An 18% increase to indicated and inferred resources for the Enterprise Gold Project has prompted Norton Gold Fields to commit Aus$40 million to commence development of an open pit. This will make the Enterprise open pit the next base load operation for Norton’s Paddington operations, supplying the bulk of ore to the Paddington Mill 38km to the southeast.
The global indicated and inferred estimate for Enterprise has been increased to 22.5 million tonnes @ 1.69 grams/tonne gold for 1.22 million ounces. The update represents an increase of 183,000 ounces on the previously reported estimate of 15.4 million tonnes @ 2.10 grams/tonne as at June 30, 2012. A probable ore reserve has been defined comprising 10.2 million tonnes @ 1.72 grams/tonne for 563,000 ounces.
The revised estimate was prepared following reverse circulation and diamond drilling of 130 drill holes during 2012 for 21,535 metres at the Enterprise, Galactica and Enterprise West deposits.
The Enterprise pit is anticipated to provide 5 years of ore production for the Paddington mill resulting in around 110,000 ounces of gold annually. Metallurgical recoveries have been determined at 95% for oxide ores and 85% for fresh ores. Opportunity exists to refine the milling process to increase the recovery for fresh ores.
Norton’s managing director and chief executive officer Dr Dianmin Chen says, “With a higher grade than Navajo Chief, the current base load operation, Enterprise will allow us to both increase Paddington’s gold production and reduce unit production costs. Enterprise represents a significant investment in Norton’s future, its investors and the Goldfields community, and strongly supports Norton’s position as a long-term gold miner in Western Australia.”
Open pit operations at Enterprise using an owner-operator mining fleet and existing infrastructure are expected to commence in April and full ore production is planned for November 2013 at the average annual rate of 110,000 ounces.
There is also considerable potential for an underground operation as beneath the open cut design, a deeper underground indicated and inferred resource component of 3.269 million tonnes @ 3.04 grams/tonne for 319,000 ounces has been delineated. Norton has committed Aus$40 million to the Enterprise Open Pit Project and has also commenced a definitive feasibility study into the underground ore body and anticipates completion before the end of 2013.
“We expect the underground feasibility study will present further opportunities to achieve sustainable growth in gold production,” Dr Dianmin Chen says. “Funding for the project will be sourced from the US$105 million credit facility through the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, operations and working capital.”
Norton’s Board has approved capital investment of $38 million for the transition to an owner-operator model at the Paddington operations. The funds will be used to purchase mining fleet to replace, over time, the existing equipment hired from contractors.