Tag Archives: Dolores

Mexico miners to suspend operations for April following government decree

Mexico has become the latest country to enforce a suspension of non-essential activities in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its Ministry of Health ordering a temporary halt of activities until April 30 in order to slow the virus spread.

Mexico is the world’s largest silver producer, having produced 6,300 t of the precious metal in 2019, according to the US Geological Survey. This was an increase of 180 t, year-on-year. It is also hosts major copper and zinc mines operated by Grupo Mexico and Southern Copper, and produces a significant amount of gold.

It joins the likes of Peru, Quebec and South Africa in declaring suspensions of all non-essential activities in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Among the miners with operations in the country to have already reacted to the Mexico Ministry of Health’s announcement was Newmont, Pan American Silver, Sierra Metals and Argonaut Gold.

Newmont, which operates the Peñasquito mine in the state of Zacatecas, said it was taking steps towards a safe and orderly ramp down of operations at the asset.

“At this time, mining has not been deemed an essential activity under the decree and the company is engaging with the government to understand the intended impacts of the decree on operations,” it said.

“Peñasquito will work closely with local governments, neighbouring communities, employees, unions and contractors to ensure a safe and orderly ramp down that complies with the federal government’s directives.”

Tom Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Newmont, said the company intended to comply with Mexico’s latest directive, while engaging with the government to gain further clarity regarding “important activities that may continue at the mine”.

In the meantime, the company would ensure Peñasquito, which is the largest gold mine, second largest silver mine and one of the largest producers of zinc and lead in Mexico, remains well-positioned to safely and efficiently ramp up operations in a timely manner once the government’s directive is lifted, Palmer added. This includes maintaining critical safety, environmental management, infrastructure maintenance and security activities, while continuing to provide essential community support.

Pan American Silver, which operates the La Colorada (Zacatecas, pictured) and Dolores (Chihuahua) operations in Mexico, said it would expand its initiative of reducing the number of people on site to increase physical distancing, to bring the mines into compliance with the executive order.

It is continuing to conduct care and maintenance at the suspended operations to sustain strict safety and environmental systems, and to ensure operational readiness when the government restrictions are lifted and Pan American determines it is safe to resume operations, it added.

La Colorada produced 8.2 Moz of silver in 2019, while Dolores’ output came in at 5.1 Moz.

As a result of this declaration, Sierra Metals said it will only maintain an essential services crew at its Bolivar mine site until April 30, and the Cusi mine site will be placed into care and maintenance during this period. “The company anticipates resuming normal production levels at the mines after this period,” it said.

Bolivar, an underground mine with a 3,600 t/d processing capacity, had previously been expected to produce 16,402- 18,225 t of copper-equivalent in 2020, while the Cusi underground mine was down to produce 1,732-2,126 oz of silver.

Sierra Metals added: “Production can recommence to normal levels very quickly after April 30, and the company has some operating flexibility at Bolivar to run the ore processing mill at higher levels, which should help recover lost ore tonnages from this suspension.”

Argonaut Gold, which is looking to merge with Alio Gold – a transaction that will see it increase its Mexico exposure – said it was working towards an orderly suspension of mining, crushing and stacking activities at its El Castillo gold-silver open-pit mine in Durango, and its La Colorada open-pit operation in Sonora. These assets produced 131,277 gold-equivalent ounces and 55,338 gold-equivalent ounces, respectively, in 2019.

The company added: “Given that Argonaut operates heap leach mines, the company expects metal production and metal sales will continue during the temporary suspension of mining activities.”

Cobriza, Dolores and Gounkoto see Immersive benefits

Immersive Technologies’ annual award for miners using simulation for equipment operator optimisation and business improvement went a step further this year, recognising global winners for surface and underground mining environments.

The award, based on improvements made in 2017, acknowledges the achievements of mine sites focused on improving operational safety, efficiency and productivity through “strategic and focused simulator-based training initiatives globally”, Immersive said.

NEMISA, the largest underground miner in Mexico, was awarded the Global Underground Business Improvement Award for the results achieved during 2017 at its two mines, Cobriza and Dolores.

The sites set goals to reduce maintenance costs and increase productivity. After the training was delivered in the IM360 simulators, trainers spent time in the field to confirm and reinforce best practices learned on the simulator, according to Immersive.

“Before, during and at the end of the three-month period, in-pit data was analysed against the simulator results to evaluate real improvements,” the simulator provider said.

For both mines combined, the training initiative decreased the site’s cost per tonne by 7.5%.

The improvements at the Cobriza mine included:

  • 4% tyre cost improvement
  • 26.5% mechanical and spare parts reduction
  • 60.2% engine repair cost reduction.

And, at the Dolores mine:

  • 29.4% tyre cost improvement
  • 10.4% fuel cost reduction
  • 38.7% transmission abuse cost reduction.

José Luis Contreras, Maintenance Manager for NEMISA, said: “We are very satisfied with the results delivered by Immersive Technologies’ simulators and professional services provided. These simulators have been the missing piece in our operator training programme and will be an important solution for our future efforts.”

In the surface category, DTP Mining, in partnership with Randgold Resources, undertook an initiative to invest in the operator workforce development at the Gounkoto mine in Mali by deploying a training simulator from Immersive.

A six-month proof of concept was undertaken, using the IM360 classroom simulator, with a conversion kit for the Caterpillar 777F haul truck, followed by a customised training curriculum to train operators.

Collaboration between Immersive’s staff, site trainers, local business intelligence department members and mine site management ensured a stringent training schedule could be adhered to, according to the company.

“Regular reporting of results maintained project momentum, while planned in-field observations reinforced the training received and improvements made during simulator training sessions,” Immersive said.

During 2017, the site recorded a 9% fuel consumption improvement, saving 1.2 million litres annually and an estimated $725,000.

NEMISA and DTP Mining were chosen from more than 300 global mining operations in 44 countries and join the ranks of past winners including Rio Tinto, Vale, Kiewit Mining Group, PT Pamapersada Nusantara, Cipta Kridatama, Cliffs Natural Resources, Syncrude, Kinross Gold and Peabody Energy.