Tag Archives: Mexico

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.”

Torex’s Stanford looks forward to big year with advancement of Muckahi Mining system

It was a year of milestones for Torex Gold in 2019, with the Mexico-focused gold miner posting record operational and safety performance, alongside record EBITDA and free cash flow.

The company produced 454,800 oz of gold in 2019 and is guiding for 420,000-480,000 ounces in 2020.

From a technology perspective, the company also made significant progress on advancing its Muckahi Mining System, an alternative to established underground mining processes that, Torex says, can create a more continuous mining process able to accelerate return on investment.

The benefits of the technology include an up to 30% reduction in underground mining capital expenditure, an up to 80% reduction in time between investment and revenue, up to 30% reduction in mining operating expenses and an up to 95% reduction in underground greenhouse gas emissions, Torex says.

President & CEO, Fred Stanford, said: “On the Muckahi front, we successfully demonstrated the viability of the most innovative aspects of the mining system in 2019. We are now excavating our second 30° down ramp and are continuously improving the technique.”

The company is currently testing out the technology at the El Limón Deep zone (ELD) at its El Limón Guajes mining complex (ELG), in southwest Mexico.

Incorporating 30° ramps into mine designs will be a “game changer” for the industry, according to Stanford.

“Moving beyond tunneling to ore production, we demonstrated we could achieve ‘conveyable fragmentation’ when blasting a long hole open stope. The team then demonstrated they could completely ‘muck out’ the long hole open stope with a low cost electric slusher,” he said.

With the major innovations demonstrated as viable in 2019, 2020 will focus on optimising the processes tested in 2019, and initiating testing of the various conveyor applications in the Muckahi Mining System, Stanford said.

“A conveyor for the 30°-ramp has been designed, manufactured, and is currently in transit to the mine,” he said, adding that it will be installed in the ELD deposit in the June quarter.

“We all look forward to getting the conveyor installed and demonstrating the potential,” he said.

ABEL to supply HMQ pumps to major LatAm silver mine

Pump manufacturer ABEL says it recently landed a major order for three HMQ membrane piston pumps to be fitted at one of the largest silver mines in Latin America.

On site, these HMQ pumps (Hydraulic Membrane Quadruplex pumps) are used to transport mine water pumped from a shaft at a depth of 700 m at around 80 bar to the surface into a reservoir.

The HMQs are quadruplex-acting piston diaphragm pumps and manage high flow rates up to 450 m³/h, according to ABEL. They are primarily made for applications like transfer of tailings, mine dewatering and backfilling in mines.

In addition to mining, ABEL’s HMQs are also frequently used in the wastewater industry to transport sludge or feed filter presses.

Jim Cooper to optimise Newmont’s Peñasquito gold mine

Newmont has decided to transfer Jim Cooper, General Manager of the Boddington mine in Australia, to lead the Peñasquito mine, in Mexico, in order to optimise the asset.

Cooper will assume leadership of Peñasquito in the March quarter and report to Dan Janney, Newmont’s Regional Senior Vice President for North America.

Peñasquito is one of several assets where the company intends to deliver cost and productivity improvements over the next few years, with Newmont seeing potential for debottlenecking the mill feed and lowering mining costs.

Tom Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Under Jim’s leadership, Boddington has delivered step-change improvements in safety, mill throughput and recovery, mine plan sequencing and execution.

“Boddington’s scale and processing characteristics are similar to Peñasquito’s, making Jim uniquely qualified to replicate Boddington’s consistently strong performance at Peñasquito in Mexico.”

Jen Bennett, currently serving as Vice President of Operations for Newmont’s South America region, will succeed Jim to lead Boddington and build on the operation’s success through a continued focus on safe, efficient production, and project delivery, the company said.

Peñasquito’s current General Manager, Brian Berney, will focus on government and community engagement in Mexico while supporting an effective transition with Cooper.

