Prospect Awards Finalists 2014: Hard Rock Mine of the Year

Four companies are competing for this year’s Hard Rock Mine of the Year award.

Glencore's Ernest Henry mine

For its successful transition from an open cut mine to an underground operation, Glencore's Ernest Henry mine has been nominated for the Hard Rock of Mine of the Year award.

The move to underground mining started in 2009 when Xstrata Copper approved the new investment after a series of studies showed ore reserves of 72 million tonnes at a grade of one per cent copper, 0.5 grams per tonne gold and 22 per cent magnetite.

This represented a 600 per cent increase on previously published underground reserves.

The $589 million mine will ramp up copper production from three million tonnes to six million tonnes per annum in 2015, and double annual metal production to 50 000 tonnes of copper and 70 000 ounces of gold over its newly extended mine life to 2026. 

Glencore COO for North Queensland copper, Mike Westerman, stated that this commissioning adds more than a decade to the mine's life.

"Our assets in Mount Isa and at Ernest Henry accounted for around 14 per cent of Glencore's global copper production in 2013," Westerman said.

The operation recently took another major step forward this year when it commissioned its $589 million shaft hoist, officially opening its kilometre deep shaft and adding fourteen years to the life of the mine.

Crocodile Gold's Fosterville mine

For its work in reducing diesel emissions, Fosterville underground mine has been nominated for the Hard Rock Mine of the Year award.

The issue of diesel particulate matter in underground mines, and the associated health and safety issues it creates are a major issue for many miners.

Recognising the need to manage diesel emission exposure and in turn its own workers' safety, Fosterville developed a risk-based approach and developed a Diesel Emission Management Plan.  

The plan took a total holistic view, from establishing base line data for emissions from its heavy vehicle underground mobile fleet operations, a review of the ventilation capacity, through to scrutinising fuels and lubricants used.

The project focused on researching and evaluating engineering controls, rather than relying on personal protective equipment (PPE).   

Enlisting the expertise of USA-based engineering team, TF Hudgins, machines were retrofitted with custom-made sintered metal filter elements which helped to reduce DPM by 99 per cent in some cases.

Fostervillle said it has undertaken DPM monitoring for the past four years and has recorded consistent DPM levels above 0.1 mg/m3. 

AngloGold Ashanti's Tropicana mine

Gold miner AngloGold Ashanti produced first gold from its new Tropicana joint venture project ahead of schedule and on budget and for this has been nominated for Hard Rock Mine of the Year award.

The mine will have a nameplate processing capacity of 5.5 million ounces per annum over its current 10-year life and is expected to produce up to 4.7 – 4.9 million ounces during its first three years of operation.

The increased early years of operation reflects the strategy of processing higher grade ore during the project payback period.

It is estimated cash costs for Tropicana will be between $590 and $630 per ounce.

Located 300 kilometres northeast of Kalgoorlie, the operation was originally forecast to begin production in December this year, but with commissioning already underway ramp-up was moved forward to occur in the December quarter.

Despite moving ahead of schedule the estimated capital expenditure for the project is unchanged at between $820 and $845 million.

Tropicana has been on the radar of many analysts for some time now, after the joint venture partners announced that they had upped the total estimated resource to 7.89 million ounces of gold.

China Molybdenum's Northparkes mine

Workers at Northparkes mine are encouraged to volunteer in their local community within work hours, and as a result has been nominated for this year's Hard Rock Mine of the Year award.

The Northparkes Volunteer Leave Program began in 2013 and since then almost 130 employees have volunteered their time to help a variety of community groups, schools and organisations and have been involved in over 20 projects.Employees are asked to volunteer within work hours – or outside of work hours and offered time in lieu if they give up their own time for a cause.

In May 2014 the mine reached its 20 per cent uptake target for the year and estimates the work undertaken by its staff represents an investment of approximately $1 million to the community.

The first project of the program took place in May 2013 – at the Parkes PCYC – where electricians installed energy efficient lighting over the basketball courts, as well as lighting throughout the entire facility. 

PCYC manager Amanda Sutton said that the installation of LED lights in the main hall has giving them an overall saving of around 20 per cent on their power bills, not to mention the safety benefits of having the updated lights. 

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