First Quantum Minerals is in the process of bolstering its fleet of Liebherr T 284 trucks at the Sentinel operation in Zambia, in line with a redistribution of loading equipment to better suit working areas at the copper mine.
In the company’s March quarter, Sentinel reported copper production of 36,232 t, 37,177 t lower than the previous quarter due to the intense rainy season, resulting in the accumulation of water in the Stage 1 pit.
Saturated ground conditions significantly impacted mining rates due to poor road conditions and water in the pit prevented access to working faces, particularly in the lower benches of Stage 1, First Quantum said in its March quarter results.
Despite the challenges encountered during this quarter, copper production for 2023 remains unchanged at 260,000-280,000 t as higher feed grades are expected in the second half of the year, with grades showing improvement already in April.
“The current focus on deploying additional dewatering capacity in Stage 1 to regain access to the high-grade ore is already yielding results early in the second (June) quarter,” it said.
The mine plan has been rescheduled, even if total volumes remain substantively the same and higher grade zones will be dispatched across the remaining three quarters of the year, the company noted. This is to be complemented by a change in location of the in-pit ramps to liberate high-grade ore by mining the saddle zones between Stage 1 and Stage 2.
There will also be a redistribution of loading equipment to better suit working areas and truck fleet capacity is planned to increase in the June quarter with the commissioning of an additional Liebherr T 284, followed by two more in the second half of the year.
Sentinel is a leader in electric mining as a long-term user of trolley assist technology with its Komatsu 960E and Liebherr T 284 trucks, which run under trolley using pantographs.
At MINExpo 2021, Liebherr confirmed it would supply a further 11 T 284 trucks to operate on trolley lines at First Quantum Minerals’ Sentinel and Cobre Panama mines with the miner claiming, in the process, the title of the world’s largest ultra-class truck fleet on trolley. Three of these 363-t-payload machines were planned to be deployed at Sentinel, with the remainder at Cobre Panama.
Two Liebherr T 284 trucks with the Trolley Assist System were commissioned at Sentinel copper mine all the way back in 2016 and testing of the trolley solution began in February of 2017, with 12 months allotted for FQM to evaluate the trucks, the trolley and the customer service.
At the end of the trial period, FQM expressed it was pleased with the results of the Trolley Assist System and the performance of the T 284, leading to an order for six more trolley-capable T 284 trucks at Sentinel mine, along with 30-trolley-capable T 284 trucks for Cobre Panama copper mine in Panama, Liebherr explained.