World’s largest copper mine goes underground

Chile's Chuquicamata mine, the world's largest open cut copper mine, will moving underground.

It comes after close to a century of operation, according to the San Franciso Chronicle.

The mine has now reportedly become too larger and too deep to continue with the open cut style of mining, as dump truck now have to drive 11 kilometres just to the reach the surface, all the while hauling lower grade ores.
Predictions have put the end of the mine life by 2019.

Now miner Codelco is trying to combat this forecast by converting the operation from an open cut into an underground.

This mirrors fellow Australian copper mine Ernest Henry, which has already transformed from a massive open cut into an underground operation.

The move by miner owner Xstrata has breathed another 12 years of life into its Ernest Henry Mining operation near Cloncurry, which has now successfully transitioned from open cut last year into an underground mine and is now on track to reach full production levels.

According to Coldeco, Chuquicamata still has the ability to produce around 308 000 tonns of copper annually.

It has already started digging more than 1000 kilometres, sinking US3.8 billion into the development.

The mine will also replace its trucks with an in-pit crushing and conveying system.

Mining has been known to take place at the site in one form or another since 550AD.

It is the second deepest mine in the world, after Bingham Canyon, in the U.S.

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