A newly discovered underground gold mine that has just begun operations will significantly bolster mineral production by Lane Xang Minerals Ltd (LXML) and bring socio-economic benefits to Laos.

With resources of 9.5 million tonnes and ore production projected to increase from 400,000 tonnes in 2023 to 1.2 million tonnes per annum thereafter, the “Discovery Deeps Underground Mine” is expected to extend Sepon’s mine life by at least seven years to 2030, LXML, a leading mineral producer in Laos, said in a statement.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines and Sepon Project Management Committee chair Thongphat Inthavong, and other government stakeholders visited the LXML Sepon mine in Savannakhet province on May 16 to open what the company claimed is the first modern underground mine in Laos.

The discovery and expected increase in production will contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development in host communities, according to LXML.

“This new development will use modern underground mining equipment, and advanced mining techniques, to transfer knowledge and skills to Lao employees and contractors – Lao mining professionals – to set new standards for underground mining,” said LXML general manager Paul Harris.

Addressing the opening ceremony, the managing director Saman Aneka said the LXML community trust fund has contributed to better livelihoods in the three key areas of food security, health and education for future generations.

He said this underground mine is the first underground operation in Laos that is compliant with the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) requirements. To date, LXML has provided $11 million to the community trust fund and $49 million in income generation for local business groups.

LXML brought in specialist international expertise and equipment to Laos for this landmark project.

The Lao government’s National Green Growth Strategy recognises the mining industry as a priority sector due to its significant contributions to economic development, and LXML Sepon has consistently been rated A+ by the Ministry of Energy and Mines for maintaining high international standards.

“Underground mining will deliver economic and social benefits at the national, regional, and local levels, and to our stakeholders and host communities,” said Harris.

“Underground mining is more economical for deeper ore deposits, with much less environmental and social impact relative to open pit mining. At LXML, we are committed to achieving the highest safety and environmental standards and working closely with local communities to share benefits.”

Underground exploration and development will continue at Sepon through to 2023, with production from the underground mine expected in the second half of next year. The underground mine will extend 450m below the surface. The decline access tunnel will be more than 1,800m long, 5m high and 5m wide, to accommodate modern underground excavation and drilling equipment.

LXML Sepon has been operating an open-pit gold and copper mine in Savannakhet province since 2003. Over the past two decades, LXML has contributed more than $1.6 billion in direct revenue through taxes and royalties to the Lao government, and hundreds of millions of dollars in indirect benefits through community development, employment and training.