However, one mine in north-west Queensland is demonstrating how underground shaft mining can extend the lifetime of existing mineral deposits.
The Ernest Henry Mine near Cloncurry is an open cast mine which has received approval to transition to a shaft mine, extending the life of the facility through to 2026 and bringing increased employment in the region.
The mine is expected to create 500 new jobs as a result of this initiative, thanks to an injection of half a billion dollars from the complex’s owners.
Many of these jobs will be in related fields like welding, construction and electrical work, all of which are needed to ensure the smooth running of a large mine.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps opened the new extension recently and cited the opportunities that would come from this new development.
“This extension will double production to around six million tonnes of ore per annum in 2015, producing 50,000 tonnes of copper and 70,000 ounces of gold in concentrate,” said Mr Cripps.
“Mining is now a larger employer of full-time workers in the State than both the agricultural or hospitality sectors, which highlights the importance of the sector to Queensland families as well as economic growth.”
This new mine extension is just one of the projects supported by the state’s ResourcesQ initiative, which provides greater support to the mining industry and will guide the sector’s development over the next 30 years.
Under these initiatives, Queensland is aiming to become a centre of resource exploration, in order to attract greater investments into the state’s mining sector.
Tactics like opening up greater areas for exploration have already been suggested, along with cutting the amount of red tape in place to make growth in this sector easier.
With strong growth in the industry, now might be a good time to consider an apprenticeship in one of the key skills required for these projects. Skills like welding and electrical work will be needed in mining operations across the state, across both open cast and underground shaft construction.
By Leanne de Toerkenczy, Public Relations Coordinator