Revisiting Hillgrove Mine – 30th July 2018

From 620m underground to the Tailings dams on the escarpment, SOMR representatives explored what a mine in Care & Maintenance looks like.
Guided by Peter Hosking, Care & Maintenance manager and metallurgist, with Senior Geologist Mitch Tarrant, SOMR representatives were given an overview of the current operations at Hillgrove, and a tour of Metz Mine Centre, water management facilities and Brackin’s Spur Mine.
Hillgrove Mine ceased production of Antimony in 2016, entering a phase of exploration for gold resources and Care and Maintenance.
There are four main areas of focus in Care and Maintenance; environmental management, maintaining the asset, maintaining licenses and consents for mining and exploration, and promoting future investment.
Hillgrove mine currently employs six staff, Peter, Mitch, a Fitter, an electrician, and two machinery operators. These staff must fulfil multiple roles in the management of the mine.
At various stages of the life of the mine, it has produced both gold and antimony. To be responsive to market forces, they need to be able to balance extraction, and processing of both elements.
Water management is a key process in mining, and the major cause for potential environmental concern. Hillgrove invested significant funding to provide infrastructure to allow improved water management, ventilation of the mine and exploratory drilling. 
Current dam levels are low, and the mine could manage two one in a hundred-year rain events according to the manager Peter Hosking. The investment in new membranes for the Reverse Osmosis water treatment plant, at a cost of around $75,000 is a further step in ensuring contaminated water does not enter the catchment.
Monitoring of the Tailings dams continues to follow the robust procedures in place when the mine was in production – daily visual and detailed weekly inspections, monthly water sampling, monthly piezometer recordings and three-monthly surveying to check for dam wall movement are still implemented.
SOMR would like to see Tailing Storage Facility 1, a dam commissioned in 1982, removed, the contents reprocessed, and the remaining contaminated material stored well away from the escarpment in a modern, well-engineered containment facility, with the current site revegetated. 
Maintaining the mine in care and maintenance is an ongoing expense, with no income, Hillgrove are keen to find investors to allow them to recommence operations.
If investors are not forthcoming, the company is still obliged to care for the site and to protect the river.