A new start for Century
During its 16 years of operation, Century was one of the largest zinc mines in the world. MMG purchased Century from OZ Minerals in 2009 and we were proud to oversee operations until mining ceased in August 2015 and the final ore was transported in November 2015.
Located at Lawn Hill, 250km north-west of Mount Isa in the Lower Gulf of Carpentaria, Century mine has seen many changes since Pasminco commenced open-pit production in 1999.
In its sixteen years of operation, there has been more than 600 shipments of concentrate and more than 13 million tonnes of zinc concentrate transported through the port. This averaged about one full export ship per week departing Gulf waters for smelters in Australia, Asia and Europe.
Perhaps the most significant part of Century’s history was the establishment of the Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA). The GCA was the first multi-party native title Agreement and the first native title agreement in Queensland negotiated between Century Mine Limited, the Queensland Government and three native title groups – the Waanyi, Mingginda, Gkuthaarn and Kukatj.
With the signing of the GCA in 1997, Century become one of the first Australian mines to commit to providing meaningful education, employment and training opportunities for Indigenous people. During the mine’s operation, there were times when Indigenous employees made up 25% of the total workforce.
Century was a major driver of development; it provided employment for over 1,000 people from the remote Gulf communities and training and opportunities to local businesses. It also contributed to improved infrastructure and services in the region through rates and royalties. The Century mine and associated Karumba port facility contributed over A$247 million to Queensland through taxes, royalties and rates between 2009 and 2015.
Century’s second life
The standard model of the mining life cycle is discover – develop – operate – close – rehabilitate.
Like many other mining companies, MMG in the lead up to closure increased our focus on closure and site rehabilitation. However, given the lack of economic opportunities in the Lower Gulf we considered it was critical to look at how we could transition these opportunities into ongoing economic activity.
MMG realised that there was an opportunity to generate ongoing benefits based on the residual mineralised material, including tailings, significant infrastructure and skilled workforce available. This was further supported by our desire to ensure the region and state continued to benefit from the project.
Together with dedicated rehabilitation specialist, Regen and the Waanyi people, The Waanyi-Regen joint venture was created to maximise Indigenous participation in rehabilitation activities.
After an expression of interest process, in February 2017, MMG announced that it had entered into agreements with Century Mine Rehabilitation Project Pty Ltd (now known as New Century Resources), to transfer ownership of Century zinc mine in North West Queensland.
As part of the transaction:
- MMG procured the provision, by the Bank of China, of $193.7m in bank guarantees for financial assurance obligations with the Queensland Government.
- MMG provided an additional $34.5m over three years to support existing obligations around site upkeep and environmental maintenance and monitoring.
- MMG established a special purpose trust of $12.1m to support New Century in meeting existing obligations contained in the Gulf Communities Agreement and agreed community projects for the benefit of Lower Gulf communities.
Since the transfer of the asset, New Century Resources has successfully restarted operations at Century with the commencement of tailings re-treatment and zinc concentrate production.
New Century Resources aims to extract value from the existing mine waste and make use of the high-quality infrastructure. It is estimated that tailings reprocessing will be carried out over a period of six years, with the potential to increase the mine’s operations further through a targeted exploration program across the tenement.
New Century Resources will continue to reprocess zinc tailings and rehabilitate the site. Remediation works are underway with the intention of achieving an economic return, generating renewed employment, training and business opportunities for Century and the surrounding communities of the Lower Gulf.
Additionally, there is employment and business opportunities directly linked to the operation; the Waanyi-Regen joint venture continues to provide rehabilitation support and there is renewed investment in the region. The trust created by MMG continues to fund GCA obligations and social development projects.
MMG is pleased that Century has and will continue to remain a vital asset to the region – continuing to generate employment and training opportunities and other ongoing benefits to the communities and businesses of the Lower Gulf and for the State of Queensland.
Visit the Minerals Council of Australia’s website to learn more about our industry’s commitment to mine rehabilitation: https://www.minerals.org.au/mine-rehabilitation-case-studies
- Century processing plant.