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Westgold Resources has approved the Big Bell mine expansion, part of the company’s Cue gold operation in Western Australia.

The Big Bell expansion will incorporate a new long hole open stoping (LHOS) operation below the existing sub level cave.

The LHOS operation’s paste fill system and associated infrastructure will be funded by Westgold’s $24 million in capital expenditure for the 2023–24 financial year (FY24).

A third-party provider is currently being considered to build, own, and operate the structure during the LHOS operation’s initial years.

“Big Bell has a long and profitable life ahead of it now. This expansion underwrites the future of our Murchison operations and provides Westgold with further optionality to leverage our existing processing capital,” Westgold managing director Wayne Bramwell said.

“The economics of making our biggest mine bigger is compelling. Big Bell will provide baseload feed for our Tuckabianna and Bluebird processing hubs across its planned 16-year mine life and its ore will be supplemented with high-grade, high margin ores from the Bluebird mine at Meekatharra, and the recently announced Great Fingall mine near Cue.

“There are very few mines in the Australian gold sector that can boast a 16-year mine life. Big Bell has delivered nearly three million ounces (oz) of gold production to date and with this expansion now approved, the mine is set to ring true to its name.”

The Big Bell expansion envisions 15.7 million tonnes (Mt) of ore being produced for 1.5 million ounces, and mine grades being lifted from about 2.5 grams per tonne (g/t) to about 3g/t of gold.

The mine is expected to produce 93,000oz per annum over its 16-year mine life at an all-in-cost of $2388/oz, with a peak production rate of 134,000oz per annum in FY30.

The first ore from the LHOS operation is expected for the first half of FY25, following immediate commencement of development.