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Ravenswood Gold has taken delivery of a new Hitachi EX3600 excavator as it ramps up preparations for the return to large-scale open-pit mining at Ravenswood.

Ravenswood Gold chief executive officer Brett Fletcher said the machine was part of an initial $100 million mining fleet to be purchased for the Ravenswood Expansion Plan (REP).

The excavator, the biggest machine ever to be used at the North Queensland mine, will begin working on low-grade stockpiles before relocating to the Buck Reef West pit, where mining is expected to commence by the end of the year.

The fleet will also include several smaller excavators; an EX2600 and a EX1200. The initial haulage fleet will consist of eight Hitachi EH3500 180-tonne mining dump trucks.

“The majority of the fleet will come from Hitachi and the handover of the EX3600 marks the beginning of a long-term working relationship between the mine and Hitachi,” Mr Fletcher said. “Hitachi is supported out of Townsville and Mackay and the parts and servicing of the equipment will be a significant benefit to local business.”

Hiring for the REP commenced in August, with 40 people taking up permanent positions within the mining department and more in supporting roles including exploration, training and safety, and environment.

Mr Fletcher said about 230 people were now employed at Ravenswood Gold and the long-term permanent workforce would increase to 410 positions as mining progressed.

“All of our new employees are from the local area – including Ravenswood, Charters Towers, Townsville and the Burdekin area. We are serious about ensuring local employment for the region and using local suppliers and local businesses whenever possible,” he said.

“The REP will see 250 new permanent positions, the retention of 160 existing positions and a further 150 positions during the construction phase and mining operations continue until 2034.”

The Ravenswood gold mine changed hands early this year, with new owners EMR Capital and Golden Energy and Resources completing a $300 million purchase deal with Resolute Mining.

From the outset, the EMR GEAR Consortium showed a keen interest in ramping up operations and extending the life of the business through the REP, which will see the reopening of both the Buck Reef West and Sarsfield open pits at Ravenswood.