Tag Archives: First Quantum Minerals

NextOre’s magnetic resonance tech up and running at First Quantum’s Kansanshi

Australia-based NextOre is onto another ore sorting assignment with its magnetic resonance (MR) sensing technology, this time in Zambia at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine.

NextOre was originally formed in 2017 as a joint venture between CSIRO, RFC Ambrian and Worley, with its MR technology representing a leap forward in mineral sensing that provides accurate, whole-of-sample grade measurements, it says.

Demonstrated at mining rates of 4,300 t/h, per conveyor belt, the technology comes with no material preparation requirement and provides grade estimates in seconds, NextOre claims. This helps deliver run of mine grade readings in seconds, providing “complete transparency” for tracking downstream processing and allowing operations to selectively reject waste material.

Having initially successfully tested its magnetic resonance analysers (MRAs) at Newcrest’s Cadia East mine in New South Wales, Australia, the company has gone onto test and trial the innovation across the Americas and Asia.

More recently, it set up camp in Africa at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine where it is hoping to show off the benefits of the technology in a trial.

The MRA in question was installed in January on the sulphide circuit’s 2,800 t/h primary crushed conveyor at Kansanshi, with the installation carried out with remote assistance due to COVID-19 restrictions on site.

Anthony Mukutuma, General Manager at First Quantum’s Kansanshi Mine in the Northwestern Province of Zambia, said the operation was exploring the use of MRAs for online ore grade analysis and subsequent possible sorting to mitigate the impacts of mining a complex vein-type orebody with highly variating grades.

“The installation on the 2,800 t/h conveyor is a trial to test the efficacy of the technology and consider engineering options for physical sorting of ore prior to milling,” he told IM.

Chris Beal, NextOre CEO, echoed Mukutuma’s words on grade variation, saying daily average grades at Kansanshi were on par with what the company might see in a bulk underground mine, but when NextOre looked at each individual measurement – with each four seconds representing about 2.5 t – it was seeing some “higher grades worthy of further investigation”.

“The local geology gives it excellent characteristics for the application of very fast measurements for bulk ore sorting,” he told IM.

Mukutuma said the initial aim of the trial – to validate the accuracy and precision of the MRA scanner – was progressing to plan.

“The next phase of the project is to determine options for the MRA scanner to add value to the overall front end of processing,” he said.

Beal was keen to point out that the MRA scanner setup at Kansanshi was not that much different to the others NextOre had operating – with the analyser still measuring copper in the chalcopyrite mineral phase – but the remote installation process was very different.

“Despite being carried out remotely, this installation went smoother than even some where we had a significant on-site presence,” he said. “A great deal of that smoothness can be attributed to the high competency of the Kansanshi team. Of course, our own team, including the sensing and sorting team at CSIRO, put in a huge effort to quickly pivot from the standard installation process, and also deserve a great deal of credit.”

Beal said the Kansanshi team were supplied with all the conventional technical details one would expect – mechanical drawings, assembly drawings, comprehensive commissioning instructions and animations showing assembly.

To complement that, the NextOre team made use of both the in-built remote diagnostic systems standard in each MRA and several remote scientific instruments, plus a Trimble XR10 HoloLens “mixed-reality solution” that, according to Trimble, helps workers visualise 3D data on project sites.

“The NextOre and CSIRO teams were on-line on video calls with the Kansanshi teams each day supervising the installation, monitoring the outputs of the analyser and providing supervision in real time,” Beal said. He said the Kansanshi team had the unit installed comfortably within the planned 12-hour shutdown window.

By the second week of February the analyser had more than 90% availability, Beal said in early April.

He concluded on the Kansanshi installation: “There is no question that we will use the remote systems developed during this project in each project going ahead, but, when it is at all possible, we will always have NextOre representatives on site during the installation process. This installation went very smoothly but we cannot always count on that being the case. And there are other benefits to having someone on site that you just cannot get without being there.

“That said, in the future, we expect that a relatively higher proportion of support and supervision can be done through these remote systems. More than anything, this will allow us to more quickly respond to events on site and to keep the equipment working reliably.”

FQM awards Ravensthorpe nickel E&I package to SIMPEC

SIMPEC says it has been contracted by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) to deliver an electrical and instrumentation (E&I) package at the Ravensthorpe nickel operations’ Shoemaker-Levy project, in Western Australia.

