Queenstown’s historic Mount Lyell copper mine is up for sale, with potential for a long-awaited restart under new ownership.
London-headquartered owner Vedanta Resources has put the veteran mine on the market and there is understood to have already been interest from possible buyers.
“I really do think it’s a good news story,” West Coast Mayor Phil Vickers said.
“At the moment, it’s not going anywhere except continued planning.”
The mine has been on care and maintenance since three deaths in two separate workplace accidents in 2013 and 2014.
Vedanta had spent big dollars and done much work towards a potential restart, but it never got to that stage.
The state government in 2017 announced a $9.5 million contribution towards works aimed at a restart.
It also offered a $25 million package of payroll tax and royalty relief if production resumed.
“In that time, they have done all the work that’s been necessary, I think, so basically a new owner will simply, in my view, need to do some due diligence and away they go.”
Cr Vickers said he had heard a number of big companies might be interested in the mine.
“It would be at least 180-odd jobs for our region,” he said.
“It certainly would give a boost to local business in the first instance, with contractors being on site, and, longer term, ongoing jobs for the whole region and the benefit to Tasmania as a whole.
“They have got a good identified reserve and there are portions of their lease that have never been explored properly …
“The possibilities with modern technology are endless for that particular lease.”
Vedanta has started a process to divest subsidiary Copper Mines of Tasmania.
CMT acting general manager Clint Mayes said Vedanta recently appointed global investment bank Macquarie Capital to manage the sale process and secure a new owner to take Mount Lyell forward.
CMT had been preparing to resume operations at Mount Lyell in February, but the restart was put on hold due to worldwide coronavirus pandemic restrictions, which it said affected Vedanta’s ability to proceed with a restart.
It said the decision to divest Mount Lyell “enables the near-term restart of Mount Lyell” under a new operator.
“Vedanta’s work has placed the mine in a strong position for the new owner to quickly recommence operations, which will be a great outcome for the mine and for the West Coast community,” Mr Mayes said.
“Vedanta also wants to place on record its appreciation of the strong support the Tasmanian government has provided to keep the mine ready for a restart.”
Macquarie was seeking expressions of interest from potential buyers this month, with an aim of securing a sales agreement by the end of the year.
CMT said the entitlements of the 24 people currently employed at the mine would be safeguarded in the transaction.
Vedanta operated the mine for 15 years until 2014.
Since then, CMT said, there had been “tremendous support and investment provided by Vedanta to prepare for a restart of the operation through investment in feasibility studies, a new mining system, plant maintenance and ensuring a high standard of ongoing environmental compliance”.
Resources Minister Guy Barnett said the $25 million would remain on the table for a new owner, subject to due diligence.
“The current mine owners have spent significant funds keeping the mine in care and maintenance and have also invested in the future of the Mount Lyell operation,” he said.
“I thank Vedanta for their commitment to the West Coast community and our state over a number of years.
“Jobs are the government’s number one priority and we will continue to work with any future owner to see the iconic Mount Lyell mine reopened.”