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Capricorn Copper is looking to step up production at its North West Queensland mining operation, aiming to hit about 30,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate per annum in 2021.

The former Mount Gordon copper mine was mothballed in 2013 but was brought back online in 2017 under the ownership of EMR Capital.

The new owners have brought it up to a steady production rate of about 25,000tpa and are now looking to step it up a notch, according to new Capricorn Copper chief executive officer Peter Albert.

“The process plant is well set up to be able to handle the increased throughput,” Mr Albert said.

“We’ve got a good contractor with Ausenco, who’s assisting us in running the process plant. We have spent quite a lot of effort in the last three or four months in working through and eliminating a few bottlenecks that we had identified.

“It’s now in a very good position to be able to handle the planned increased throughput.”

Underground mining specialist Byrnecut is the site mining contractor, extracting ore from Mammoth, Greenstone and Esperanza South (ESS) orebodies. ESS will soon transition from the Esperanza North Cave into the South Cave – paving the way for increased tonnage at good grades.

“We’re talking about an incremental increase and hopefully hitting the market at the right time,” Mr Albert said.

The Capricorn Copper mine is located 125km north of Mount Isa and employs a workforce of about 350.

Mr Albert said about 15 per cent were based in the Mount Isa region while the bulk of the remainder were drawn from throughout Queensland including Cairns, Townsville and Mackay.

Under EMR ownership it has gone from having a two or three-year mine life to one of more than 10 years.

Capricorn Copper late last year announced a copper resource of 69.9 million tonnes at 1.8 per cent copper for the site, with 340 parts per million cobalt.

“The amount of work we’ve done, including something like 78km of drilling, provides us with that upside and that long-term sustainable future,” Mr Albert said.

“We also have a 2000sq km tenement package surrounding the mine site and we intend to be opening up our purses to get exploration drilling happening in some of those more prospective areas in the coming year.”

Mr Albert said moves to exploit the cobalt potential at Capricorn Copper were a work in process, as the main game remained copper.

“With COVID-19, the last four months, it’s been a challenge for all of us in this industry. And so our focus has really been on making sure the business is in good shape, making sure that we set it up for the market recovery, which we are now starting to see,’ he said.

“Prices are improving, coming back, which is fantastic.”

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