Ballarat mining engineering company Gekko Systems will build a $49 million processing plant at a tungsten mine in King Island, which promises to bring more skilled jobs to the city.
A contract for Gekko to design, build, and commission a tungsten processing plant for Australian company Group 6 Metals at its Dolphin Mine was signed this week, with construction expected to be completed by 2023.
Gekko's chief executive Andrew Edmonston said he estimated about 50 high-skilled jobs will be created in Ballarat for the project, including in project management, engineering, and fabrication.
There will also be a local focus in the supply chain, he added.
"We'll be designing and constructing the entire process plant, right from when the ore is mined," he said.
"We've done one other tungsten project - this is the first full plant we've done, but it's a similar process to what we do with gold."
A primary focus for the company is developing and building gold extraction technologies, many of which were invented in Ballarat and are now used across the world.
The tungsten system will involve crushing and grinding the ore, before using chemical processes to fully separate the mineral from the rock, concentrating it for refining later.
Tungsten is a rare-earth mineral, used for construction, mining, weapons, and transport - Mr Edmonston described it as a mineral that "hardens" other metals in alloys.
"(For example), in the big tunnel boring machines, the tips that cut the rock are tungsten carbide," he said.
IN THE NEWS
"It has been designated as a strategically important mineral for Australia, the US has done the same - at the moment about 80 per cent, if not more, is produced in China, so it's important for Australia and other countries to have a local supply of tungsten."
The Dolphin mine on King Island, near the town of Grassy, was in operation until the 1990s, with Group 6 looking to restart production.
According to its website, it's expected Gekko's processing plant will handle about 400,000 tonnes of ore per year.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.