The world’s first portal cut using “transformational continuous mining technology” is now underway with the help of Hillgrove Resources’ team at the Kanmantoo copper mine in South Australia and Komatsu’s MC51 machine, powered by DynaCut tech.
The underground decline at Kanmantoo commenced last Friday, just over a month after Hillgrove announced that the South Australian Government had awarded it a A$2 million ($1.5 million) grant to trial the new underground mining technology.
The continuous mining technology, which is also being tested at Vale’s Garson mine in Ontario, Canada, and has previously been trialled at Newcrest’s Cadia mine, removes the need for blasting, providing the potential to transform the traditional underground development process and result in improved safety and operational performance, Hillgrove said.
On top of this, the Komatsu MC51 technology is 100% electrically powered, providing a mine development option for companies pursuing zero-emission mining.
The Komatsu MC51 will be used to develop a portal and a circa-500 m underground decline at Kanmantoo, a former-operating open-pit mine that is transitioning to underground operations. This transition is permitted and benefits from having all existing infrastructure in place, including an operational 3.6 Mt/y processing facility and tailings storage facility, Hillgrove said.
The continuous cutting trial will focus on demonstrating the commercial viability of the machine and trial new materials handling and ground support processes. Ground support assistance is to be provided by PYBAR Mining Services.
“The underground decline has multiple benefits to Hillgrove, including the development of underground drilling platforms which reduce drilling cost as Hillgrove continues to expand and infill drill the existing Kanmantoo Underground resource,” the company has previously said.
It could also help bring forward potential first copper production and reduce future development costs, Hillgrove added.
Hillgrove CEO and Managing Director, Lachlan Wallace, said the development of the underground decline and establishment of underground drilling platforms was a key milestone in the Kanmantoo Underground development program.
“We are also excited to advance the mine development in a way that leads the industry towards zero-emission mining, which is without question the way of the future,” he said.
On top of the A$2 million grant from the South Australian Government, Hillgrove says it has secured favourable payment terms from Komatsu, which sees no payments until funding for the mine development is secured. The deferred and contingent nature of the agreement and grant funding results in minimal cash outflow to Hillgrove while the company focuses on the drilling program.