Flying Fox is Western Areas first producing underground mine and remains one of the highest grade nickel mines in the world. Production commenced in 2006 and the underground mine now operates at depths of over 1km underground. Flying Fox is a low cash cost operation and production for FY18 was just over 10,000 tonnes of nickel in ore.
The Flying Fox orebody extends from 250m to over 1.2km below the surface and includes discrete independent orebodies with possible extensions at depth. The average reserve grade at the end of September 2018 is 3.4% nickel with stoping predominately from the lower areas of the T5 orebody.
The primary stoping method used is ‘top-down’ long-hole stoping using paste-fill in order to attempt 100% recovery of the high grade orebody. In the narrower sections of the orebody both modified Avoca with unconsolidated and cemented rock-fill plus hand held air-leg techniques are used.
The original Flying Fox underground mine was owned and operated by the Finnish company Outokumpu from 1992 to 1997 and produced 0.24Mt @ 3.2% Ni from workings to a depth of 200m below surface. Outokumpu also operated two other nickel mines (Cosmic Boy and Diggers Rocks) from 1992 to 1999 and an associated nickel concentrator located adjacent to the Cosmic Boy mine.
Western Areas discovered the extensive mineralisation below the original underground mine after purchasing the tenement package.