This material, newly awarded contract is SIMPEC’s first with FQM, the company said.

The contract scope is for the E&I portion of work for Shoemaker-Levy, with the value expected to be around A$9 million ($6.8 million).

The works are planned to commence immediately and be completed by mid-2021, the WestStar Industrial subsidiary says.

With FQM restarting Ravensthorpe in early 2020, it has been expanding into a second stage nickel laterite deposit, Shoemaker-Levy, to provide the operation with a long-term life of around 30 years.

FQM’s Cobre Las Cruces to fill open-pit output void with tailings reprocessing project

First Quantum Minerals’ majority-owned Cobre Las Cruces mine looks to have pushed out production for at least another year after devising a way to reprocess tailings at the copper operation in Spain.

A method was developed to reprocess tailings from already mined material, which is expected to yield around 22,000 t of copper over the next two years, First Quantum reported.

“Significant changes will be required to ensure the mine can adapt to the new processes required, but we have no doubt everyone at Las Cruces is up to the job,” it said.

In First Quantum’s most recent September quarter results, the company said 2020 was expected to be the final full year of production for the open pit at Cobre Las Cruces.

“Following the completion of open-pit mining, copper production will continue until early 2021 with the processing of stockpiled ore,” it said in the report, noting copper production guidance for 2020 of 55,000 t.

It added that extension of the current mine life through the re-processing of high-grade tailings was being assessed.

Alongside this tailings reprocessing strategy, Cobre Las Cruces is continuing its technical and study work on the polymetallic refinery project at Cobre Las Cruces.

Environmental permits for this project – which involves switching to a polymetallurgical processing route and developing an underground mine – are expected to be received before the end of the year, with water permits due in 2021, FQM said.

MACA to help FQM with Ravensthorpe nickel mine restart

MACA says it has received a letter of award from First Quantum Minerals related to carrying out open-pit mining services at the Ravensthorpe nickel project in Western Australia.

On care and maintenance since October 1, 2017, due to the persistently low nickel price, Ravensthorpe involves open-pit mining and beneficiation of nickel laterite ore, pressure acid leaching, atmospheric leaching, counter current decantation, precipitation and filtration to produce a mixed hydroxide precipitate product, containing approximately 40% nickel and 1.4% cobalt on a dry basis.

First Quantum hinted earlier this year that a restart could be on the cards following a sustained nickel price run. Restart costs, should favourable conditions prevail, are estimated at $10 million, the company has previously said.

The final contract award with MACA is subject to finalisation of documentation with all major terms having been agreed, the ASX-listed contractor said.

Mobilisation to site is expected to commence in December with operations commencing from January.

The project will consist of open-pit mining services including drilling and blasting, and loading and hauling, and is expected to generate around A$480 million ($327 million) in revenue for MACA over the initial five-year term.

MACA said its total work in hand position now stands at A$2.5 billion and its financial year 2020 revenue is expected to be around A$770 million.

MACA Operations Director, Geoff Baker, said: “We are very pleased to have been selected preferred contractor and look forward to developing a long-term working relationship with the First Quantum team at the Ravensthorpe nickel project.”

Orica turns wireless blasting dream into a reality at Europe’s deepest mine

In Europe’s first demonstration of wireless blasting, Orica has enabled First Quantum Minerals’ (FQM) Pyhäsalmi underground mine in Finland to recover ore it previously thought inaccessible.

Orica’s WebGen™ 100, the first truly wireless rock blasting system, has been used in trials at the zinc-copper-pyrite mine since September 2018, with FQM, to date, carrying out five blasts.

Since the invention of the safety fuse by William Bickford in 1831, there has been three revolutions in blast initiation methods – electric detonators (1930s), shock tube (1980s) and electronics (~2000s). Every new initiation method development has increased the safety, precision and possibilities of initiating blasts.

The new Safety Integrity Level 3 certified WebGen system could end up being the fourth revolution in this line-up, Orica believes.

Still in its infancy with, as of August, more than 250 blasts fired using wireless initiation, the WebGen technology has already led to the development of several new mining techniques such as Temporary Rib Pillar (TRP), Temporary Uppers Retreat Pillar, Reverse Throw Retreat, Longitudinal Transverse Retreat and Pre-Loaded Retreat that would not be viable or possible without wireless blasting technology.