In October, Peñasquito’s production was halted for close to two weeks following an illegal blockade. This followed another illegal blockade, earlier that year, involving trucking contractors.

The mine produced 272,000 oz of gold in 2018.

Major Drilling reaches new depths at Industrias Peñoles’ Bismark mine

Major Drilling says its Mexico division recently drilled its deepest NQ diameter hole at the Industrias Peñoles-owned Bismark mine in Chihuahua.

The drill hole, which reached just over 1,985 m, is a “true milestone for drilling operations in the region”, Major Drilling said.

Cory Crawford, Major Drilling Mexico Assistant Branch Manager, said: “These are not easy holes to complete. Being dry holes, we have to use special back-end dry hole valves made in house.”

Major Drilling established its first contract with Industrias Peñoles just 18 months ago and has already drilled nearly 50,000 m for the miner. Its core drilling contract at Bismark is to explore and support long-term mining, it said.

Bacanora taps Veolia Water Technologies for Sonora lithium carbonate flowsheet

Veolia’s exhaustive testing program and process design expertise with its HPD® evaporation and crystallisation technologies recently validated Bacanora Lithium’s product purity requirements at the Sonora lithium project in Mexico, while removing potassium and converting a waste stream into a high-value-added fertiliser, according to the water- and chemical-focused technology company.

The company’s Veolia Water Technologies division engineered and designed the production process that recovers lithium carbonate and sulphate of potash from clay deposits using HPD systems.

Veolia explained: “Although lithium is a relatively abundant metal, high-purity lithium chemicals used by battery makers are rarer because lithium extraction, either from brines or hard rock, consists of a series of complex operations that make design production rates hard to achieve.”

While these issues are also common in other mining sectors, the problems with lithium are compounded because of the reduced number of lithium plants in operation, meaning industry knowhow is limited, according to the company.

To mitigate the risks of the Sonora project and confirm that the proposed technical and commercial process is both feasible and scalable, Bacanora, a lithium exploration and development company, relied on Veolia’s lithium production expertise to test the process flowsheet developed during the feasibility study and simulate the unit operations planned for the project. The outline was an integrated mine in northern Mexico designed to reach a capacity of 17,500 t/y of battery-grade Li2CO3 (lithium carbonate) operation in its first phase.

Different from most of the world’s lithium produced from hard-rock mines in Australia or from brines in South America, the lithium at Sonora is mined from clay — a rare type of deposit with the potential to become one of the world’s largest and lowest-cost lithium resources, according to Veolia.

Integrated to this plant, Veolia designed an evaporation circuit with a double crystallisation sequence featuring HPD® thermal separation technologies to maximise the recovery of potassium sulphate – also known as sulphate of potash (SOP) – and sodium sulphate, a valuable salt recycled upstream as the reagent in the clay roasting process.

The production line is completed by ion-exchange purification, solid-liquid centrifugal separation and drying systems to achieve >99.5% battery-grade lithium carbonate.

“We are proud to help game-changing miners in search of a partner with the knowhow to produce lithium from a variety of feedstocks. Veolia looks forward to further supporting the transformation of Bacanora into a major supplier of battery-grade lithium chemicals,” Jim Brown, Executive Vice President Veolia Water Technologies Americas, said.

Weba Chute Systems called in for Mexico gold tailings project

As part of a significant investment to improve its processing facilities and enable the recovery of 40% of the gold that currently sits in its tailings as waste, a mining operation in Mexico called in a leading transfer point and chute systems equipment manufacturer to conduct a thorough assessment on the functionality of existing chutes in the plant.

Weba Chute Systems & Solutions, leveraging its knowledge of material behaviour in chute systems, was tasked with establishing the feasibility of introducing filtered tailings at a rate of 1,200 t/h onto the existing transfer system currently handling waste with a nominal size of 400 mm at a rate of 5,000 t/h.

While the intention is for the filtered tailings to be conveyed when the waste rock is available, it would still mean the same chutes would need to function transferring completely different material, according to Alwin Nienaber, Technical Director of Weba Chute Systems.

