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Tuesday, 20 October 1964


Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) . - I wish to refer to an item in the report of the Auditor-General which relates to goldmining in the Northern Territory, and in particular to the operations of an ore milling battery at Tennant .Creek. During the year 1962-63 only 495 tons of : ore were crushed at a cost of £1 per ton. There were 106 ounces of gold returned. The net loss on milling operations was £13,717 and the net loss per ounce of gold returned was £129 8s. Id. Perhaps the Minister would ascertain from the departmental officers why these operations have suddenly become so uneconomic. In one year production has dropped from 4,119 tons to 495 tons. There has been a reduction in the production of gold from 963 ounces to 106 ounces. There has been an increase in the net loss per ounce of gold returned from £24 9s. lOd. to £129 8s. Id. It would appear that for some reason or other very poor quality ore has been milled through this battery at Tennant Creek. Reports from other areas of the Territory indicate that a substantial return is being obtained from those areas. Yet the activities of the Government in the Tennant Creek area are showing such poor returns. I would be most interested to know whether the Minister has any information that he could give concerning such poor returns.

I am particularly struck by the falling off in the activities of this Commonwealth instrumentality in the Northern Territory and the great loss that is accruing from' the ordinary milling batteries. Cyanidatior ' has been in the past a relatively profitable activity, from the point of view of the national revenue and also from the point of view of a business undertaking of the Government in the Northern Territory. On the No. .1 tailings dump, which is referred to in the Auditor-General's report, there has been an increase in the amount of tailings cyanided from 1,439 to .1,604 tons. There has been an increase in the production of gold from 206 ounces in 1961-62 to 390 ounces. The net loss per ounce of gold returned has been reduced . from £14,470 to £6,470, but there is still a net loss per ounce of gold returned of £16 Ils. 9d. From the net loss per ounce .of gold returned of £129 8s. Id. on the milling, the net loss per ounce of gold returned of £16 lis. 9d. on the cyanidation, and the net loss per ton of ore crushed at Mount Wells of £6 16s. 3d., it would appear that these activities require rather close examination by the Administration to see that the facilities that are being offered by the Administration arc being properly organised and properly used by people who are engaged in the small time mining operations there.

Obviously, these people are the smaller operators who are using these batteries and cyanidation processes. I think that a warning should be issued to them that, unless they are prepared to make better use of the facilities that are being provided for them at considerable expense, they run the risk of losing the facilities. It is hardly fair to expect such a large amount of money to be spent on providing these facilities when it is obvious from the small amount of ore that is being put through the various batteries that they are not being run to their best advantage. I would like an assurance from the Minister either that the Government is satisfied, or that it is taking action to see that the whole of this project is put on a sounder basis than the report of the Auditor-General indicates.







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