By MATT NICHOLLS
HILLGROVE will be mining gold and antimony within months, according to the mine’s owner Roger Jackson.
In welcome news for the Armidale economy, more than 40 people are already working in the refurbished mine, while another 40 will start between now and April.
Mr Jackson said his company Bracken Resources saw great potential at Hillgrove, which has been mined for more than 100 years.
“Official documents say the mine has a life span of another 15 or so years, but we think we can get at least 20 years out of it,” he said.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and money into the mine to get it back up to scratch, and that includes fixing a lot of the environmental aspects that had caused previous owners trouble.”
Bracken Resources purchased the Hillgrove mine from Straits for $30 million last year.
Mr Jackson said he thought the deal was a bargain.
“The price of antimony and gold is quite strong and there’s still a big deposit at Hillgrove,” he said.
“I would anticipate we’ll be producing about 9000 tonnes of concentrate in our first year of production and about 15,000 tonnes per year after 2015.”
Mr Jackson, who grew up in Guyra and studied at the University of New England, said he was glad to be in business in his former backyard.
“The support we’ve had from the local council and politicians has been terrific,” he said.
“I think everyone in town wants to see the mine back in action and thriving, too.”
The Hillgrove mine will run 24 hours a day and seven days a week, with most employees set to work 12-hour shifts.
“At this stage that is the plan,” Mr Jackson said. “It will likely be a four days on, three days off scenario as well.”
Peter Hosking, who was the manager of the mine under Straits, remains in the position, while a number of former employees have returned to work for Bracken Resources.
“We found there were quite a number of ex-Hillgrove workers that were still living in the area, but working at other mines on a fly-in, fly-out operation,” Mr Jackson said.
“None of our workers will be flying in, so while a number of our employees were already living in the area, many will be moving to Armidale so they can work at Hillgrove.”