When prospector Edward Hargraves made the first Australian payable gold discovery in Ophir in 1851, it was the making of Orange and many other nearby towns in regional NSW.

It triggered the Australian gold rush and an unprecedented jobs boom, which saw the population of Orange balloon from 28 to 2701 in three decades.

Fast forward 170 years and gold is still a key source of employment and prosperity in the area with several exciting projects on the horizon.

Newcrest Mining is pushing full-steam ahead with stage two of its expansion project at Cadia, which is one of Australia’s largest gold mines.

The $175m project primarily comprises the addition of a second coarse ore flotation circuit in concentrator one and equipment upgrades in concentrator two.

The upgrades are expected to boost life of mine gold and copper recoveries by 3.5% and 2.7%, respectively, while reducing production costs.

Newcrest Managing Director and CEO Sandeep Biswas said stage two of the Cadia Expansion Project would increase plant capacity from 33 to 35mtpa.

‘’Cadia is one of the largest, lowest cost, long life gold mines in the world due to the application of Newcrest’s industry-leading block caving technology, and this investment
helps Cadia maintain this industry leading position,’’ he said.

The Cadia Expansion Project is expected to generate direct employment in Australia of about 860 people at its peak.

A Newcrest spokesperson said the company will always, wherever practical, recruit from nearby communities to ensure the benefit from its operation remains local.

‘’Cadia’s operations are firmly embedded in the local community with approximately 85% of its direct employees and contractors living within the local government areas of Orange, Blayney and Cabonne,’’ the spokesperson said.

This results in more than $500m being injected annually into the regional economy.

Newcrest works collaboratively with many local businesses and charity organisations in the community.

An example is the administration of its local accommodation strategy. Cadia has partnered with Orange360, the local tourism not-for-profit organisation supported by local council and businesses, to assist in managing its accommodation requirements for the expansion project.

‘’The partnership was developed followed ongoing consultation with Cabonne, Blayney and Orange councils and their desire to maximise the benefit of local accommodation providers, rather than seeing a temporary mining camp established for the duration of the project.

‘’Orange360 has maximised bed capabilities within the region, which has supported regional tourism, especially during COVID-19 when regional tourism is heightened, while
meeting the ongoing demands of a transient mining workforce.

‘’This partnership has been successful and enabled significant flow on benefits to businesses in the community, contributing to the $1.7b in annual total value add from
the operation to the regional economy.’’

Newcrest works closely with its local communities to provide a positive legacy.

In 2019-20, Cadia invested more than $2m in community programs and infrastructure in the Cabonne, Blayney and Orange local government areas.

This also included more than $1m of targeted funds focusing on COVID-19 initiatives to provide immediate financial assistance to the local community, through the Newcrest Community Support Fund.

Orange City Council mayor Reg Kidd said the area had been crippled by drought when Newcrest started its Cadia operation about 20 years ago.

‘’It started a great resurgence in mining and helped a lot of the farmers in the region,’’ he said.

‘’I have so many friends who got through the drought in the 1990s because they ended up getting work at the mine.

‘’It has an estimated mine life of another 30 or 40 years, which is fantastic for the region.’’

Mr Kidd said Newcrest provides employment to about 1600 people but the flow on effects for subcontractors, local businesses and the economy was even more valuable.

He said major companies like PYBAR, Hort Engineering, Whittaker Contracting and PJL Group, provide even more jobs, injecting more money into the local economy, through maintenance services they provide to the various mines in the area.

Cadia has also provided work for smaller family-owned companies like BMJ Truckin’, which has provided transport and logistics solutions at the mine.

‘’Then you have got the local retail businesses benefiting as well such as those that sell the work gear, boots, goggles, etc,” Mr Kidd said.

‘’Mining companies also provide training, apprenticeships and scholarships to a lot of the young people including women and they are good corporate citizens.’’

Cadia will secure more than 40% of its future projected energy requirements from renewable sources from 2024.

A landmark 15-year renewable Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Tilt Renewables Limited is for approximately 55% of the output of the planned 400MW Rye Park Wind Farm, located north of Yass and east of Boorowa in NSW.

The PPA, together with the forecasted decarbonisation of NSW electricity generation, is expected to deliver a 20% reduction in Newcrest’s greenhouse gas emissions and is a significant step towards achieving Newcrest’s target of a 30% reduction by 2030.

Regis Resources hopes to commence construction at its McPhillamys gold project in Blayney, about 35km south of Orange, during the second half of the year.

The project—one of the largest undeveloped open pit gold projects in Australia—is under
final assessment by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment which
is expected to recommend the project to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC)
this quarter.

Regis has brought forward additional expenditure to ensure the 61mt asset is ‘’final investment decision ready’’ and as ‘’shovel ready as practical’’ in the event of a favourable decision from the IPC, according to the company’s half year financial results.

Regis describes the project as “the highest priority growth project for the company” in the results, released on February 25.

‘’Regis recognises and respects that the final decision by the government is still to be made and while the process is still underway a decision on the development application could be made in the first half of 2021,’’ the statement said.

‘’Should this occur and based on current plans, the company foresees that construction could potentially commence in the second half of 2021.’’

A project execution team has been assembled and is continuing to progress work into more detailed areas including mining, processing, water and power supply.

Regis expects to finalise any outstanding scope changes and costings and, as soon as practicable, provide the feasibility study summary to the market following IPC approval.

‘’In the meantime, work continues to develop a detailed understanding of local business
capacity and where these businesses have the potential to be incorporated into construction activity,’’ the results said.