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Cannington still has a good innings ahead as it marks 20 years of mining, according to vice-president operations Rob Jackson.

The site’s reserve life was increased to 10 years during 2016-17 and owner South32 was investing heavily in exploration, Mr Jackson said.

The great thing about Cannington is that we have options for our future and we don’t have to act on those until 2020,” he said.

“Transitioning from underground to open-cut is an option that has the potential to extend the life of the operation.

“But we are also actively exploring in the north-west region and this year we will invest $2 million through the drill bit, seeking additional value options.

“We know the region is highly prospective and we have a great relationship with the community here and we hope to be here for a while longer yet.”

After the discovery of the ore body about 200km south-east of Mount Isa in the shire of McKinlay in 1990, mining operations at Cannington commenced in 1997.

For a number of years Cannington was the world’s largest single mine producer of silver and lead and a substantial supplier of zinc to domestic and global markets.

“Over time though, as with any mine, it becomes more challenging to extract resources and grades start to decline,” Mr Jackson said.

“Current analysis puts Cannington in the top five silver producers in the world.”

Mr Jackson said 2.9 million tonnes of ore was mined last financial year and the operation expected to achieve 2.8 million 2017-18.

Cannington is 100 per cent owned by South32, which came into being following a demerger from BHP Billiton in May 2015.

Cannington going strong after 20 years