Queenstown’s Mt Lyell copper mine offered for sale after coronavirus stalls restart plan

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Copper Mines of Tasmania (CMT) has confirmed its Indian parent company Vedanta Resources wants to sell the mothballed Mt Lyell operation at Queenstown.

CMT had indicated an announcement was imminent, possibly later this week, after West Coast Council Mayor Phil Vickers revealed the news earlier today.

A company announcement followed shortly afterwards.

Vedanta Resources said in a statement that global investment bank Macquarie Capital had been appointed to manage the sale process, and secure a new owner to take Mt Lyell forward.

CMT’s Acting General Manager Clint Mayes said the company had been preparing to recommence operations at Mt Lyell in February, but this restart was put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis, which affected Vedanta’s ability to proceed.

“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,” he 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.”

The mine has been in care and maintenance since 2014 following the deaths of three miners in two separate incidents.

Mayor declares sale ‘a good news story’

Mr Vickers told ABC Radio Hobart this morning that the owners were putting the mine on the market.

“I’ve had a briefing from the GM [General Manager] up there, only a week or so ago, and his indication is that the parent company is considering, or are in the process, of divesting themselves of that mine site,” he said.

“The best result for our community — and for a restart of that mine — is for it to be sold on for somebody that’s prepared to reopen it.”

The state’s Minerals and Energy Council said the sale of the operation would be “a positive thing” if any new owner went in with the aim of restarting mining.

West coast town of Queenstown behind the local mine's headframe.
Three men died in two separate accidents at the mine in 2013 and 2014.(Rick Eaves)

Scene of multiple tragedies

Craig Gleeson, 45, and Alistair Lucas, 25, fell to their deaths in the Mt Lyell Copper Mine when the wooden platform they were working on collapsed on December 9, 2013.

Thirty-nine days later, on January 17, 55-year-old Michael Welsh died after he was crushed by a sudden inundation of mud while removing sediment at the mine.

The State Government has invested heavily in the mine in a bid to restart production.

Three years ago the Government gave CMT $9.5 million for capital works.

Mr Vickers said the funding was spent on improving underground infrastructure.

“So it’s not been wasted — whoever buys that site will get the benefit of that State Government cash injection, and any other cash injections it’s had recently,” he said.

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