Mount Morgan mine pit.
Mount Morgan mine pit. Chris Ison

Norton ready to cash in on gold

NORTON Gold Fields stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars mining the tailings of the old Mount Morgan gold mine.

Rockhampton Regional Council, which owns a number of parcels of land covered by the mining leases, will get $1.

Councillors this week approved an offer of compensation from the mining company which is currently renewing the leases that will allow it to cash in on the glittering riches left behind when what was formerly the world's most productive gold mine closed 30 years ago.

A buck was offered, and a buck was accepted.

No councillor suggested that it might be in the interest of ratepayers to negotiate for a bigger slice of the action.

A report to councillors, which recommended that the $1 compensation should be taken, said that although as a landowner the authority was entitled to compensation under the Mineral Resources Act, the impact on the council's land would be minimal.

"Mining will not be permitted or conducted on council land. As Norton considers the Mount Morgan project will have considerable economic and community benefits, and will support the mine rehabilitation project, the council has been offered nominal compensation of $1 for renewal of the mining leases," it said.

The report went on to say that the compensation was reasonable and previous legal cases had set a precedent.

The Department of Resource Management - in other words the State Government - had also accepted $1 in respect of its land on the mining leases.

Mayor Brad Carter said yesterday that he was keen to see the project progress as quickly as possible and that once the money started to flow he hoped there would be significant investment by the company in the town.

"The $1 mining lease compensation is a formality, but if things go well the council will benefit substantially through the rating system."

Norton has not yet finalised compensation agreements with affected landholders and negotiations are continuing, councillors were told.

The mining company has been promising to breathe new life into the town by relaunching mining for the last four years. The council has had no update of when Norton intends to begin operations.

In May 2009 it told The Morning Bulletin that it hoped to start work before the end of that year and would transfer essential equipment to Mount Morgan as soon as funding was in place.

It expects to recover up to 35,000 ounces of gold a year from the tailings.

At the current price of $1642 an ounce that's $57.4 million a year.

Norton says there is enough gold on site for 12 years of production, which means it could stand to make almost $690 million over the life of the project.

Additional money will be made from 200,000 tonnes a year of pyrite production and 1000 tonnes a year of copper.

About 40 to 50 full time jobs will be created.

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