WebGen comprises the following components:

  • WebGen primer and accessories – including the high explosive Pentex™ W booster, i-kon™ plugin electronic detonator, the Disposable Receiver (DRX) and the encoder controller;
  • Transmission system – including transmitter, antenna and transmitter controller; and
  • Code Management Computer (CMC) – including the unique global blast and arm codes.

The system achieves wireless blasting through very low frequency magnetic induction (MI) signals communicated to the in-hole primer, with the special site-specific group ID, arm and firing codes embedded in the MI signals. The system eliminates the lead wires of conventional initiation systems, thereby also eliminating the ‘hook-up’ process at the blastholes.

The operation works as follows: The i-kon plugin detonator plugs into the DRX, energising the device and initiating a self-test. After passing the self-test, the device can be encoded with the blast code and the delay timing. The booster is attached after encoding the device. At this stage the WebGen primer is ready to be placed into the blasthole.

The transmitter controller – a magnetic induction system connected to an antenna – sends the arming signal to the transmitter. Once the arming process is successful the firing window is presented to the blaster.

The CMC is the data hub of the system and supplies the identification and firing codes as well as the mine specific codes. Orica explained: “It culminates in the ready to fire file for transmission.”

Game changer

With the elimination of lead wires, it is possible to pre-charge a full stope (eg sub-level caving mining method) and fire every ring when required without sending personnel back to the dangerous brow area to connect lead lines, Orica says. “Misfires related to damaged wires are eliminated and primers can be fired regardless of any dislocations of blasthole and/or charge.”

The Ernest Henry mine, in north-eastern Australia, engaged Orica in 2016 to perform a demonstration of sub-level caving using WebGen. The mine wanted to reduce the time spent by personnel at the brow of the cave. With the use of WebGen they were successful in pre-loading the stope production rings and eliminating the need to return to the brow for hooking up.

At Newmont Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine, productivity and ore recovery were the main drivers for looking into wireless blasting. Together with Orica, Musselwhite developed the TRP mining method where a temporary pillar is used to withhold backfill while the second mass blast (i-kon electronic detonators) of the stope is mucked out.

Orica explained: “Once the stope is mucked out, the TRP is fired remotely and the ore can be recovered.”

With this method the mine established a 93% reduction in dilution, increase in mucking of 27% and a two-week saving in time per stope, the company said.

FQM – Pyhäsalmi

In March 2018, a team of Orica Technical Services Engineers commenced preparations and planning for the first wireless demonstration in Europe with the FQM Pyhäsalmi mine, in Finland, the deepest mine in the continent.

At the time, the mine was scheduled to close in September 2019; most of the stopes had been mined out and the remaining stopes and pillars were becoming increasingly challenging to mine. Orica said: “Pyhäsalmi had developed a system to mine the stranded pillars, but this was incurring considerable time and costs. Pyhäsalmi mine acknowledged that WebGen 100 could be a solution for the problems in retrieving remaining ore in difficult areas.”

As a first stop, the Orica team of blasting specialists had to assess if the WebGen system would successfully function in Pyhäsalmi mine. “Before firing the WebGen shot it was important to investigate if the system would work in the mine and what the maximum signal reach would be for both the quad loop and cable loop antenna,” the company said.

Signal strength testing provides positive confirmation of coded signals being received through the mine and also validates if there are any parts of the mine where the system has a reduced range.

A smaller antenna and a larger antenna were tested.

Pyhäsalmi experiences occasional sulphur dust explosions and, therefore, personnel are not allowed to be underground while blasting, Orica said. As a result, blasting takes place at the end of the shift after the shift explosives supervisor checks everyone has vacated the mine.

Initial signal testing with the smaller antenna validated the system was working with a range of at least 200 m. Further signal testing was performed using the larger antenna.

It was validated the system could send and receive signals from the production level to the furthest stope, which was 450 m away, Orica said.

After assessing the MI signal test results, it was decided it would be more convenient to use the smaller antenna.

In September 2018, the EMEA WebGen team returned to Pyhäsalmi mine for the first wireless blast in Europe. The final three rings of stope 18b10-11 on Level 1,175 were selected for the demonstration blast.

On September 4, 2018, at 22:00, the first wireless blast in Europe was fired without any issue.