“Optimally, one should be able to assess a working transfer chute handling the actual material, however in the case of a feasibility assessment this is not possible, and we therefore started with a review of the test work and studies prepared by independent qualified professional materials handling experts.”

This was done by Weba Chute Systems & Solutions calibrating the material conditions and behaviour using discrete element method (DEM). Nienaber said: “Use of DEM allowed our technical team to model the interaction between individual particles and boundaries and, in so doing, to accurately predict the bulk solids behaviour.”

Access to DEM software allows engineers to predict bulk material flow patterns and flow rates as well as velocity patterns and dead zones within a transfer system, according to Weba. It also provides accurate information on particle distribution in segregation and blending and the impact forces on particles and boundary surfaces, showing wear patterns.

The feasibility assessment included the transfer of sedimentary dry tailings, sedimentary filter cake, breccia dry tailings and breccia filter cake. DEM modelling was carried out considering material on its own and conditions where blended material would be conveyed.

In total, there were four conveyor transfer points that had to be assessed. These included an inline transfer point, a 90° transfer point, a transfer from conveyor to radial spreader intermediate conveyor and then onto the spreader boom conveyor.

M3 Engineering wins Camino Rojo oxide gold project EPCM

Orla Mining says it has awarded the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contract for the Camino Rojo oxide gold project in Zacatecas State, Mexico, to M3 Engineering & Technology Corp.

M3, a full service EPCM firm headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, has provided services to over 10,000 projects for some 1,000 clients in its 33-year history, Orla says.

Work on the Camino Rojo project will be undertaken out of the M3 office in Hermosillo, Mexico, with senior review and support from the Tucson, Arizona office. The company will be responsible for detailed engineering, construction planning and execution, contractor management and cost control for the project under the auspices of Orla management.

Orla expects to begin engineering work by mid-September, yet the selection of M3 and commencement of any EPCM work is subject to entering into a definitive agreement.

Jason Simpson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Orla, said: “M3 has a wealth of engineering knowledge and with its extensive experience in Mexico, it is well suited to design and build the Camino Rojo project on time and on budget.

“We look forward to commencing detailed engineering work by mid-September as we work with M3 to build a high-quality project that begins to produce gold in mid-2021.”

The Camino Rojo oxide project consists of an 18,000 t/d heap-leach open pit operation. An estimated 44 Mt grading 0.73 g/t Au and 14.2 g/t Ag is expected to be processed during an almost seven-year mine life. Gold production is expected to average 97,000 oz/y at an estimated all-in sustaining cost of $576/oz of gold.

Orla has submitted the permit applications to SEMARNAT for the Manifesto de Impacto Ambiental (MIA) and the Change of Land Use (ETJ) permits at the end of August. The legislated timelines for the review of properly prepared MIA and ETJ applications and mine operating permits for a project that does not affect federally protected biospheres or ecological reserves are 120 working days and 105 working days, respectively, which can be completed concurrently, according to Orla.

Torex breaking records and innovating underground mining space

It was quarter of milestones for Torex Gold Resources in the three months to the end of June, with a record production number from the company’s ELG complex, in Mexico, and more progress on the company’s innovative Muckahi underground mining system.

The June quarter saw gold production of 113,600 oz, around 12% higher than the previous quarterly production record set in the September quarter of 2018. This saw plant throughput averaging at 11,670 t/d, average underground ore production of 1,280 t/d, average open-pit ore production of 18,600 t/d and an open-pit strip ratio of 6.8:1.

With the quarterly production result, the company reiterates full-year sales guidance of 430,000 oz (+/- 7%), which is weighted towards the second half of 2019.

Fred Stanford, President and CEO of Torex, said: “Q2 was a notable quarter from a number of perspectives. Record total ounce production has been highlighted already. The 1 Moz was also surpassed in the quarter.

