Wiluna Mining is fast approaching a major milestone in the staged transformation of its namesake operation in Western Australia’s northern Goldfields in to one of Australia’s biggest gold mines.
The milestone is the commissioning in October of a new 750,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) flotation concentrator at the historic operation to process refractory sulphide ore, more than doubling annual gold output from the current oxide only operation to as much as 120,000 ounces from May 2022.
Wiluna is not stopping there. A stage two expansion to an expected annual rate of 250,000 ounces of gold by 2024 (the concentrator will be scaled up to 1.5 million tpa) is the subject of a bankable feasibility study due to be completed by the end of (calendar) 2021.
Wiluna executive chairman Milan Jerkovic is not sure if the 250,000-ounce annual rate will be the end of the story either.
“We continue to work towards bringing Wiluna (it has a gold resource of more than 7 million ounces, the seventh biggest in Australia under single company ownership) to its full potential,” Jerkovic says.
“What size this is we are not sure yet, but it would seem that a minimum of 250,000 ounces annually through the multi-circuit processing facility we plan in stage two is where the feasibility study is taking us.
“And depending on drilling and discovery, particularly at the largely untested depth of below 600 metres, it could be one of the largest gold mines in Australia.”
Jerkovic also highlighted the exploration potential away from the main mining centre, one with a 120-year mining history in which peak production was also based on the mining and processing of sulphide ores rather than the oxide focus in its recent history.
“When you consider that within our 1600-square-kilometre tenement package we have a potential Wiluna look alike in Regent, as well as two stand-alone potential mining centres in Lakeway and Matilda, the future for Wiluna mining operations looks very attractive,” Jerkovic says.
Jerkovic is the first to acknowledge that Wiluna’s recent history as an oxide gold only producer is chequered. It is why he introduced the transformation plan in 2019, saying at the time it would take three years and would require time, capital and a disciplined approach.
A $39 million capital raising was being wrapped up in May to maintain the momentum in the transformation plan, one that also requires an increase in Wiluna’s underground sulphide ore reserves.
To that end, the feasibility study due for completion at the end of 2021 involves a reserve drilling campaign aiming to add an additional 500,000 ounces to the current underground ore reserve of 661,000 ounces at 4.74 grams of gold a tonne.