First Aboriginal mine opens in Northern Territory

Bauxite produced will be sold and marketed by Rio Tinto

Photo of bauxite by Goxxy via Flickr Creative Commons license.

Sunday was a proud day for Aboriginal people in Australia's Northern Territory, with the opening of a new bauxite mine.

At a ceremony marking the official mine opening, Gumatj leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu poured a handful of bauxite into the hands of two Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) workers, Sky News reported on the weekend.

The occasion was historic because it's the first mine in Australia that will be owned and operated by Aboriginals. The bauxite will be sold to Rio Tinto for export to domestic and international customers.

"As the first indigenous bauxite mine, fully owned, all through the supply chain, this is world breaking," Rio Tinto Gove Operations general manager Linda Murry said in a news video on the opening.

The mine, located at Gulkula in Northeast Arnhem Land, is expected to provide around 65 full-time jobs for indigenous employees, with the goal to reach a staff of 100 employees by 2018. Two of the mine's new employees are among 10 new graduates from the Gulkula Training College.

"I feel more proud than ever before," Dr Yunupingu told Sky News, adding that the mine was only possible because his people had been allowed to make their own decisions about the use of their land.

Meanwhile in Queensland, a native title agreement between indigenous communities in the Gulf of Carpathia (the Gulf Communities Agreement (GCA)) and New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ) will stay in place, ABC News reported on Sunday.

The CGA, which made the Century Mine responsible for providing social and economic development for gulf communities while protecting and promoting cultural heritage, was considered landmark at the time it was negotiated.

"We won't be seeking to make any changes to that agreement, so all the clauses that ceased operation when the previous owners stopped mining at Century will be renewed," said New Century Resources head of corporate affairs, Shane Goodwin. The company expects to start production in the third quarter of 2018.

The Century zinc mine will open again thanks to a $52.9 million private placement raised by owner New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ).

The mine was the third largest zinc mine in the world prior to its closure in 2016. New Century acquired its interest in 2017 and undertook a feasibility study into the recommissioning of the existing processing plant. The results of the feasibility study, which included conversion of the Century tailings deposit from measured resources to reserves, was published on Nov. 28. It shows proven ore reserves of 77.3 million tonnes at 3.1% of zinc-equivalent. The plant is designed to process 507,000 tonnes per annum of zinc concentrate, or 264,000 tpa zinc metal.