*Note I am subject to a confidentiality agreement with RNC. All of the below observations regarding the mine are my own, and all related information is either minor or reflected in the company’s current public disclosure.
Having the opportunity to visit the Beta Hunt mine in Western Australia was not only a privilege but an honor. The day I found out about the Father’s Day Vein discovery, I felt compelled to see it with my own eyes and despite the odds, I set out on an adventure that eventually led me to Australia and allowed me to tour the Kalgoorlie Super Pit and the Beta Hunt Mine.
Before I even made it there, I had chartered a plane to fly me over the mine and get some aerial footage so that I might understand the lay of the land. My first observation was the multitude of mills and open pit mines scattered across the landscape. It almost gives you the impression that no matter where you put a shovel in the ground, there was gold to be found. I know that is not the case, but believe me when I say, people certainly tried. Jubilee was the largest of the pits between Kalgoorlie and Kambalda and had I not seen the super pit, I may have been more impressed. However, knowing that large scale mining operations were sustained in such close proximity to Beta Hunt is encouraging.
As we flew over Beta Hunt, you could see the St Ives open pits and the salt crusted bottom of what was Lake Lefroy. At first, there wasn’t much noticeable activity on surface until a rock truck exited the portal from the underground mine and headed toward the ROM pad. Limited on time, we made our rounds and headed back towards the airport where I managed to get a few aerial photos of the super pit before landing. Overall, the experience helped me to understand the topography of the area and gave me a unique view of Beta Hunt.
In the afternoon, I met up with Johnna Muinonen (VP at RNC) and off we went to the Lakewood mill. The mill was just outside of Kalgoorlie and hiding behind the mountains of waste rock left behind from the super pit. As we approached the property, Johnna, pointed out the muck pile that was recently delivered from Beta Hunt and waiting to be processed. The mill currently has 2 major clients, Beta Hunt being one of them tolling approximately 25,000 tons of material in a 13 days campaign for RNC and 40,000 tons in 20 days for the other company. The approximate recovery rate was an impressive 93-94% of the gold and getting to see the process was very interesting to say the least.
The next day we were up early and out the door heading for the mine and after a brief induction we were granted access to the property. Upon arrival, we made our way into the building and I was introduced to Graeme Sloan (mine superintendent). We had the chance to talk and he really helped me to understand the value of this multi asset mine and how they could potentially mine both gold and nickel at a profit while they develop an updated mine plan. After speaking with Graeme I was allowed to walk around photographing some of the various specimens held on site and had the opportunity to meet some of the other staff working at Beta Hunt.
After about an hour of indulging in viewing the samples of high grade specimens, it was time to gear up and go underground. This was the moment I travelled half way around the world for and I couldn’t be more excited knowing I was going to see the drills in action. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect to be honest but as we broke the light of day and entered the portal it became quite clear that this mine was set up to be a very large operation. The ramps are around 5m wide and 6-7m tall which allows for very large equipment to be utilized underground. This bodes well for future development of the mine because as a former miner at The Macassa mine in Kirkland Lake, I can tell you that getting large equipment underground was a monumental undertaking whereby you had to disassemble everything on surface and rebuild it piece by piece underground. So having a ramp system to move equipment is a huge benefit that should not be overlooked.
Our first stop was in the D Zone, near the Western Flanks where a long hole crew was drilling of a development drift. When I told the boys we used the old bar and arm setup for long holing they laughed and said “Naw mate, that’s too slow… we haven’t seen one of those in years”. After a good chuckle and reminiscing the days of setting up the bar and arm, the miners went on to elaborate on the importance of this piece of equipment to the mine. The rig was an Atlas 1357 underground jumbo. The beauty of this rig is that they can interchange from bolting and drilling booms to the long hole attachment with ease, making this a very versatile piece of equipment. The efficiency of the operation started coming together the more I got to understand the processes by which they operated.
The next leg of my tour brought me to one of the 2 diamond drill rigs currently working the Western flanks. Equally as impressive as the last piece of equipment, it was easy to see how they are able to get the drilling done so quickly. These mobile units can be wrapped up and moved to new locations in very short order and really put into perspective why there is a backlog of cores on surface. I was lucky enough to get some footage of the drill in operation and see the excitement of the operators working this project.
On our way to the second diamond drill, we met up with miner Henry Dole who was kind enough to join us as we ventured up into the stope. I asked him about the day he drilled the FDV and he reminisced about the gold on his hardhat and how it glittered in the sun when he reached surface. He described the smell of the ore as he drilled off the face, but when he said “gold was literally pouring out the drill holes in little nuggets”, I couldn’t help but smile. For a moment, I got a real sense of what that might have been like. His smile told the story better than words could describe.
I asked if they could show me a nickel stope because I wanted to see what this mine was originally built on. They were kind enough to oblige and we were off to our next objective. After a short climb, and admittedly out of breath, I was surprised when I finally reached the face only to find a beautiful nickel vein, that spanned the width of the drift and was almost a meter thick. It really put it into perspective why Graeme referred to the mine as having multiple assets. With an increase in the price of nickel, Beta Hunt could potentially mine both Nickel and gold at a profit.
Our final leg of the underground operations found us watching one of the miners loading holes with explosives into a drilled off round. The material that is used is called an emulsion explosive; these are small glass micro-spheres with high detonation velocity and excellent water repelling capabilities. You run these small Styrofoam like beads through a hopper that uses air to pressure to pack them into the hole embedding the blasting cap at the end. Once the holes are loaded, the blasting caps can be hooked together and run to the blasting box via the lead wire. Once complete, the area is barricaded off before leaving the heading. All rounds are taken simultaneously after every man is on surface and all the tags are removed from the board.
Sadly, my time underground had come to an end and we headed for surface to grab a bite to eat before heading out to the core shack. Once we reached the building, I was surprised to find it was more than just a shack. The cores were lined up in 4 rows running the length of the building and 6 geologists were hard at work analyzing the cores. I had the opportunity to photograph the cores from the latest news release which yielded 2,210 g/t over .85 m. It was somewhat surreal to be able to see it in person let alone take a few pictures. The geology team was very kind and accommodating in answering my questions and explaining what to look for as points of interest.
To say the least, I was very pleased with the tour of the mine and look forward to the continued developments as they prove out the model. It appeared that The infrastructure of the mine can sustain large scale operations and I see no reason why Beta Hunt will not develop into a very large mine in the years to come. With continued success of the drilling program and the quality people at the helm I have more confidence than ever that Beta Hunt will be the envy of the gold mining community is Western Australia.
For more pictures go to… https://insidexploration.com/beta-hunt-rnc-minerals-exclusive-photos-insidexploration/