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Proof of Concept – KOTH

The firing of the first stope at the King of the Hills underground operation marks another opportunity for a mining contractor to further prove its concept.

Macmahon won both the surface and underground mining at KOTH and is ramping up its operations there.

It is arguably the only tier one mining contractor in Australia capable of both surface and underground mining.

It is not the first time Macmahon has done this either.

The contractor is handling both the surface and underground mining at the Tropicana gold mine 330km east-northeast of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Macmahon has long had an underground mining capability. It used to handle underground mining at Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine in WA’s Kimberley region. However, that capability was bolstered in 2019 when it bought underground contractor GBF.

These days Macmahon’s underground contracts also include St Barbara’s Gwalia and Silver Lake Resources’ Yalgoo gold mines in WA and BHP’s Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine in South Australia.

The contractor also has a significant surface mining capability. Besides Tropicana and Red 5 it has major contracts at QCoal’s Byerwen mine in Queensland, PT AMNT’s Batu Hijau gold mine in Indonesia, Newcrest’s Telfer Gold Mine and Calidus Resources’ Warrawoona gold mine in WA’s Pilbara.

Macmahon chief operating officer Richard McLeod said the KOTH project allowed Macmahon to work to its strengths.

It really allows us to use the talent we have in the underground and open pit.”

McLeod said Macmahon operated its business on three main pillars: surface, underground and civil contracting.

Red 5 decided that getting contractors to mine its surface and underground workings would reduce its risk.

When it tendered the surface and underground jobs separately.

Having Macmahon take over both made life much easier for Red 5 because it meant there was one contractor managing both the surface and underground, making site communications and mining management much simpler.

McLeod said the KOTH job was modelled on the success Macmahon had at Tropicana in handling both the surface and underground mining sides there.

The best part is, there could be other opportunities for Macmahon to pursue these dual threads emerging.

“I think it’s always been a trend in the industry, if you look at how many old pits have gone underground,” he said.

“We’re certainly looking for every opportunity we can.

“For us its about being able to offer a product across our three pillars.”

Australia’s Mining Monthly  |  Noel Dyson  |  18 July 2022