Tag Archives: New Gold

Sandvik outlines its emission-free mining journey at The Electric Mine 2022

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions President, Henrik Ager, got The Electric Mine 2022 Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, off to a bang earlier this month, with a major product reveal that will set a new benchmark in the battery-electric underground mining space.

After reflecting on a journey that saw him escape a broken lift on his way to the Radisson Waterfront that morning, Ager announced the company would soon release the largest-capacity battery-electric truck for underground mining to the market, the TH665B.

With a 65-t-payload capacity, this machine will be measured against the largest underground diesel-powered underground trucks for productivity, speed and cost. Interest is expected from major contractors and miners alike, with one of the bigger markets being the Australian underground hard-rock segment.

The prototype TH665B is currently completing factory testing, but it turned heads in Stockholm, with conference attendees witnessing a video of the machine in action on the company’s test track in California, USA.

Blending proven Sandvik design and advanced technology built around electric drivelines and battery systems, the TH665B will get its first mine site runout at AngloGold Ashanti’s Sunrise Dam gold mine in Western Australia. This trial is expected to prove its viability in a long ramp haulage application before commercial truck production commences in late 2023.

The Sandvik TH665B comes with an electric drivetrain that delivers 640 kW of continuous power, which equates to 858 horsepower

While displaying said video, Ager said the vehicle could haul a 65-t load up a 14.3% grade at 11.5 km/h. This, he said, was 30% faster than Sandvik’s 63-t diesel truck, the Toro TH663i, with which the TH665B shares a state-of-the-art cabin. An electric drivetrain that delivers 640 kW of continuous power, which equates to 858 horsepower, and significant torque, is behind such numbers.

Following the introduction of the Sandvik TH550B 50-tonne battery-electric vehicle at MINExpo INTERNATIONAL® 2021, last September, this latest vehicle launch shows, once again, how the company is betting big on its battery- and hybrid-electric loaders tackling the challenge of operating underground mines today and tomorrow.

Ager at the event outlined the three main drivers for the electrification move, namely: worker health, mine economics and sustainability. Sandvik’s battery-electric solutions, he said, hit all three criteria, providing safer, more productive and sustainable ways of moving the tonnes the industry needs to keep up with global commodity demand.

The primary driver for electrification came from ventilation and refrigeration constraints, followed closely by environmental, health and safety concerns over diesel exhaust emissions. At the same time, Ager said there was significant room for operating costs to fall with the adoption of battery-electric equipment given 40% of total mine operating costs were related to energy and ventilation, and electricity use was often cheaper than transporting and using diesel fuel underground.

Around the same time as MINExpo, Ager outlined that electric mining equipment could account for more than half of the company’s equipment sales in underground mining by 2030. In Stockholm, he added some colour to that statement.

The company’s generation three battery-electric vehicles have clocked up more than 500,000 operational hours with its Artisan™ battery packs and electric drivelines, with 22 active BEV units. This experience makes Sandvik an industry frontrunner, Ager said.

The machines out in the field include the 4-t-payload and 10-t-payload Artisan A4 and A10 LHDs, the Z40/Z50 (40 t/50 t payloads) haul trucks, the Toro™ LH514BE – an AutoMine®-compatible cable-electric loader, boosted with battery technology – plus the 18-t-payload battery-electric Sandvik LH518B LHD and 50-t-payload battery-electric TH550B truck.
This year will see the company officially release the LH514BE, which will be followed in 2023 by the TH665B and – judging from the preliminary nomenclature – a 15 t battery-electric and AutoMine-compatible LHD.

Three other battery-electric and AutoMine-compatible units are in the preliminary stages of development, scheduled for release in 2024-2025.

This comes on top of plans to electrify its full i-Series drilling line by 2030, drill rigs which tram on battery and plug into the grid while drilling/bolting.

Launches for the DD422iE-DC (development drill) and DS422iE (rock bolter) are expected in 2022, with the DL432iE (longhole drill) and the DT923iE (jumbo drill) coming to market between 2023 and 2026.

Since the rollout of the first battery-electric drill in 2016 – the DD422iE – 2.8 million metres had been drilled and 12,500 km had been trammed with these electric machines, Ager acknowledged.

It is not just product releases that are on the Sandvik roadmap, with Ager stating plans to develop different drivelines (battery-electric, hybrids, cable, battery-cable), quantify the value and beat the economics of conventional drivelines, expand into other applications such as narrow vein and narrow reef mines, and continue to develop 100% electrified, energy efficient mechanical cutting for soft- and hard-rock applications.

He also said the company would look to address the capital expenditure gap with diesel machines, aiming for cost parity from a total cost of operations perspective.

The company, at the same time, is planning to further its global capabilities to serve the electrified fleet throughout its entire life cycle, while building out battery optimisation expertise and developing global application knowledge to support customers in designing, planning and executing electric transition strategies.

Real equipment for the real world

This might look like a long ‘to-do’ list, but Ager’s colleague, Brian Huff, VP of Technology and Product Line for the BHEV business unit with Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, was able to outline several real-world wins from machine deployments later at the conference that showed how far the company has already come in addressing industry pain points.

Huff, a co-founder of Artisan Vehicle Systems, relayed some observations from field trials of the company’s LH518B and Z50 battery-electric vehicles, summing them up in series of snappy statements such as: “everything will be serviced, whether it was intended to be or not”; “battery cells are consumable, but the driveline is not”; “damage is expected, resilience and serviceability are required”; “isolation fault monitoring is more than shock hazard prevention”; “availability improves with each ‘opportunity’”; and – one of the more important ones – “operators prefer BEVs”.

