Ore production has commenced ahead of schedule at Xstrata Zinc’s $296 million Lady Loretta mine in northwest Queensland, Australia. First deliveries of zinc-lead-silver ore trucked into Mount Isa for processing will take place later this month. The early production, which accompanies on-going development of the underground zinc-lead-silver mine, is well ahead of the original scheduled start date.

Full scale commercial mining at Lady Loretta will begin in mid-2013, delivering at full production an estimated 1.2 million metric tons per year (mt/y) of ore. This will deliver an expected net increase in annual zinc production of 20% for Xstrata Zinc’s Mount Isa operations.

“We are taking early advantage of Lady Loretta’s higher grade zinc, which will improve the overall quality of our Mount Isa resource base,” said Brian Hearne, COO, Xstrata Zinc Australia. “It is all part of our plan to increase mining and concentrate production from the region.”

The Lady Loretta deposit contains an estimated 12.7 million mt reserve, consisting of a 14.2% zinc and 4.8% lead grade, alongside 84 g/mt of silver. The amount of zinc metal contained is assessed at more than 1.8 million mt and lead metal contained at 610,000 mt over a mine life of 12 years.  

Construction commenced in July 2011. The project was originally expected to begin producing by the end of 2013 but in May 2012 the decision was taken to accelerate development of the mine by developing the upper ore bodies independently of the deeper underground resources, and to increase the annual ore production rate from 1 million mt to 1.2 million mt.

Lady Loretta’s ore will go through primary crushing on site before being transported to the Xstrata Zinc Mount Isa complex for processing. There, blended with ore from the George Fisher underground mine, Black Star Open Cut and Handlebar Hill Open Cut mines, the high-grade Lady Loretta ore has the potential to lift average grades and metal production and in so doing, support improved cost efficiencies across the North Queensland business.