New Century Resources February 2020

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How New Century has delivered economic mine site rehabilitation to the Century deposit and maintained the social license to operate while building for future growth


he first mining lease in the region of Australia’s North West Queensland was issued way back in 1890. However, it was

not until 100 years later when Rio Tinto’s exploration arm completed the discovery of “big zinc” that 04

large scale mining become possible, hence they named it the Century deposit. This was sold on to Pasminco, which took the open cut zinc, lead and silver mine into production in 1997. While the pipeline and port facility could handle a million tonnes per annum of concentrates, a slow floating ore body meant that Pasminco was faced with metallurgical challenges to optimise production and maximise returns from the operation. The choices available were to increase available residence time through building additional floatation capacity or increase throughput at the sacrifice of recoveries. The latter was chosen due to the lower capital requirements and the large resource available. This ultimately led to the substantial mineral resource in the tailings dam, and the opportunity for New Century.


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“We were able to convert the tailings dam at Century into what was at the time, and still is, the 14th largest known mined zinc reserve in the world — 77mn tonnes of tailings, containing 3% recoverable zinc with homogenous grade distribution” — Barry Harris, Chief Operating Officer, New Century Resources During initial operations, Century 06

was one of the world’s largest base metal mines, churning out an average 475,000tpa of zinc and 50,000tpa of lead in concentrate products over its history. Pasminco went into voluntary administration in 2001 due to numerous corporate issues and the Century asset transferred into a new entity Zinifex. Zinifex did extremely well when the zinc price skyrocketed in 2006 before being part of a merger that created OZ Minerals which, in turn, was acquired by MMG. The latter went on to run the Century mine site through until the exhaustion of the main ore body in 2016. Explaining Century’s chequered past, New Century Resources’ Chief

CLICK TO WATCH : ‘NEW CENTURY ZINC | NEW CENTURY RESOURCES (ASX:NCZ)’ 07 Operating Officer Barry Harris says the

together we could maintain our collec-

company was drawn to the asset when

tive social license to operate.”

it came into care and maintenance.

By March 2017 New Century had

“Prior to this, our Managing Director

taken on the previous care and mainte-

Pat Walta had engaged with MMG over

nance allowances, and proceeded to

a number of years discussing a novel

get the project developed and opera-

approach, that being an economic

tions started through the remining

mine site rehabilitation strategy,” he

and subsequent reprocessing of the

says. “Partnering with New Century

tailings ore body, these activities are all

Resources (formerly Century Bull) was

part of the overall rehabilitation works

the best option for MMG to fulfil all of

and provide revenues to complete

their obligations with the rehabilita-

works required on the mine lease, while

tion of the mine, returning it to a state

generating returns for shareholders.

where it could be handed back to

With AUS$70mn already spent by on

the community, and making sure that

waste dump rehabilitation, MMG had w w w.newcentur

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developed a best in class waste dump

what had gone into the tailings since

cover system for semi-arid environ-

first ore. However, “The first step for

ments that New Century can apply

New Century when we took over was

to the remaining dumps.

to convert the tailings dam into an

MMG also carried out substantial

ore body,” recalls Harris. “We

proof of concept test work prior to the

needed to do that in order to

transaction, determining that a sale-

achieve a JORC — compliant

able zinc product could be produced

ore reserve.”

from the tailings, proving the viability of the project. New Century was fortunate to have

“We drilled out the tailings, using a quarter of the core for assaying to get a clear

tailings sample results for the whole

picture of what the whole

life of mine, and so were able to deter-

ore body looked like, and

mine to a certain level of confidence

what the grade profile was

throughout the entire layered deposi-

and still is, the 14th largest known

tion in the dam,” reveals Harris. “The

zinc deposit in the world — 77mn

other three quarters of that core were

tonnes of tailings, containing 3%

sent off and used to complete a large

recoverable zinc with a homogenous

pilot program; a test work plant was

grade distribution.”

ran to see how we could further opti-

Harris explains that, though hydro

mise the actual operations of the plant

mining is well established globally,

to extract as much zinc as possible.

it’s a method rarely used in Australia.

