Mineral Resources Tasmania team at work on Tasmania’s west coast.
Tasmania once again has become a place for mineral investment by China.
The Chinese first saw the opportunities for investment in Tasmania in 1874 when some 700-plus men and families lived and worked in North East Tasmania looking for tin and gold. Most of the Chinese miners came as single men and a few stayed with their families after the ‘rush’ collapsed in the early 1940s. The existence of the Chinese and their legacy within the community is still recognised today with some pride by Tasmanians.
For Tasmania a new era of connection with China commenced around the year 2000. China was starting to develop into an industrial powerhouse requiring much of the raw metals that Australia possessed and the ever-expanding population had growing expectations for a better lifestyle and economy.
“Yunnan Tin has taken up a number of exploration areas in Tasmania in its own right as a result of a Mineral Resources Tasmania visit to Yunnan in 2007”
How did this new connection between Tasmania and China redevelop? During the development of the Avebury Nickel Mine a longtime China follower Tony Howland-Rose saw that if the Avebury Nickel mine was to get off the ground he needed to forge a connection that allowed Allegiance Mining, the owner of the Avebury Plant, to convince its financial backers that they could sell the nickel concentrate that they planned to produce. To Howland-Rose, China was the obvious partner and Allegiance eventually signed an agreement to sell the offtake from the Avebury mine to the Gansu-based JNMC.
Mineral Resources Tasmania, using the ‘Team Australia’ approach, commenced supporting the China Mining Conference, Asia’s premier mining conference and exhibition event, as a way of further spreading the message that Australia, and especially Tasmania, were places for China to invest in.
: Senior management Team of Yunnan Tin with General Manager Mr Gao, Minister for Resources Bryan Green and the head of the Department of Infrastructure, Energy & Resources.
At the same time, Tasmania, along with all the other Australian states, held a one-day investment attraction seminar at China Mining, which is supported by Austrade and Australian government representatives in Beijing. Australia, as one of the supporter countries of China Mining, relies on the organisers of China Mining to support and promote this event, and it has become increasingly popular.
Tasmania has taken every opportunity to promote itself in China. In 2005 the then Deputy Premier, Paul Lennon, visited JNMC in Gansu province. Since then, Mineral Resources Tasmania staff visited Hunan, Fujian, Jiangsu, Yunnan, Shanxi and Shandong provinces to look at mining and mineral processing operations and to meet companies involved in investing in Tasmania and Australia. Mineral Resources Tasmania has also spent some time in Beijing and Shanghai, and it was part of the Austrade promotion of minerals as part of the World Expo in Shanghai.
So where is the relationship between Tasmania and China today? China MinMetals has as part of the acquisition of OZ Minerals ended up owning the zinc and lead mine at Rosebery. It also owns the Avebury nickel mine, which is currently kept on care and maintenance pending a sustained improvement to nickel metal prices. Jiangsu Shagang at one point owned the Savage River magnetite mine, which they have since farmed into Grange Resources Limited. Jiangsu Shagang is the largest shareholder in Grange Resources and most of the production is sold to their operations in China.
Tasmanian team with representatives from Queensland and New South Wales in Gejiu in November 2007.
Hunan Nonferrous Metals Limited (HNC) has taken an interest in King Island Scheelite Limited and they hold 10 per cent of the shares in King Island Scheelite. CREAT Group, a Beijing based company, hold a number of areas in Tasmania for exploration and they have an active program looking for minerals.
The other large investment by Chinese interests in Tasmania is Yunnan Tin Limited and its partner Parksong Mining and Resource Recycling Limited. The two companies, via an investment company YTParksong, have taken a 50 per cent interest in a joint venture with MetalsX Limited to operate the Renison Tin Mine in Western Tasmania. The YTParksong Company also has gained approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board to potentially increase its investment to 60 per cent of the joint venture and subsequently hold a controlling interest in the Renison Mine. At the same time, Yunnan Tin has taken up a number of exploration areas in Tasmania in its own right as a result of a Mineral Resources Tasmania visit to Yunnan in 2007.
Minister Bryan Green speaking at the Shanghai Expo in August 2010.
Outside of mining, Tasmania has been involved in the development of wind farms in China. It sells a range of agricultural products and seafood to China and the fine select timbers of Tasmania were found in some of the venues developed for the Beijing Olympics.
Tasmania still remains a place of opportunity for China. Its vast mineral wealth and the opportunity for downstream processing cannot be overlooked.
The Chinese Ambassador to Australia once said at a gathering in Canberra that Australia had everything that China wants and needs. Tasmania
is meeting some of the needs and demands of China and both sides are benefiting from the investment.
Tasmania’s mineral wealth
Minerals are considered to be one of the major exports of Tasmania, achieving a total of A$2.45 billion in production in the past two years. With the extraction of copper, zinc, magnetite, tungsten, silver and gold, it represents 44.8 per cent of mercantile exports of Tasmania.
Rosebery Mine, located in the west coast of the state, is well known for the production of ore, with a total of 716,600 tonnes between the years of 2008 and 2009. Since 2008 it has been a part of OZ Minerals Group, with an ore reserve of 3.15m tonnes.
The extraction of magnetite from Savage River Mine was estimated in 316.2m tonnes of the mineral, with approximately 1.5m tonnes per year. The magnetite is pumped through a pipeline of 85km until it reaches the pellet plant, and studies show that the mine can be fully operated until the year of 2018.
Investments of $16m from the state of Tasmania and also from the Australian government were made to obtain geological and geophysical information throughout the state, which includes the first 3D geological model. Other government investments, such as the four-year program TasExplore, improve the mining industry with geological and scientific studies.