Mining History

Torrington Tungsten – A history sporadic mining over 80 years from 1899 to 1980.

The first recorded presence of tungsten, tin and bismuth mineralisation associated with the Torrington Pendant is in the Fielders Hill area in 1887 by David (see Figure 1). Mining commenced in 1899 by P. Bennet who recovered wolframite and bismuth from veins and vughs within silexite. Exploration of thtonne wider area is recorded from the late 19th century, originally in search of alluvial and readily accessible hard rock tin and tungsten lodes, small scale mining of these commodities and bismuth soon began.

A number of settlements or small mining towns similar to Torrington sprang up and in the early 1920’s there were 16 batteries working in the area. There are no exact figures on peak population, but it would have been ~1,500 to 2,000 people as at that time there were 500 men employed in the mines and the Torrington school had more than 100 students.

Larger scale mining commenced in 1905 by the Torrington Ore Company (which controlled the western and southern portions of the Torrington Pendant) and continued until 1919 by BHP who had taken over the mine in 1911. During that time, it is estimated that at least 75,000 tons of ore was crushed to produce ~441 tons of tungsten with a head grade between 0.5 to over 1.0% WO3. Mining and exploration ceased at this time due to the collapse of world tungsten prices and apart from the processing of existing tailings and dumps in the 1940’s and early1950’s little work was done until the late 1960’s (as shown in Table 1)

Figure 1: Historic Workings – 2016 Exploration Targets are also outlined.

In 1943 The Geological Survey of NSW undertook a comprehensive survey of the Torrington tin and wolfram deposits and concluded that the region could make a significant contribution to the state, but a wartime shortage of manpower and finance curtailed any large scale exploitation of the resources. From 1943 to 1953 production was mainly from fossickers and small parties when the market again collapsed.

No further mining occurred at Torrington until 1969-72 when Abaleen Minerals NL crushed ~250,000 tons of rock around Carters Workings although according to returns to the Department of Mines only two tons of 30% concentrate was produced. This seems at odds with earlier reports from 1970 when they had mined 31,000 tons for a grade of 0.7% WO3, along with metallurgical testing stating it was possible to produce 68.7% and 69.2% WO3 concentrates after magnetic separation.

In 1976 the Geological Survey of NSW measured and mapped the silexite resource of the Torrington Pendant and concluded that an indicated resource of ~1,000,000 tons and an inferred resource of ~5,500,000 tons of silexite was present. This was considered a conservative estimate as many smaller bodies, and buried bodies of uncertain extent were not included in the study.

Pacific Copper undertook a bulk sampling programme between 1977 and 1980 and processed ~140,000 tons silexite from Burnt Hut, Fielders Hill North, and Wild Kate for 139.5 tons concentrate of 71-74% WO3. This was a recovered grade 0.1% WO3, but sampling of the tailings returned 0.1% WO3 demonstrating the friable nature of the wolframite from Torrington, and the unsuitability of the plant design. Subsequent testing by Pacific Copper found the silexite had an average grade of 0.2% WO3­, and 0.05% Bi. Pacific Copper then concentrated on the topaz in silexite as it is a very good refractory material and the company spent several years refining the mullite produced from Torrington topaz and built a pilot plant. From 1987 to 1989 Pacific Copper in joint venture with Topalite Resources Ltd, Phoenix Oil & Gas NL, and Mincorp Petroleum NL created the Torrington Topaz Venture. Despite proving the high performance of the product, the joint venture could not obtain financial support for large scale mining and processing and eventually the individual companies went their separate ways. In addition, some of the topaz was used in the shipping industry as an abrasive (sand blasting).

Table 1: Historical Tungsten (as WO3) Concentrate Production Torrington (tons) -

Period Fielders Hill Bismuth Wolfram Hill Carters New Hope Locks Burnt Hut Wild Kate Mt Everard Fossicking / Misc
To 1911 309 320 15 115 203 15   15 20 99
1912-1919 318 2   229 82 44   25   173
1920-1938     5             100
1939-1957 65 22   43 11.5 1 1.5     139
1958-1976       7 2          
1977-1981 95       9.5   40.5 0.5 10 3
Totals 787 344 20 394 308 60 42 40.5 30 514

Total of 2,540 tons of recorded concentrate production

All historical production records are derived from mining operations within the current Torrington Tungsten and Topaz Project area.

Topalite Resources Pty Ltd obtained the ground covering most of the Torrington Pendant in 1996-97 and held them until March 2000 when the company was purchased by Quantum Resources Ltd; the leases lapsed in 2003 and the area was taken up by prospector John Leslie Love. Little work was completed in the period up until relinquishment in October 2009. The area was subsequently applied for by Resolve Geo Pty Ltd. A review of the previous mining operations and drilling programmes provided a JORC 2012 Mineral Resource estimate containing 2,247 tons WO3 at 0.19% WO3 (April 2012).

TopTung Limited acquired the Torrington Tungsten Project comprising Exploration Licences 8258 and 8355 from Resolve Geo Pty Ltd in April 2015 and in August 2015 announced an upgraded JORC 2012 Indicated and Inferred Resource estimate of 2,146,000 tons at 0.23% WO3 for 4,965 tons WO3 (ASX announcement 12 August 2015).