Ernst Henry Mine now underground

AN INVESTMENT of more than half a billion dollars by Glencore means Ernest Henry Mine in Cloncurry has been able to transition from open pit to underground operations.

The mining giant’s $589-million venture was celebrated yesterday with Glencore chief executive officer Ivan Glasenberg and head of copper Telis Mistakidis joining community leaders including Cloncurry mayor Andrew Daniels and state member for Mount Isa Rob Katter for the official opening.

Queensland Minister for Resources Andrew Cripps officially commemorated the milestone, which will facilitate doubling copper production to 6 million tonnes per annum next year.

It will also double annual metal production to 50,000 tonnes of copper and 70,000 ounces of gold in concentrate over an extended mine life to 2026.

“By that time, Ernest Henry will have been operating for almost 30 years, which we know is important for our people, for the community of Cloncurry and for the Queensland economy,” chief operating officer for copper assets in North Queensland, Mike Westerman, said.

Mr Cripps said Glencore’s multi-million dollar commitment to continue to grow the mine would be a major boost to Queensland’s economy and has secured jobs that “would not have otherwise existed”.

The transition to underground shaft mining will  provide jobs for more than 500 employees and contractors.

Mr Westerman said Ernest Henry’s development outlined the production profile and sustainability of Glencore’s regional copper operations.

“Our assets in Mount Isa and at Ernest Henry accounted for about 14 per cent of Glencore’s global copper production in 2013,” Mr Westerman said.

“We’re pleased to have this opportunity to sustain production at a higher rate, continue to support around 500 employees plus contractors and deliver ongoing benefits to the Cloncurry community and economy.”

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