Sandfire Resources celebrated a key milestone in its rapid emergence as one of Australia’s leading mid-tier mining companies with the official opening of the DeGrussa copper mine by the Hon. Colin Barnett MLA, premier of Western Australia and minister for State Development and Science.

The official opening ceremony was held on site at DeGrussa, approximately 900 km northeast of Perth, on the eve of the Annual Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie.

It comes just more than four years after Sandfire first made headlines around the world with the discovery of the exceptional high-grade DeGrussa VMS copper-gold deposit during a drilling program targeting oxide gold managed by Sandfire Technical Director John Evans. In recognition of the stunning find, Evans shared the prestigious AMEC 2010 Prospector of the Year Award with the young contract geologist on the drill rig, Margy Hawke, and Sandfire’s founding director, the late Graeme Hutton.

Since then, Sandfire has set new benchmarks for the rapid and efficient development of Western Australian mineral resources, completing an aggressive resource drill-out, feasibility studies, approvals, financing, construction and development—from discovery drill-hole to first product sales in just three years.

Mining commenced initially via a 2-year open-pit operation in parallel with the development of a longer-term underground mine, which is now ramping up to a full production rate of 1.5 million metric tons per year (mt/y). Ore is fed to an on-site concentrator that produces high-quality copper concentrate grading 25% copper. The copper concentrate is transported for export through Port Hedland and Geraldton.

DeGrussa has already produced more than 70,000 mt of copper metal and 50,000 oz of gold worth more than $500 million since operations started, including 64,017 mt of copper and 42,697oz of gold for the 2013 financial year.

The ramp-up to full nameplate production is nearing completion. Sandfire has provided production guidance for the 2014 financial year of 65,000-75,000 mt of contained copper-in-concentrate and 35,000-45,000 oz of gold. This will cement its position as Western Australia’s largest copper mine. C1 cash operating costs for FY 2014 are forecast in the range of $1.05-1.15/lb, positioning the mine firmly in the lowest cost quartile.

Sandfire is spending approximately $20 million per year on exploration in Western Australia. It also has an active business development program both in Australia and offshore with $10 million committed to exploration and business development.