Open-pit mining to recommence at FQM Las Cruces copper operation

The Andalusia Government has authorised the resumption of exploitation work at the Las Cruces copper mine in Gerena, Spain, following a pit wall slide that occurred back in January, the operating subsidiary, Cobre Las Cruces (CLC), says.

In an announcement translated from Spanish to English and dated July 12, the company said it was in a position to immediately restart mining operations in the open pit, after receiving the corresponding authorisation from the Ministry of Finance, Industry and Energy of the Junta de Andalucía.

Open-pit mining at Las Cruces, owned by First Quantum Minerals through its ownership in CLC, was temporarily suspended as a result of a landslide that occurred on the northern slope of the pit on January 23.

The stoppage of the open pit has previously led First Quantum Minerals to warn investors the operation could lose around 25,000 t of copper output in 2019, followed by a further 25,000 t in 2020.

Since open-pit mining stopped, the operation has been feeding the hydrometallurgical plant with stockpiled ore to keep up throughput.

The approval to restart activity at the mine follows the company enacting its recovery and insurance plan at the open-pit site. This has seen CLC rebuild and reinforce the pit wall, as well as employ a georadar and laser scanner to scan the slopes of the mine in real time. A seismograph has also been employed to detect possible vibrations in the terrain.

Open-pit mining will resume in the eastern area of the open pit, CLC said. This is where the last phase of mining (phase 6) of the current open-pit plan is due to take place before the deposit is exhausted.

Las Cruces produced 70,738 t of copper cathode in 2018, slightly behind the 73,664 t it posted in 2017.