Base metals play Aurora Metals has recently collapsed into administration, once again thrusting the north Queensland mines under uncertainty and closure for the fifth time in just over a decade. The company’s copper and zinc projects were put on care and maintenance in May following a significant drop in zinc prices over the past six months. In response to the dire situation, Aurora Metals called in KordaMentha as voluntary administrators on Monday.
Richard Tucker, the administrator from KordaMentha, expressed his hope for a swift resolution, stating, “Aurora Metals Group will undoubtedly attract interest given its portfolio of assets and the current environment where battery metals are in strong demand.” Tucker emphasised the company’s significant assets, including four underground mines such as King Vol and Mungana, as well as processing plants in Mt Garnet and Chillagoe, which are currently inactive.
The mines’ closure in May resulted in over 150 employees losing their jobs, leaving around 45 workers still in place as KordaMentha searches for a source of funding and prepares the company’s operations for potential sale. Tucker’s primary objective is to secure a buyer quickly, taking advantage of the growing interest in base metals operations and the high demand for battery metals in the market.
The turbulent history of Aurora Metals can be traced back to its connection with collapsed base metals play Kagara. Once valued at an impressive $1 billion, Kagara succumbed to the drastic decline in metals prices during the last mining boom in 2012. Consolidated
Tin Mines acquired some of Kagara’s assets in 2013 and successfully restarted the Mt Garnett underground mine. However, falling metals prices once again led to a collapse in 2016, followed by a recapitalization in 2017.
Auctus Minerals, backed by Denham Capital, acquired other Kagara assets, including the Chillagoe precious and base metals mine. Unfortunately, Auctus faced its own collapse in 2020, leading Consolidated to acquire the assets for approximately $26.5 million.
Despite efforts to revive the mines and sustain operations, the recurring challenges have proven insurmountable, leading to the current collapse and administration.
The fate of the north Queensland mines remains uncertain, with hopes resting on finding a new owner who can bring stability and success to the operations. The administrators will work diligently to identify potential buyers who can capitalise on the demand for battery metals and revitalise the mining industry in the region. The recurring closures highlight the challenging nature of the base metals sector and the need for resilience and adaptability in the face of market volatility.