Newnes-Kaolin Pty Ltd, trading as Sydney Construction Materials (SCM), proposes to develop an open pit operation to extract friable quartzose sandstone at Newnes Junction, on the Newnes Plateau some 10 km east of Lithgow, between the existing Clarence Colliery and Rocla Quarry. The Company will transport the sandstone off-site by rail for processing of the constituent minerals - kaolin and silica sand. Off-site processing will yield a fully graded construction sand for the manufacture of ready mixed concrete, a range of high-purity silica specialty sands, and a range of refined kaolin products.
The friable sandstone resource and its location are unique in terms of geology and proximity to rail transport (the only rail loop on the Newnes Plateau). The friable sandstone is traditionally quarried and processed as a source of construction sand. However, unlike other friable sandstone deposits located in relative proximity to Sydney Metropolitan market areas, the matrix clay content is predominantly pure kaolin. The clay matrices of alternative friable sandstone deposits (Maroota, Somersby, Penrose-Wingello and elsewhere) comprise a mixture of clay minerals that need to be separated and disposed of as waste during sand processing. The Newnes Junction sandstone is unique in that all of its constituent minerals have commercial value. Unlike any other friable sandstone operation in the Sydney Basin area, there will be no on-site washing operations or settlement ponds with their associated waste management issues.
The Newnes Junction deposit is classed as a multi commodity resource. Consequently, it requires a Mining Lease (for kaolin) and an Extractive Industries Licence (for sand). Both of these applications are contingent on the successful outcome of the assessment of the Development Application. The area has been secured by the Company under Exploration Licence 4192 ("EL4192").
The DA & EIS were lodged on 7th July 2003 and all supplementary information requested by the then NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (DIPNR) (now Department of Planning) by 19th April 2005. The DA is now in the final stages of review. The Company has taken part in the Native Titles process and has received no responses or claims. All technical issues have been successfully dealt with.
Exploration work conducted to date includes extensive drilling (81 drill holes), bulk sampling from auger holes, kaolin separation for grade determination, particle size analyses of the sand for concrete use, and chemical analyses of the sand for assessing suitability for flint grade glass production.
Probable reserves of 21,000,000 (21 Mt) of friable sandstone have been defined comprising ~81% fully graded construction sand, ~10.5% specialty sand, and ~8.5% kaolin products. A full resource statement to define reserves in accordance with the Joint Ore Reserves Committee code is currently in preparation.
The proximity of the Project to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area has resulted in the need to implement innovative and far reaching environmental protective measures, rehabilitation procedures, and a mining method for the extraction of sandstone, that is unique in Australia.
Sydney Construction Materials has set a new benchmark in environmental excellence within the area with terraced landscaping of the quarried walls, design features of the pit to cater for a 1:100 ARI 72 hour design storm, a water treatment plant, and extraction through use of a surface miner and scrapers for haulage to an onsite conveyor system for train loading. The final rehabilitation model of the void has been designed to emulate the nearby spectacular Gooches Crater, a natural sandstone amphitheatre surrounding a self-regulating wetland environment.
The Company's green offsets proposal, the "Newnes Plateau Conservation Restoration and Enhancement Project", will provide the vehicle for the Company to take responsibility for the sound environmental management and restoration of the nearby Dargans Creek Area, a neglected former Nature Reserve Area, which was allowed to lapse and revert to Vacant Crown Land.
This Project will provide a partial solution to Sydney's looming sand shortage crisis. With the impending cessation of sand extraction at Kurnell, and the final depletion of sand supplies out of the Penrith Lakes Scheme by 2010/11, the supply of fully graded construction sand to Sydney will decrease by about 1 Mtpa (Kurnell) and 3.5 Mtpa (Penrith). The construction sand from the fully graded friable sandstone deposit at Newnes Junction fits ideally within the industry defined sand grading envelope. The Project area contains in excess of 17 Mt of fully graded, premium quality sand and it is forecast that it will be the equivalent of any existing, blended sand product. At an extraction rate at full production of up to 1.125 Mt per annum from Year 6, this resource will provide Sydney with much needed construction sand for at least the next 20 years.
Although the bulk of product sales by volume will be to the construction and industrial sand markets, the products producing the highest proportion of revenue will be the refined kaolin products. This situation will result from the fact that refined kaolin products are much more valuable commodities, on a $/t basis, than construction sand. The most readily available market for the kaolin will be as a white-firing clay component for the manufacture of bricks, tiles, and pavers. However, the more refined kaolin products, such as cement pozzolans, opacifiers, functional plastic and rubber fillers, whiteware ceramics, refractories, and plasterboard fillers, will comprise the high revenue end of kaolin sales.
SCM is confident that this Project will set a new benchmark for environmentally friendly sand extraction and mineral mining whil providing valuable much-needed resources to the Sydney sand and industrial mineral markets.
© Sydney Construction Materials 2010