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Mineral Resources (MinRes) has reached milestones at its Mount Marion lithium operation and Onslow Iron project, both located in Western Australia.

The company announced it has begun preliminary development works to support future underground mining at Mount Marion.

MinRes lithium chief executive Joshua Thurlow said the start of preliminary underground works marked an exciting new phase for one of the world’s few operating hard rock lithium mines.

“MinRes has been managing all open pit mining operations at Mt Marion since 2016 and this site is a key asset in our growing world-class lithium portfolio,” Thurlow said.

“Recent underground exploration success has confirmed that we’ve barely scratched the surface of this mine’s potential.

“Having now doubled the underground mineral resource, we’re pushing ahead with building the necessary infrastructure and technical expertise to transition Mount Marion into an open pit and underground mining operation.”

MinRes also announced it has welcomed WA’s first third-generation electric hybrid wheel loader, set to undertake load and haul activities for the Onslow Iron project.

MinRes asset management executive general manager Dale Blyth said the Komatsu E1850-3 is the biggest loader the company has acquired and will bring a host of environmental and productivity benefits.

“MinRes is committed to investing in the latest technology to power our transition to net-zero operations, while still achieving operational efficiencies,” he said.

“Our new Komatsu wheel loader does exactly that, producing substantially less carbon emissions compared to mechanical drives while still delivering higher payloads.”

The machine features the fully regenerative SR hybrid drive system, which during braking or retarding causes electrical motors to become generators, feeding power back into its kinetic energy storage system.

This helps deliver up to 45 per cent less fuel consumption than comparably sized mechanical drive wheel loaders.