounding this small producer with a significant degree of success. The concepts developed during the exploitation of the Woodsreef deposit are being incorporated in the evaluation of the Baryulgil area, and if the Baryulgil deposit proves to be eco- nomic it is hoped that this approach will eliminate some of the major crises that have beset the production at Woodsreef during the first four years of operation. The purpose of this chapter is to describe the Woodsreef deposit, and more important, to
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