“The mining team produced at record levels, both in ore mined in the open pits and underground. Throughout the quarter the processing team made progress in reducing reagent consumption and, late in the quarter, they made improvements in throughput rates per hour.

“Overall, quarterly throughput was hampered by unrelated unplanned downtime in late June. The team has work to do to increase the predictive and preventative aspects of maintenance.”

The Muckahi team also had an excellent quarter, according to Stanford.

“They demonstrated the effectiveness of the drilling system (Jumbo) on the level and have now turned their attention to demonstrating that the system is effective on a -30 degree down ramp,” he said.

“In five rounds, they have completed the transition from a level tunnel to a -30 degree down ramp. In July, they will push forward with the down ramp and initiate the testing of the slusher-based muck removal system. Interesting times!”

The Muckahi concept is an alternative to established underground mining processes that, Torex says, can create a more continuous mining process able to accelerate return on investment.

Learn more about the concept and technology by clicking here.

Torex makes Muckahi plans for newly declared gold reserve

Torex Gold Resources has announced a maiden underground reserve for the El Limón Deep zone (ELD) at its El Limón Guajes mining complex (ELG), in southwest Mexico, and revealed plans to mine it with its newest innovation, the Muckahi system.

The probable mineral reserve at ELD contains 86,000 oz of gold in 487,000 t of material at an average grade of 5.5 g/t Au (cutoff grade of 3.7 g/t). This is a subset of an indicated mineral resource at ELD that contains 141,000 oz in 797,000 t at an average grade of 5.52 g/t Au (cutoff grade of 2.5 g/t).

The mineral resource at ELD is the downdip extension of mineralisation in the El Limón open pit, some 400 m north-northwest of the Sub-Sill deposit (already being mined) and is open in three directions.

Fred Stanford, President and CEO of Torex, said, while small in comparison to the open-pit mineral reserves, the ELD provides a “nice sweetener to the open-pit production”.

He added: “It is also indicative of the potential to add further underground mineral resources. With ELD open in three directions, the Sub-Sill underground deposit still open at depth, and the potential for down dip extensions of Guajes, we are upbeat about the potential to further expand underground reserves and resources through multiple sources.”

ELD will be accessed through the existing underground development and will use the existing site infrastructure, according to Torex. This infrastructure includes, but is not limited to, electrical facilities, maintenance facilities, main ventilation exhaust fans and the backfill plant. Depending on material availability and geotechnical requirements, all mining areas at the ELD will be backfilled with either cemented aggregate fill or uncemented rockfill.

While the mineral reserves for the ELD deposit have been estimated using conventional mining techniques and costs, the intention is to mine the deposit with the Muckahi mining system, Stanford said.

“If as expected, the costs associated with Muckahi mining are lower than conventional mining costs, we may be able to lower the cut-off grade and increase the size of the mineral reserve.”

Excavation of the 30° down ramp to access the lower parts of the ELD deposit is underway, with four rounds taken, according to Stanford. “In the upper portions of the deposit, the excavations are nearly completed for the initial long hole stopes that will be mined utilising the production aspects of the Muckahi system.”

Stanford also provided an update on the Muckahi system, which is currently undergoing trials at ELG. The first tunnelling blast of the field trials was taken on March 26 and the round was successfully drilled from the monorail mounted Muckahi jumbo drill. The second piece of equipment, the Muckahi service platform, was at the Mexican border as of April 3 and was expected to be in service this by the end of June.

The goal of the trial is to demonstrate Muckahi’s capabilities over the full development cycle for tunnelling, including on a minus 30° gradient, and to demonstrate the capability of the system to lower costs in long hole open stope mining.

Stanford said on June 20: “To date the Muckahi system has performed as expected, we are all eager to progress through the next stages of the testing program and, if proven, then move forward with the strategic options it has the potential to unlock.”

The Muckahi concept is an alternative to established underground mining processes that, Torex says, can create a more continuous mining process able to accelerate return on investment.

Learn more about the concept and technology by clicking here.