Codelco Andina’s new Mine-Plant Transfer System set for 2021 start-up with winter control measures

Codelco Andina copper mine’s new Mine-Plant Transfer System will start up in the first quarter of 2021 with new innovations such as Wyssen towers installed for avalanche control. The Wyssen avalanche tower is designed to trigger avalanches with remote-controlled blasting. To trigger an avalanche, a coded command is sent from a control centre to the control system of the deployment box to initiate the blasting. The deployment box contains 12 prepared explosive charges, which can be individually deployed by remote control.

Andina’s Mine-Plant Transfer System will secure the processing of ore from the mine until 2050. The object is to replace the existing transfer system, consisting of shafts that converge on the Don Luis primary crushing plant, which has been affected by the expansion of the pit, with a system consisting of a new primary crushing plant (at Node 3500), horizontal underground development and surface infrastructure, to be able to maintain the current levels of ore processing. Ore from the open-cast mine  will go to the new primary crushing station in the Node 3500 area, with the crushed material transported via the new 4.78 km Haulage III tunnel to the main Mountain Plant.

The Mine-Plant Transfer System will allow for Andina operational continuity for 360 days a year in the pit mine (the other five days of the year are dedicated to its maintenance). This is thanks in part to technological innovations to control the risks of winter and guarantee safe operation for people as in the past, extreme winter conditions have disrupted operations.

Rodrigo Olivares, Director of Studies, Vulnerability and Emergencies at Codelco Andina, explains that “in line with the transformation, we are aiming for a fully-fledged operation, through new technologies and teamwork. This demands a great challenge for the winter and therefore, operating with controlled risks, such as avalanches.”

Susana Aravena, Specialist Engineer in Transfer Project Implementation, adds that “this project has the challenge of maintaining the operational continuity of the open pit mine, especially in complex conditions such as winter, applying all security measures to protect our people.”

In addition to the Wyssen towers, the measures include visibility measurement, for making decisions regarding the safety of the traffic of equipment and vehicles during winter. There is also a new weather conditions monitoring station around Node 3500, for decision-making based on reliable information taken on-site.