Never mind the gold, miner sets sights on $3 billion pumped hydro project instead

Evolution Mining is moving on a $3.3 billion plan to transition a 20-year-old Queensland gold mine into pumped hydro.

Nov 23, 2023, updated Nov 23, 2023
Evolution Gold is considering a swap from gold mining to pumped hydro electricity. (Image: ABC)

Evolution Gold is considering a swap from gold mining to pumped hydro electricity. (Image: ABC)

Chair Jake Klein told shareholders that the project at Mt Rawdon, south west of Bundaberg, was building momentum with a feasibility study due for completion “in the next few months”. An investment decision is planned for December 2024.

It follows an announcement earlier this year by coal miner New Hope that it was also investigating the option at its Acland project. The State Government has two pumped hydro projects in early development and investigation and Genex is in the final stages of development of the Kidston pumped hydro project in north Queensland.

Mt Rawdon has been producing gold for about 20 years.

“Once construction, the (Mt Rawdon) would have the capacity to power 2 million homes during peak periods and will reduce Queensland’s emissions by approximately 3 per cent,” Klein said.

“To me, this is a wonderful example of our willingness to think differently at Evolution.”

The project would need 15km of lateral tunnels and 2.5km of vertical tunnels. It would have the capacity to store 20 megawatt hours allowing for up to 40 hours of continuous electricity generation at 500 megawatts per hour.

The Co-ordinator General’s site has the cost of the project at $3.34 billion. It would create about 500 jobs in construction.

Ironically, it was water that caused big problems for Evolution this year when its Ernest Henry mine, near Cloncurry, was flooded, knocking out production for three months.

Mt Rawdon was also “challenged” by rainfall.

Klein said the investigation into expanding Ernest Henry was likely to be completed in 2025.

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He also expressed concern about the gold market

“As a company we are not comfortable with the risk trajectory that is contributing to a higher gold price but acknowledge investor preference for safe-haven assets in times of uncertainty in global markets,” he said.

“Sadly, I don’t see any scenario where this normalises in the foreseeable future.

“Strategically, this has implications for Evolution. To date, investors have tended to be ‘risk off’ as they reallocate to interest-bearing investments and we have not yet seen the expected rally in gold securities. I have no doubt this will change in time.”



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