Red 5 managing director Mark Williams told the Kalgoorlie Miner this week the company would focus on maintaining a processing plant rate of 5.5 million tonnes per annum at King of the Hills to produce 195,000 ounces to 215,000oz of gold during the 2023-24 financial year.
And Mr Williams said there was an aspiration to increase that rate in the future.
“We have a continual improvement program, and we may be able to tweak more out of the mill greater than 5.5 — we’re targeting between 5.5 and 6 million tonnes, internally — but what we’re saying as part of our guidance is 5.5 million tonnes,” he said.
The nameplate capacity of the $226 million facility 28km north of Leonora is 4.7Mtpa.
Red poured first gold at King of the Hills on June 5 last year, and achieved ramp-up to commercial production by December that year.
Mr Williams said the company hit the main ore body in February, which had resulted in more tonnes being extracted than could be processed — which, in turn, allowed Red 5 to prioritise high-grade ore.
Also in February the ramp-up “teething issues” were overcome, and underground operations “hit its straps”, while the company’s underground satellite Darlot mine 80km to the north of King of the Hills “had been a good performer”, he said.
“So essentially from February onwards the three mines have been performing extremely well and we’ve had five really solid operational months,” he said.
Mr Williams said with “the wind in its sails” the focus was on maintaining this momentum for the current financial year.
In terms of challenges to this objective, Mr Williams said “we need to keep an eye on absolutely everything . . . all the time”.
He said he expected the labour market to remain “tight for the foreseeable future” but believed the key to attracting and retaining staff was focusing on Red 5’s “points of difference”.
“We have a short flight. . . from Perth to Leonora, we have a modern accommodation village at King of the Hills . . .we have a great culture, the team has an amazing work ethic, it’s an enjoyable place to work, and we’ve a 15-year mine life at King of the Hills,” he said.
The accommodation village at Red 5’s King of the Hills mine north of Leonora. Credit: Tony McDonough/Supplied
He said the mine life — which is currently set until 2037, plus two years of stockpiles — had meant many staff had the opportunity to rise up the hierarchy of the company.
“Employees have been promoted internally, and there is a strong push for recognition for those internal promotions, and certainly over a long mine life then people can . . .build a really solid career, and we have both open pit and underground, and people can move between the two,” he said.
And Mr Williams said there was much potential to extend that mine life.
“It really is an amazing feature that we have at King of the Hills, not only are we in a tier-1 jurisdiction just north of Leonora, we have a 2.7 million ounce reserve, with King of the Hills one of the top-10 largest endowed gold projects,” he said.
“For mine expansion, where we are focused at the moment at both Darlot and King of the Hills is in the underground area . . . both undergrounds are open in all directions, and this next 12 months we’re focused on resource to reserve conversion.
“We have large resources, and we are looking to convert as much of that as we can into reserves and add mine life.
“So at Darlot we have a two-year mine life, and at King of the Hills we have a three-year underground mine life.
“In an underground gold mine you only have a short life because of the cost and access to drill out the new potential ore bodies.
“(But) Darlot has been going for 35 years, and for most of its life it has had a two-year mine life.
“Darlot is the gift that keeps on giving, and it’s really a unique gold mine in the way that it has been mined continuously for all of its life, which is really a standout compared to the other gold mines in WA.”
He said Red 5 would next financial year look at doing some growth and exploratory drilling.
When asked by the Kalgoorlie Miner about the company’s interest in the recent consolidation of the Leonora district that has been led by Raleigh Finlayson’s Genesis Minerals, Mr Williams replied that he considered Red 5 had started the consolidation back on October 2, 2017 when the company snapped up Darlot and King of the Hills.
“From our point of view, we’ve issued the guidance for FY24, and that was a real watershed for the whole company . . .it’s 195,000 to 215,000 ounces, and that is a seriously large amount of ounces . . . and we’ve created now what is one of Australia’s largest gold mines in six years, so we’re very proud of what we’ve done.”