NMDC, the country’s largest iron-ore miner, is looking to ramp up operations at its gold mine in Australia over the next few months. The company will also begin pre-feasibility studies (PFS) for lithium reserves in the Mount Bevan region there over the next two-three months.

According to Amitava Mukherjee, Chairman-cum-Managing Director (Additional Charge) and Director – Finance, NMDC, gold mining in Australia will “start generating cash” as activities pick up in “another couple of months”. Right now, NMDC is carrying out “waste mining” like removal of rocks and top-burden, post which mining takes place.

In mining parlance, waste mining includes taking off materials such as topsoil overburden (which are removed to gain access to mineral resources), rock and tailings (after the extraction of the valuable mineral).

The PSU-miner, through its Sydney-based subsidiary Legacy, has begun gold-mining operations at Mount Celia, located in Western Australia. This will be the first gold mine in NMDC’s portfolio.

“Operations have started at the gold mine. We are looking to invest more towards exploration there and in more areas around it....You’ll see more mining activities there over the next 18-24 months,” Mukherjee said during a post-results earnings call.

There are five more “gold tailments” and NMDC will soon take a call on ramping up.

“We have started gold mining in Australia and right now, waste mining is being done there. In the next one-two months, we will generate cash flows on our own,” he added, while elaborating on the gold mine project.

Interest in Lithium

The company continues to explore options for acquisition of lithium reserves in Australia and overseas.

According to Mukherjee, the PFS studies for lithium reserves will include involvement of the local partner, Hancock. The company is also looking at securing off-take agreements.

A PFS is an early-stage analysis of a potential mining project. These studies give basic information required to green-light a project or choose potential investments. They typically give an overview of the project’s logistics requirements, capital needs, etc.

Australia’s Mount Bevan, the area under exploration by the miner, is said to have lithium reserves.

“We (NMDC) are not interested in rare earth. But lithium is something that continues to be of interest. Options are being explored overseas, including Australia. We are in talks with our local partner there and the PFS should start in another 2-3 months or so,” he said.