One year anniversary of the first blast at Kathleen Valley
At the end of January 2023, the first blast was successfully fired at our Kathleen Valley Lithium Project, signalling the start of mining operations. The major milestone was achieved ahead of schedule and marked the start of our transition from explorer to mining operator.
One year on, we chatted with some of the members of Liontown’s mining team who have witnessed not only the incredible physical transformation that’s taken place as the pits took shape at our Tier-1 project, but also how the team has grown, and the wonderful community at our Dragonfly Village has formed.
When Open Pit Mining Manager Peter Dunstan first arrived at Kathleen Valley, the Open Pit Mining Office was a sea container on the side of the road and the view from what is now the ROM pad was scrubland for as far as the team could see. “The camp consisted of nothing more than four dongers and the facilities back then were pretty rough.” reflected Surveying Superintendent Luke Holdcroft.
In January 2023, Iron Mine Contracting and the first fleet of trucks mobilised to site under a preliminary works agreement. They quickly got stuck right into the job at hand and began performing drilling and blasting, loading and hauling of ore and waste from open pit excavations, haul road construction and maintenance, and dewatering of open pit excavations services.
The first blast and the commencement of mining are some of Peter’s key highlights from his time at Kathleen Valley so far. Moving out of the sea container and into the permanent Open Pit Mining Office ranked highly on his list too.
As load and haul operations got underway, much of the initial material was used for the construction of the Run-of-Mine (ROM) pad and Tailings Storage Facility (TSF). Committed from the start to minimise our environmental footprint at every stage of the project, we designed our operations targeting net zero waste over the life-of mine. By hauling the material directly from the open pits to the ROM pad and TSF, we significantly reduced the area required for a waste rock dump and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating any future rehandling
Impressed by Iron Mine Contracting’s commitment and rapid ramp-up, in May 2023 we awarded them the full open pit mining services contract.
In August 2023, the final open pit blast was fired at the Mt Mann pit. In September, we awarded the underground mining contract to Byrnecut and by October they had mobilised to site. In November, the first portal blast was fired, signalling the commencement of underground mining at Kathleen Valley and by the end of that month we had all six portals underway.
When asked to reflect on the first year of mining at Liontown, both Peter and Luke came back to one theme: the strength of their team for coming together and finding solutions to challenges.
“It has been an eventual year with a lot of challenges along the way,” said Peter. “I think the team mentality has been the key to the success of the year, and the team we have managed to put together in the mining space is one of the best collaborative teams I have worked with.”
But it wasn’t just our mining team who have shown a knack for solving problems and the drive to come together with all their support at the drop of a hat:
“The support from the wider LTR team in the projects and corporate space has also been key to overcoming the challenges over the year – from our MD and CEO Tony and COO Adam, all the way through to the teams on the ground,” Peter added.
As we reach the milestone of one year of mining at Kathleen Valley it’s very satisfying to look back on how far we’ve come in this time. “It’s amazing the difference a year makes,” said Luke as he reflected on what we’ve achieved. Not only are open pit and underground operations well and truly underway, but stage one of the Tailings Storage Facility is complete and ready to receive tails. The ROM has been backfilled all the way up to the crusher walls allowing access to the crusher vault and we have clean material ore waiting on the ROM pad, ready to be fed through the plant.
With a gym, sports courts and permanent dining facilities, the Dragonfly Village is now a far more vibrant and comfortable home for the 900+ employees and contractors who have come together to deliver this project than the four dongers that Peter and Luke first stayed in. Construction of the process plant is significantly advanced and commissioning of the dry plant is just around the corner.
We are developing Kathleen Valley to its full potential. We’re one year in and have come so far, but with a 20+ year mine life, this is just the beginning.