Between those two approaches, we

“We’re innovating with rehabilitation

were able to convert the tailings dam

of the mined land through the use of

at Century into what was at the time,

economic rehabilitation,” he explains.



Barry Harris Barry Harris is a resource industry professional qualified in mining engineering, mineral economics and corporate compliance with experience in operational mine management, compliance, and the technical and financial aspects of the resources industry. Graduating from the University of Queensland with an honors degree in Mining Engineering, Barry has gone on to complete post graduate studies including a Master of Science (Mineral Economics), and the AICD’s and MIoD Company Directors courses. Barry’s experience within the mining industry includes varied roles in both coal and metalliferous mining, during which he gained First Class Mine Managers certification for all four of the Australian jurisdictions he worked in. With a focus on safely increasing mine physicals, improving standards, cost reduction, technical improvements and system optimisation, he is applying all this experience to his current role as the COO of New Century Resources assets, focused on leading the company in all facets of the restarting of operations; again establishing Century as a significant world zinc producer. w w w.newcentur


“By making rehabilitation a profitable enterprise through what we’re doing, we’re carving out a niche in the industry, we see this as the future for improved environmental outcomes in the mining industry. We’re utilising the best methodology to leveraging the sunk capital and time spent on world class infrastructure, approvals and permitting as well as the very ore body itself to monetise the value left behind in the tailings dam. After remining we’re 12

reprocessing it, and then using subaqueous (below water) deposition to put it beneath the lake in the original pit shell. “Historically, aging mine sites have presented a long-term challenge in Australia and overseas jurisdictions. Our approach shows that mine sites no longer meeting the investment brief of top tier mining companies can still provide opportunity for more focused agile mining companies to come in and extend the economic life, while extracting a lot more value through the process of rehabilitation.” The recommencement of economic activity at Century has involved


Year founded

$300mn Revenue in australian dollars


Number of employees significant engagement with and cooperation from the local community surrounding Century’s operations. “The traditional owners will continue to receive benefits associated with the Native Title agreement that would have otherwise ceased with the closure of Century by its previous owner,” explains Harris. “More widely the local governments will continue to receive premium benefit through rates, and other industries will gain through Century engaging with local businesses buying services and products from them.” w w w.newcentur



local communities in Doomadgee, Normanton and Mornington Island, which is assisting with sustainable community development goals identified by the community representatives themselves. “We took a different approach to how this was done previously,” explains Harris. “Previous owners used to spend a lot of that money training up people to be truck drivers, grader operators and other mining specific skill sets on the actual mine lease.What we have done differently is engaged with the


local communities, and asked them what they actually want, which will mean more sustained benefit to the local communities, rather than just Meanwhile, through its port operations

creating employees for the mining

to support the mine’s infrastructure

operation itself”. This scheme is being

New Century is dredging up the chan-

spearheaded by Shane Goodwin,

nel at its Karumba facility, opening up

our Head Of Stakeholder Relations

economic opportunities to the sports

and Community Engagement, which

and fishing industries, which otherwise

has been recognized through the

would have been compromised by the

Aboriginal Enterprises in Mining,

silting up of the river.

Energy, and Exploration (AEMEE)

Currently employing 350 people, New Century is also rolling out a AUS$1.8M per annum training and development program for the

Awards, and more recently the Prospect Mining Awards.” The main focus for 2020 remains ramping up operations to 12mn tonnes

per annum of tailings throughput

ore feed. Our current mine life extends

through the existing infrastructure. To

up to 2026 and gives us a platform to

support this goal, New Century have

then further define and bring into the

embarked on a programme of infra-

life of mine the known in-situ resources.

structure refurbishment to upgrade the

Everything that we do, be it open pit

hydro mine and processing plant. What

mining or underground, the final clo-

are the plans for realising the future

sure and/or rehabilitation of the land

potential of zinc and lead resources at

post any mining activities will be at the

Silver King, South Block, and the East

forefront of all the mine design and

Fault Block? “Future mineral resources

planning decisions made up front.”

