By Belinda Willis
As Hillgrove Resources explores ground-breaking opportunities for its Adelaide Hills copper mine in the energy business, its well-travelled general manager Lachlan Wallace is relishing being part of a world-class operation.
He’s a firm supporter of plans for a pumped hydro energy storage project at the Kanmantoo mine along with exploring some of the state’s untapped copper potential in the South East.
“Having worked overseas and seeing how mining is done elsewhere, it made me realise Australia is the best at mining effectively, we are the world leaders in mining practice and by a long stretch,” Lachlan says.
“I think also having lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Africa and on the east coast of Australia during the past 20 years, there’s no better place to live, nowhere more liveable than South Australia.”
It’s a bold statement from the proud South Australian whose diverse career kicked off with a mining engineering degree at the University of South Australia’s Mawson Lakes campus.
His first job was in Tasmania at the Savage River iron ore mine where Lachlan delivered wide-reaching training from equipment operation to surveying, geology and production engineering.
It was around the seven-year mark that his wife Rebecca, a talented jewellery maker he met at a Blackwood fruit and vegetable shop, was offered a rare opportunity to train in one of the world’s creative epicentres, Milan, in Italy.
“We both moved to Italy,” Lachlan says, and the decision also launched his own international career.
He worked out of Johannesburg in Africa on mines in Zambia and Guinea, in Switzerland and India and then the couple moved to Indonesia, before deciding it was time to move home.
“I’d been watching the project at Kanmantoo for a long time and saw it as an exciting new development in the Adelaide Hills where there hadn’t been any open cut mining for 30 years,” Lachlan says.
In February, 2012, Lachlan was named its mine manager, then in 2015 its general manager, working in a region thought to be one of the most under explored and prospective base metal provinces in Australia.
At this stage, the copper mine has a licence until the end of 2019, with Lachlan saying about nine months of mining is ahead and an additional 18 months of processing on site.
Work is also underway to look at the possibility of underground mining and also creating the onsite pumped hydro facility by 2021.
“We have what we believe would be the lowest capital cost per megawatt pumped hydro facility in Australia,” Lachlan says.
“It could provide a much-needed energy storage solution and network stability for SA’s electricity grid.
“We are looking to build a facility that would store over 14 times the energy of the much talked about Tesla battery in the state’s north, for only double the cost.”
The mine is also recognised for it cutting edge technology.
When Lachlan arrived he found a way to create a pit with steeper sides saying for each degree steeper millions of dollars in costs were saved.
The operation has also been recognised for its commitment to working with the local community.
At the moment, 85% of its 200 FTE and 60 FTE contractors live in the local region including nearby towns stretching from Murray Bridge to Mt Barker.
There’s been a strong relationship built over the years, and the Kanmantoo and Callington communities are currently working with the company to develop a 30-year regional master plan for the site and the region.
Hillgrove Resources sponsors local events and sporting teams, and each quarter holds a public meeting alternately at the Callington or Kanmantoo town halls.
In 2016, the Hillgrove Resources and Kanmantoo Callington Community Consultation Committee won the Premier’s excellence in supporting communities in the mining and energy awards.
“One of the most enjoyable aspects has been working with the local Kanmantoo and Callington communities to develop a regional master plan which seeks to ensure that the mine’s presence results in a lasting positive legacy to the community surrounding the mine,” Lachlan says.
“The work that Hillgrove and the local community is doing is recognised as best in industry, something of which I am very proud.
“It demonstrates that mining can have a positive impact on local communities beyond employment, and sets the bar for community engagement which is essential to ensure social acceptance of mining into the future.”
“Keeping young people is so important to regional communities and that means creating jobs so they don’t have to leave the area where they grew up in to find work, we’ve managed to do that successfully around Kanmantoo.”
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