Going for gold

Pensar is well underway on construction works associated with a major upgrade and expansion of the Ravenswood Gold Mine in North Queensland.

We wouldn’t normally make too much of a fuss about building a dam or a gabion wall, but when the dam is 40 times the size of the MCG and the gabion wall has the volume of four Olympic swimming pools, it’s worth sharing!

Building Queensland’s biggest gold mine
In 2020, Ravenswood Gold Mine commenced a major upgrade and expansion, transforming the operation from underground to large-scale open pit production, and dramatically increasing the size of the processing plant. Following the closure of the longstanding underground operation at Mt Wright in 2019, the new Buck Reef West pit will extend the life of the mine by more than 10 years.

Once home to almost 5000 people and 50 hotels in its heyday, the historic Ravenswood region, roughly 100 km south of Townsville, has been producing gold since the 1860s. Some four million ounces of gold have been mined at Ravenswood over the past 150 years.

The new state-of-the-art Ravenswood Gold Mine will be capable of producing a similar volume in a tenth of that time – by the mid 2030s. Processing up to 7 million tonnes of ore per annum, Ravenswood will be the largest gold mine in Queensland.

Pensar digs in
In late-2020, Pensar was engaged by Ravenswood Gold as the principal contractor to construct the new tailings storage facility, supporting the environmental management requirements of the new expanded operation. Pensar is working in tandem with the Ravenswood Gold Projects division and the design engineers ATC Williams.

The scale of the project is vast. The tailings dam covers 160 hectares. The rigorous construction process commenced with the subgrade preparation and excavation works to enable the construction of the TSF embankments to increase the footprint and dam height.

Some 300,000 m3 of topsoil and 1.5 million m3 of material were excavated and stockpiled. The embankments were built up with 7 million m3 of waste rock from the mine. The TSF embankments were lined with a protective layer of 725,000 m2 of bituminous geomembrane.

At the peak of construction, Pensar was managing up to 60 subcontractor personnel and 100 workers onsite. Works continue on schedule with the first stage due for completion in September 2022.

Broadening the scope
The sheer scale and scope of the Ravenswood upgrade and expansion make it one of those projects where, if you do a job well, more work will be forthcoming. Pensar Construction Manager Jeremy Goodacre says there was a great opportunity to build a strong rapport with the client.

“From the outset, it was clear the Ravenswood Gold Projects team were keen to build a collaborative relationship with a infrastructure contractor. They were looking for someone they could depend on to rise to the challenge and get the job done – and done well. They wanted someone on the same page when it came to safety, quality, environmental management, work culture and work ethic. There was a great opportunity for Pensar to fill that role. And that’s what we’ve done from day one.”

Pensar was asked to assess the construction of a 28m high and 170m long gabion wall structure. The gabion wall forms part of the processing plant, housing a vertical crusher. It contains some 5,600 tonnes of waste rock, painstakingly placed by hand and compacted, and is anchored by thousands of cubic metres of engineered backfill.

Drawing on our Transport and Main Roads experience and accreditation, Pensar has also constructed a new main entrance road of some 700 metres in length. We will also complete two other road upgrades adjoining the mine site.

Building on a strong relationship
Jeremy says Pensar is now well and truly ingrained in the Ravenswood Gold Mine expansion works. “Ravenswood Gold is a great client for Pensar. They’ve entrusted and empowered us to take on a huge construction project. As new opportunities and challenges arise, they invite us to expand our scope and get further involved.”

“We have a great working relationship with Ravenswood Gold Projects GM Andrew Lawry and his team. From day one, we’ve been up-front and open with each other, working collaboratively all the way. It’s one of the most amicable and successful collaborations I’ve seen in more than 20 years in the industry. It’s a textbook case of the relationships and results we aim to build with every project at Pensar.”

Ravenswood Gold is a long-term project for Pensar. The current works and engagement will continue well into 2023. As Jeremy says, our role continues to expand as the project evolves – building on a strong client relationship.

With the Ravenswood Gold Mine expansion, Pensar has delivered on a big scale project, with trademark collaboration, innovation and dependability.

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