Thursday, 3 November 2011

Silicon deposit bonanza

10 million tonnes of silicon ore discovered 380km west of Cairns

Nick Dalton
Thursday, November 3, 2011
© The Cairns Post

AT least 10 million tonnes of silicon ore worth $25 billion at 2011 prices has been discovered 380km west of Cairns.

The company behind the discovery believes the multi-billion dollar find could lead to a $500 million processing plant being built at Georgetown, which would employ hundreds of people within five years.

Atherton Minerals Exploration yesterday revealed details of the mineral deposits. Also yesterday, Cairns stepped up its campaign to become a major fly-in, fly-out hub as part of moves to diversify the economy, by hosting a mining and gas jobs expo and also, there was a seminar highlighting the region’s mining capabilities for representatives of six resources corporations.

Atherton Minerals managing director Peter Smith said the company believed a processing plant based near Georgetown could be operating in five years and it would have a life of 20 to 30 years. He said there was at least 10 million tonnes of silicon ore in the deposits 8km from Georgetown. Silicon ore is worth about $2500 a tonne. "There’s a minimum of 10 million tonnes of silicon ore but there could be up to 15 to 20 million tonnes," he said. Mr Smith said the deposits, over a 150sq km area, were the largest and best quality silicon ore in Australia and probably the world.

Atherton Minerals Exploration, a privately owned all-Australian company based in the Northern Territory, had received good results of the bulk testing of the Georgetown deposits by a prominent West Australian silicon metal producer. He said the company had started applying for mining leases which should be granted within six months. Mr Smith said the company would hold talks with joint partners to raise the finance required for the project. "There’s been a lot of interest in China, Korea, Australia and Japan," he said.

He said Georgetown was ideally located with port access on both sides of Cape York, established road access and the existence of a reliable high capacity electrical power supply. Mr Smith said the smelter had the potential to employ many people. He said the company was in the process of shifting its head office from Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory to Cairns.

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