Evolution Mining has announced the start of underground production at its fully-owned Cowal gold mine in New South Wales, Australia.

The Australia-based gold mining company said that the milestone has been achieved three months earlier than the previously announced target of the June 2023 quarter.

According to the company, the Cowal underground project remains within the initial budget of A$380m ($254m). The commissioning of the paste plant and completion of the accommodation village is scheduled for the June 2023 quarter.

Evolution Mining said that it has started mining the first underground stope and the subsequent processing. The company expects a continued ramp-up of underground production during the course of the current financial year.

The Cowal project is located 350km west of Sydney, which has been producing via open pit operations. The first gold from the project was poured in 2006.

In 2015, the gold operation was acquired by Evolution Mining.

With the new underground mine, Evolution Mining expects to increase the overall production from the Cowal project to around 320,000 ounces of low-cost gold per year in the financial year 2024 (FY24). The mine life will be extended beyond 17 years.

Evolution Mining CEO and managing director Lawrie Conway said: “We have achieved a major milestone at Cowal with the early commencement of production from the new underground mine.

“It is a credit to the project team to be able to commence production ahead of schedule and on budget in the current inflationary market conditions for project development and construction.

“We are now on the pathway to increase Cowal’s production from the current FY23 guidance of ~275,000 ounces to FY24 outlook of ~320,000 low cost ounces.”

In July 2021, Evolution Mining board approved the development of the Cowal underground mine with an aim to extract 27 million tonnes of ore at a rate of 1.8 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) until 2040.

The Australian gold mining company also operates four more fully-owned mines. These include Ernest Henry and Mt Rawdon in Queensland, Mungari in Western Australia, and Red Lake in Ontario, Canada.