Underground operations were restarted at the New Bendigo gold operations, in the historic Bendigo Goldfield, in late 2004. The Bendigo Goldfield is Australia's second largest in terms of historical production after WA’s Golden Mile.
Exploration and mining at Bendigo can be divided into three distinct phases:
The initial discovery and subsequent exploitation of the field occurred from 1851 to the closure of the last underground mine in 1954. Then between 1978 and 1993, WMC Resources undertook further exploration in the area.
This was followed by the third and current phase of exploration and development with the entire goldfield under the control of Bendigo Mining from 1993 to present day. In 2004 a feasibility study was completed which indicated the economic feasibility of re-starting gold production from the southern end of the goldfield. To fund the initial development $115 million in equity was raised in July 2004, and construction of the 600,000 tonne per annum gold plant was completed in October 2006. Commissioning occurred in the September quarter of 2006, with commercial production declared in the December 2006 quarter.
December 2006 quarterly production results were significantly lower than expected, requiring a major shift in strategy and a deferral of production to focus on building reserves in more productive areas in the south of the goldfield.
Trial mining began in June 2008. The key source of mill feed was the recently discovered Gill reef on the Garden Gully line of mineralisation. The aim of the trial was to test the visual grade estimation methodology.
The results from the initial trial mining were successful with the processing of 59,711t at an average head grade of 8.1 grams per tonne of gold. Production for the 12 months to June 2009 was 148,769t at 8.5 g/t gold for production of 36,927oz. Production for the 12 months to June 2010 was 205,782t at 6.2 g/t gold for production of 36,649oz.
Operating, but currently on hiatus. In April 2011, the company announced that despite a significant investment in drilling over the past four years, exploration success had not kept pace with mine production and the Kangaroo Flat mine would enter a production hiatus in April 2011. The process plant and associated infrastructure has been placed on a care and maintenance program, designed to ensure that the facility can remain available to process ore from new discoveries.