By Matt Bran, ABC Rural
A resources company has begun a pre-feasibility study into reviving a magnesite mine in the Northern Territory and exporting material through Darwin port.
Thessally Resources owns the Huandot magnesite deposit near Batchelor, 80 kilometres south of Darwin.
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Initially discovered by BHP in 1979, the deposit has since had multiple owners including Commercial Minerals Limited, which in 1995 exported a 26,000 tonne “bulk sample” to Canada.
Magnesite is commonly used in steel manufacturing because of its high heat resistance, making it perfect for lining blast furnaces, kilns and incinerators.
But it’s increasingly being used by other industries and is in demand for a diverse range of products such as chemicals, livestock supplements and environmental solutions.
Thessally director Jeff Elliott said the diversity of potential customers sparked the interest of Thessally Resources to investigate mining in the Top End.
“The main thing is that this deposit is 80 kilometres from the Darwin port, it’s adjacent to the Stuart Highway, adjacent to the railway, power and gas. It’s the best high-grade magnesite opportunity on Asia’s doorstep in the world,” he said.
“Instead of looking at those historical end-uses of magnesite such as magnesium metal production, what we’re looking at, is quite specialised uses in environmental, agricultural and manufacturing – targeting markets both in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia.”
Mr Elliott said the high-grade deposit near Batchelor could sustain a small-scale mine for at least 20 years, subject to the positive completion of various technical and commercial studies.
Part of Thessally’s pre-feasibility study is looking into the potential of building a processing plant that will convert the raw magnesite into a value-added product called caustic calcined magnesia (CCM).
Mr Elliott said demand for CCM was increasing, and if the Huandot project went ahead, one of its first customers could be the nearby uranium legacy mine at Rum Jungle.
“So CCM is the product that can be applied directly to soils for soil remediation, water treatment, sewage treatment and so on,” Mr Elliott said.
“It’s used for treating soils that are acidic, or where there’s contaminated sites because [CCM] entraps metals.
“So one of the things we’ve been talking to the Northern Territory Government about is, given this deposit’s proximity to the historic Rum Jungle uranium mine site, we could maybe use mining [of magnesite] to rectify a past issue with mining.”
When asked about timelines for starting a magnesite mine, Mr Elliott said the company “was not in a rush” and was spending plenty of time speaking to potential end users, especially in South-East Asia.