Since the introduction of wireless blasting, Pyhäsalmi mine has fired a total of five blasts in challenging areas.

For one of the wireless blasts, a stope would not be accessible after the first blast, but, as the stope could be pre-loaded with wireless detonators, the mine could blast and produce 4,000 t of extra ore that otherwise would have been sterilised.

Katja Sahala, Mine Planning Engineer, FQM Pyhäsalmi mine, said she saw the WebGen wireless system as helping operations in several applications such as when ore needs to be left behind to support pillars, or where there is weak rock, or fill and selective mining is required.

She said: “In uphole charging, you need to work close or even below an open face during drilling and blasting. If it’s possible to drill and charge an entire stope before the first hole is fired, then safety will surely be improved.”

Orica said wireless blasting is a new and exciting technology that eliminates the use of cumbersome and complex wiring hook-ups while having the accuracy of an electronic detonator. It has already enabled safer work methods and mining techniques that increase recovery, productivity and efficiency, according to the company.

It concluded: “Many technical and regulatory challenges will be faced by wireless blasting, but it is a fundamental step in the automation of the explosives charging and blasting process. With the first WebGen blasts at FQM Pyhäsalmi mine, wireless blasting is no longer a dream in Europe, but a reality.”

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.

First ore for FQM’s Cobre Panama copper mine

First Quantum Minerals has introduced first ore to the processing plant at its 74 Mt/y Cobre Panama open-pit copper mine in Panama.

On February 7, ore was introduced through primary crushing and onto the stockpile with initial feed rates between 4,000-5,000 t/h. Then, on February 11, ore was introduced through to the first milling circuit.

Operation on ore continues and will move into all other sections of the processing plant including producing copper concentrate, according to First Quantum. The company is now focused on an efficient phased ramp-up for Cobre Panama continuing through 2019.

At full tilt, Cobre Panama is expected to produce 350,000 t of copper from an in-pit crushing and conveying set up that includes four box cuts with semi-mobile primary crushers – two per conveyor line – feeding two in-pit conveyor lines that feed two overland conveyors after a transfer station to the secondary crushing and the main process plant. The company uses a fleet of Komatsu Mining P&H 4100XPC electric shovels; 363 t Liebherr T 284C trucks, Komatsu Mining Le Tourneau L2350 large wheel loaders (with SR drive), Liebherr R 9350 hydraulic excavators and Cat 777G 100 t trucks at the operation.

First Quantum Minerals reports land slippage at Cobre Las Cruces copper mine

First Quantum Minerals reports that during the early morning hours of January 23, a land slippage occurred on the slope of the northern zone of the open-pit mine in the Cobre Las Cruces mining hydrometallurgical complex, in Gerena, Spain.

The company clarified that the slippage did not cause harm to any persons nor any impact on any third-party facilities or land.

First Quantum said: “The company has immediately activated the established safety and environmental emergency procedures, evacuating the area and isolating the incident. Furthermore, the relevant administrations have been informed without delay, and the company is in constant communication with them.”

At the present time, production in the CLC hydrometallurgical plant has been temporarily suspended while investigations are being conducted, the company said.

“The company is monitoring the situation continuously and is taking all the necessary measures to resolve the incident and will provide updates as appropriate.”

The CLC operation produced 70,738 t of copper cathode in 2018, slightly behind the 73,664 t produced in 2017.

The operation uses conventional open-pit mining, based on hydraulic shovels and trucks, with drilling and blasting in the lower marls and ore zones. The project has a relatively high stripping ratio supported by the high-grade ore, according to First Quantum, and uses contract miners for all mine production.

The CLC metallurgical plant relies on an atmospheric leaching process to recover copper from the rich Las Cruces chalcocite ore. A unique feature of the plant is the use of eight OKTOP agitated reactors to dissolve the copper under conditions of high temperature and high acidity. Oxygen is also added into the reactors to complete the reaction. The feed to the leaching reactors is mined ore that has passed through three stages of crushing and a single stage of grinding.

Once leached, the liquid is separated from the ground solids to become PLS, the feed for the solvent extraction (SX) area. In the SX area, the copper is passed to an organic solution and then to the electrolyte that feeds the electrowinning cells. The electrowinning cells produce LME-grade copper cathodes.