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Plans for a small manganese mine on an island off Groote are going smoothly.

Winchelsea Mining  has lodged a mining licence application, plus Federal and Territory government environmental referrals.

Darwin-based surveyor Cross Solutions is to survey the mine site on Winchelsea Island, also known as Akwamburrkba.

And talks about developing the project are underway with several contractors.

A feasibility study will be carried out soon and then a final investment decision taken.

“It’s all going along very well,” says Winchelsea Mining operations manager Bruce Marshall. “We’ve done a lot of exploration work.”

The $7 million exploration program has included the drilling of 980 holes with 80 more to come.

Five water monitoring boreholes are to be drilled before an application for a water licence is lodged with the Territory Government.

Winchelsea Mining, which has 12 staff on its books, has invested in mining equipment, including a mid-size excavator and a small bulldozer.

“The excavator and ‘dozer have paid for themselves on what we’ve saved on contractors since we bought them last year,” says Mr Marshall.

The plan is to mine the highest-grade ore in an open-cast operation from the middle of next year and hopefully ship out the first load by the wet season 2022.

About 30,000 tonnes of ore a month is expected to be mined.

Costs have been slashed by dropping the original plan for a long loading jetty in favour of barging the ore to freight ships.

And the suggestion that a large processing plant be built has been ditched in favour of a crusher, screens and washing. Administration and the laydown area will be at Little Paradise on Groote Eylandt and workers will be ferried across to Winchelsea each day.