across the mine leases will be the sub-

Forging strong alliances has been

ject of an executable feasibility study

key to the progress made so far at

during 2020,” reveals Harris. “The

Century. “We partnered with National

potential to restart traditional mining

Pump & Energy and Paragon Tailings,

operations at Century will be investi-

who assisted in the development of

gated further for economic viability, it’s

our hydro mining operation, getting

then a matter of optimising when these

those off the ground and training

resources fit best into the life of mine

up the workforce in how to actually

“Zinc prices will rise and Century will be well-placed to meet the demand for mine supply thanks to the investment we’ve made in expanding our facilities” — Barry Harris, Chief Operating Officer, New Century Resources w w w.newcentur




Meeting the demands of the zinc market Zinc is a commodity very much driven by industrial demand which has remained strong, however with the current global trade disputes, sentiment around that demand has been muted. New Century Resources’ Chief Operating Officer Barry Harris expects to see this sentiment turn once these are resolved. “The zinc market globally is about 14n tonnes of refined metal per annum, with mine supply and the mining capacity fairly well matched in recent history,” he

notes. “What happened is that China went from focusing on quantity of tonnes, to quality of tonnes. Over the last few years they’ve been tightening up on their environmental compliance, and with that about 1.3mn tonnes per annum of refining capacity was actually turned off, because those smelters had to put in additional environmental compliance works to get up to a standard that the Chinese government are happy with. That’s why the refined metal stocks dropped

off to a point where right now there’s only about 50-60,000 tons of refined metal on the LME stockpiles.” Alongside this demand thematic, more mine supply than smelting capacity has led to the current record high treatment charges. “It’s an interesting conf luence of events,” observes Harris. “With the smelting capacity in China now turning back on, those charges will start to drop. Those record high treatment charges have meant, combined with a relatively low zinc price, that mining companies take home has been squeezed dramatically from historic average. What you then see happen is quite a lot of marginal supply from mining concentrate suppliers has been turning off. We believe we’re about to see a major turnaround in this balance, as smelters work their way through the build up in concentrate supply, and all the additional smelting capacity comes back on. You can see it in the numbers, the month on month Chinese refined metal outputs are growing substantially, as those smelters are coming back online.

This restarting of capacity will result in a drawdown on the current concentrate build up, which will then require a supply response, however we are seeing that there’s not actually the additional mine supply available to feed into this drawdown. The other key factor you need to see to drive a step change in the zinc price, is for global sentiment around the trade disputes to settle. If one or both of these occur, we anticipate a substantial increase in the zinc macro environment” Harris believes that when the US and China come to an agreement, demand will take off again for industrial metal. “We’ll see a huge demand for copper and associated base metals do to expected increased economic activity,” he says. “Zinc prices will rise and Century will be well-placed to meet the demand for supply, thanks to the investment we’ve made in expanding our facilities which will increase our output while lowering our operational costs to make our business more resilient through any price cycle and ready to take advantage of higher pricing.” w w w.newcentur




carry out hydro mining operations,”

the project up and running in record

says Harris. “We also partnered with

time. Allied to this, we’re working with

Sedgman, which gave us a strong

Murray Engineering, which supplies

partner for the refurbishment, and

and maintains our mobile fleet, while

with the operations and maintenance

P&O operates our 5,000 tonne trans-

of our processing facilities both at

shipment vessel, the Wunma, out of

Lawn Hill and Karumba. Sedgman is


a well-known processing plant infra-

Operating for just over 14 months,

structure company here in Australia,

Century is now among the top 15

bringing a wealth of experience to the

zinc producing mines in the world

full refurbishment and helping us to get

and pushing for the top 10. “We’ve

“The traditional owners will continue to receive benefits associated with the native title agreement that would have otherwise ceased with the closure of Century by its previous owner” — Barry Harris, Chief Operating Officer, New Century Resources


managed to attract a great team of

repeated elsewhere. It’s a huge oppor-

people and have been working hard to

tunity to see mining through a different

foster a culture where our people enjoy

lens, not only here in Australia, but

coming to work and share the values

throughout the world.”

driving our success,” affirms Harris. “As we stabilise operations at Century, and look at ways to extend the mine life, we want to be an example to other mining companies of the great things that can be achieved through economic rehabilitation and hope to see the process w w w.newcentur

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