Pluton Resources wins award for environmental excellence for exploration drilling that leaves

first_imgPluton Resources, the emerging iron ore producer behind the development of an innovative drilling platform for some of the toughest terrain in Australia, has been given this year’s Golden Gecko Award for Environmental Excellence. The Australian made Universal Drilling Platform (UDP) was developed and patented by Pluton to provide a safe, stable, low footprint option for diamond drilling programs on remote and rugged exploration prospects. It is currently being used in Pluton’s Irvine Island exploration program in The Kimberley.The UDP is a modular platform, which can be transported to an exploration site by helicopter and assembled by hand in less than a day. When fully assembled the platform has a ground disturbance of less than 5 m², much less than traditional exploration equipment. Hydraulically adjustable legs mean that it can be used on uneven and sloping terrain, without the need for excavation or earth moving machinery. The platform does not require the building of tracks or use of heavy vehicles, and once in place can be used as a helipad, further reducing ground disturbance.Pluton’s Managing Director, Tony Schoer, says the company attributes the success of the project to its employees and contractors and the traditional owners of Irvine Island, the Mayala people. “Minimising the land disturbance during exploration can make an important difference to the industry’s footprint,” he said. “A few months after drilling from the platforms, it is almost impossible to tell where we’ve been. We believe it’s part of the new paradigm in mining. Increasingly, exploration and mining companies are finding new ways to operate in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.”He said Mayala exploration teams have been trained to assemble the platforms and support exploration. They have been a key part of the company’s success. As part of a broader environmental management strategy, Pluton has adapted accommodation technology used in the Antarctic to build green exploration sites in the tropical Kimberley. The company is using polar “pods” to provide insulated shelter for the drill teams. The pods have little impact on the natural environment and they are easy to relocate from one site to another.The Department of Mines and Petroleum in Western Australia instigated the Golden Gecko Awards in 1992 to recognise excellence and leadership, and to acknowledge the outstanding contribution recipients have made to balance environmental responsibility with the successful development of the state’s mineral and petroleum resources.Pluton  has just announced that Phase II drilling results reveal a substantial increase in the total Inferred mineral resource estimate at Irvine Island, Western Australia, from 294 Mt to 452 Mt. This follows a 450% upgrade to the 294 Mt Inferred resource estimate announced in June 2010. Irvine Island has potential to produce up to 150 Mt of 66% Fe (iron concentrate) with easy access to international markets. The Project is being developed with the support and involvement of the indigenous Mayala community.Phase II diamond drilling is continuing at the Hardstaff Peninsula while a second rig is exploring the island’s Isthmus Region which might result in an initial resource estimate for that area. The drilling program will test the potential of the high grade haematite iron mineralisation that may be suitable as Direct Shipping Ore (DSO) which outcrops at the Isthmus Region over an area of approximately 600 m by 75 m. Outcrop sampling previously conducted in late 2007 across the area returned up to 67.6% Fe from a suite of 16 surface samples.Irvine Island is part of a three-island group which includes Koolan and Cockatoo Islands, where Australia’s first iron ore mining began 60 years ago and where highly sought after Yampi Member iron ore continues to be mined. The Irvine Island Inferred resource is a continuation of the iron ore body at Koolan and Cockatoo Islands. Schoer said: “We are increasingly confident that we are dealing with a significant, high quality, iron ore project which is substantially beyond our initial expectations.”Irvine Island has the advantage of deep-water access allowing iron ore to be loaded directly on to iron ore carriers for international markets. With few infrastructure costs, the total capital investment requirements are approximately A$350 million, which includes ship loading facilities and processing costs, enabling Pluton to produce iron ore product at a projected cash cost of A$37/t on ship.Schoer also said, “Irvine Island contains Direct Shipping Ore and feed ore that can be easily processed to produce high grade iron ore concentrate. Its deep-water access and proximity to Asian markets means that this high quality product can be transported to overseas markets cheaply and efficiently. The deposits at Irvine Island are significant at a national and state level, and will be of substantial economic benefit to the native title claimant group, the Mayala people.”last_img

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