Saracen Mineral Holdings began commissioning its refurbished Thunderbox gold processing plant in Western Australia in early February. The company acquired the idle open-pit mine and plant from Norilsk Nickel in a transaction that was completed in May 2014. Norilsk had held the operation on care and maintenance since 2007.
Thunderbox is located 45 km south of the town of Leinster in central Western Australia, about 940 km northeast of Perth. Saracen completed a Thunderbox redevelopment feasibility study and initiated an A$65 million redevelopment program in March 2015. Refurbishing of the gold processing plant was the key to bringing the project back into production. Throughput capacity is 2.5 million mt/y. The flowsheet includes a single-stage crusher, SAG and ball mill grinding, and conventional carbon-in-leach and elution circuits.
Stage 1 of Thunderbox redevelopment is based on open-pit mining and is scheduled to produce 597,000 oz of gold over an initial 4.5-year mine life. Saracen is studying the potential for extending the project’s life through development of a Stage 2 underground mine and mining of Stage 3 satellite open pits.
Saracen currently produces gold from its Carosue Dam operations in the South Laverton gold field 120 km northeast of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. Production totaled 167,531 oz during the company’s fiscal year to June 30.