The first load of zinc concentrate slowly crawled along the slurry pipeline from Century Mine in Lawn Hill to Karumba last week.
It takes almost four days for the slurry to slither through 304km of pipeline from the mine to the Gulf of Carpentaria – at a sluggish 4km/hour.
While minerals moving at a walking pace might not sound too exciting – it is a major milestone for the Australian mining industry.
New Century Resources officially opened its $50 million investment based on a former zinc mine at Lawn Hill in north west Queensland on Friday.
It will become the model for mine rehabilitation in Australia.
Just three years ago, the mine was abandoned by MMG when zinc prices bottomed out.
New Century Resources were quick to pounce on the site when the market picked up in 2017.
In just over a year they have re-purposed the site to bring it back into production, and Century Mine is now a shining example of recycling.
Tailings waste accumulated from the mine’s past 16 years of production are brought to life using hydraulic mining.
High pressured water cannons are shot into a dried-up dam to re-slurry tailings.
The slurry is then pumped up to a plant onsite to be partially processed before making the arduous journey along the pipeline to Karumba to be shipped around the world.
The best part is that after about six years, more than a third of total mine disturbance will have been removed from previous operations.
And the leftovers are not all that bad. Century says there is 77 million tonnes of tailings at 3 per cent zinc ready to be re-slurried.
Century Mine is the only mine in Australia using hydraulic mining on this scale to extract zinc concentrate for export from tailings waste.
The formally abandoned mine now has dreams of becoming one of the top 10 global producers of zinc in the world when operation reaches full capacity this year.
New Century’s Managing Director Patrick Walta said at full production the mine would extract zinc concentrate for export from 15 million tonnes of tailings waste per annum.
"Our business model focuses on extracting value from the remaining assets on the Century Mine to complete the site’s required rehabilitation in a profitable and timely manner,” Mr Walta said.
“We hope to revolutionise the way companies look at mine site rehabilitation in the future.
“This operation will generate around 250 jobs in north west Queensland while maintaining a strong connection to the region’s Traditional Owners through ongoing implementation of Native Title Agreements and through the execution of new partnership agreements with the Waanyi People.
“It also has workers on site, at the Karumba port and in the surrounding supply chain,” he said.
“We expect the first shipments of high grade zinc concentrate to be leaving the site and on its way to the Karumba port later this year.”