Just weeks out from the start of commissioning of the DeGrussa processing plant, about 150km north of Meekatharra, Sandfire Resources’ flagship project and WA’s biggest copper mine has taken shape.

About 4000 tonnes of direct-shipping chalcocite, containing between 30 per cent and 40 per cent copper and dug out from the 100m deep open pit, are lying on the run of mine pad, waiting to be crushed prior to being trucked to Geraldton and shipped to Asian customers.

First stockpiles of DeGrussa’s sulphide ores, which make up the majority of its 11.9 million tonne resource, are ready for commissioning of the 1.5 million tonne a year processing plant.

And the Evans decline, named after Sandfire’s technical director John Evans, has advanced about 1.5km and to a vertical depth of about 230m to access the sulphide ore.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that DeGrussa’s development is proceeding on budget and on schedule, no mean feat in the cost-inflationary environment that is dogging WA’s mining sector.

Sandfire’s progress over the past 12 months was not lost on the 80 or so shareholders, analysts, brokers and media who travelled to DeGrussa yesterday en route to Diggers & Dealers in Kalgoorlie- Boulder.

No wonder Sandfire managing director Karl Simich couldn’t wipe the beam off his face.

And, unlike last year’s trip to DeGrussa, arranged by Sandfire to showcase the commencement of construction of the $390 million project, yesterday’s flight did not have to land at Wiluna, an hour’s bus drive away, but could touch down at the mine site’s own aerodrome.

The Mark Creasy-backed Sirius Resources may be dominating all the investor attention courtesy of its Nova nickel-copper discovery north-east of Norseman — reverse circulation drilling is under way to confirm the initial exploration success — but it won’t be easy to match Sandfire’s record of just over three years from discovery to mine commissioning.

And Sandfire’s progress also provides a welcome bit of good news for the embattled mining sector.
By the end of this year, DeGrussa should be producing first concentrate as the ramp-up begins to nameplate production of 77,000 tonnes of copper and 36,000 ounces of gold a year. The reporter travelled to DeGrussa as a guest of Sandfire Resources

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