A break-in at the Beaconsfield Gold Mine in northern Tasmania that resulted in $1.5 million damage bill will delay the long-awaited resumption of production, but there is confidence the project will still go ahead.
- Beaconsfield Gold says it is “devastated” by the latest theft attempt
- It has resulted in a loss of power to the site as well as damage to other infrastructure
- The company is confident the plan to reopen will go ahead, but not on the time-frame planned
It is believed the offenders stole a front-end leader from a nearby business over the weekend and used it to attempt to steal copper from the gold processing plant.
It’s the latest in a long list of break-ins at the site, which was brought to global attention in 2006 when a rockfall claimed the life of Larry Knight and trapped fellow miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell underground for two weeks.
The mine has been shut since 2012 but efforts to reopen are ramping up.
Beaconsfield Gold spokesman Roger Jackson said the frequency with which criminals targeted the mine was “extremely bad”.
“We’ve had so many break-ins over a few years now,” he said.
“They’ve gradually got worse and worse.
“This last event we’re really just devastated by it, given its magnitude.”
On Sunday morning police were called to the scene on Rifle Range Road.
They say the offenders damaged a transformer while trying to steal copper wiring.
“The offenders have wrapped a chain around the mass of copper cables close to where they attach to the transformer and tried to rip them free using the front-end loader,” Inspector Dean McMahon from Tasmania Police said.
“This caused the transformer to buckle and damage part of the overhead cabling structure.”
Time and money
Copper cabling is a major attraction for the thieves and Beaconsfield Gold says the cost is mounting in terms of money and time.
“Up to now there’s been numerous break-ins where they’ve broken in through our fences, probably up to a dozen times,” Mr Jackson said.
“We’ve got holes in our security fences everywhere with patches over them.
“Essentially I think copper cable is the motive and in doing so they cause so much damage,” Mr Jackson said.
“This one now is a real problem because it pushes back our start-up, and our aspirations to get started this year is now in jeopardy, very disappointing.
“The plant refurbishment program was about to start and that was meant to take six months, but now I guess we’ve got to review how we do that.”
The site has lost power because the main transformer was badly damaged during the incident.
“In the process they’ve also damaged a lot of the infrastructure around the transformer station, and then they’ve tried to hook up to dozens and dozens of heavy cables that run the mine,” Mr Jackson said.
“It could be a few months that it’s pushed us back, and certainly cost an extra lot of money and a lot of stress for our few guys that are there managing the plant.”
‘Not the end’
Mr Jackson is confident the project will proceed.
“It’s just a matter of time and money — money that could have been spent doing other things that would have been more productive,” he said.
“It’s not the end of the project but it certainly is a real stumbling block.”
The area surrounding the site is littered with dozens of burnt out cars and burn out marks.
“It really is quite intimidating to be trying to work in and around such destruction,” Mr Jackson said.
Security cameras have been set up at the site to deter thieves and vandals, but they are not having much of an impact.
“They’re that brazen that they’ve actually undertaken a break-in during the day while we’ve had maintenance staff working at the plant,” Mr Jackson said.
“These guys don’t particularly care.”
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