“They take a beating and keep on working and, despite what people may think, these batteries are not fragile,” Brian Huff told delegates at The Electric Mine 2022 Conference earlier this month

Delving into specifics, Huff said real-world trials had proven the opinion that electric drivelines came with dramatically longer life and less maintenance. He also acknowledged batteries had become the new ‘consumable’ in this equation.

“Maintenance requires parts, but comes with very low labour,” he said, explaining that battery modules can be replaced underground and then rebuilt at the factory with new cells, making rebuilds both quick and painless. At the same time, refreshing the battery brought opportunities to use improved cells as they are developed – a reflection on the accelerated winds of change in the battery market.

Battling early market perceptions, Huff said these machines were far from “experimental”, having been used and proven to work at many hard-rock mines. “They take a beating and keep on working and, despite what people may think, these batteries are not fragile,” he said.

One of the new solutions to have come out from these real-world trials is the introduction of a new battery cage design that aids serviceability, Huff said. Coming with removable side covers, an improved locking system and structural design, this battery cage incorporates the company’s AutoConnect function, which, when combined with AutoSwap, facilitates quick battery swapping without the operator having to leave the cabin. The new cage would be available on the TH665B as well as other models, Huff said.

He then put some names and numbers behind earlier statements, highlighting a trial of a Z50 truck at Pretivm’s Brucejack gold mine in British Columbia, Canada, that saw more than 90% machine availability, exhibited speeds of 9.5 km/h on a 15% grade with a 42-t load, and observed battery swap times of less than 10 minutes. This added up to a 42% increase in tonnes hauled compared with a diesel-equivalent machine and a 22% boost in speed.

The trial at New Gold’s New Afton gold mine, also in British Columbia, saw a 56% mucking cycle time beat over a diesel-powered-equivalent, a plus-70% ramp speed improvement (on a 17% ramp), and decreases of 80% and 90% in energy use and heat generated, respectively.

Referring to another LH518B trial where the machine only clocked in a 74.9% availability, Huff was quick to highlight that all the problems/failures that caused the reduction in availability were correctible.

And, channelling his engineering DNA and the leading role Sandvik is willing to take in the industry’s pursuit of the zero emission, electrified mine, he reflected on all these real-world trials with: “a failure isn’t a failure, it is an opportunity to improve.”

New Gold to collaborate with MineSense in underground ore sorting move

MineSense is gearing up for a move underground with the help of New Gold and its New Afton gold-copper mine in British Columbia, Canada.

The Vancouver-based technology company has already established and proven its ShovelSense technology for the open-pit mining sector, with its X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) sensor-based system now operating on shovels, wheel loaders and excavators on a commercial basis across six operating mines. This includes large installations at Teck’s Highland Valley and Copper Mountain’s copper operations in BC, as well as one ShovelSense unit at the Antamina copper operation in Peru.

Designed for operation in extreme environments and retrofits on any existing mobile equipment, ShovelSense units come equipped with a human machine interface and proprietary algorithms that measure and report ore grade/characteristics. They can also connect directly to fleet management or other existing control software systems, enabling mine operators to reconcile geological block models with actual ore grade data.

Having finetuned the system for above-ground operations, the company is now embarking on its underground move, according to MineSense President and CEO, Jeff More.

A trial of the underground ShovelSense system at New Gold’s New Afton mine is first up to complete product development. The company will be installing a unit on a Cat R1600G LHD for this step. This will be followed closely by installation at a “large entity” in Chile – with More anticipating start up in the September or December quarter.

The development agreement with New Gold at the BC-based mine is looking to trial and finetune the system for underground operations, with More confident the ShovelSense system will stand up to the test.

“The core technology – all of the algorithms, software, hardware – is the same as ShovelSense for open-pit mining,” More said. “It is the ‘application package’ – looking at how we can attach the unit to the machine and protect it in an underground environment – that is what we have to test out. The design for this is already complete; it’s just a matter of trialling it.”

New Afton represents a good test for the system.

New Afton is Canada’s only operating block cave mine, with the New Afton deposit part of a larger copper-gold porphyry district in the region. The operation regularly mines 15,000-16,000 t/d of ore and waste, with the majority of this currently going to the mill.

The company has already pursued “ore segregation” projects to boost the grade of material being fed through to the processing side, but the move into the higher-grade C-Zone in 2023-2029 will place an even greater emphasis on ore/waste boundaries and milled tonnes at the operation.

At the same time, the ShovelSense deployment at New Afton will represent the first time MineSense has sent a unit into a mine that has so much payable gold, with most operations the company has worked on being primarily base metal-oriented.

In 2020, New Afton produced 64,000 oz of the yellow metal, along with 32,659 t of the red metal.

“This will be the first time we’re touching gold at this level; we have other mines that have payable gold but not at that level,” More explained.

In New Afton’s case, sampling and historical data has proven that the orebody’s copper and gold ratios tend to be consistent and unchanging over the long term. With this knowledge, New Afton has used technology in the past to determine the copper value and make ore/waste production decisions. ShovelSense allows New Afton to move the ore/waste production decision to the drawpoint, according to MineSense. This reduces mixing and blending during the crushing and conveying circuit which can homogenise the material to the point where it is not worth segregating.

Trialling new technology such as this is nothing new for New Afton.

The operation already uses automated loading through Sandvik’s AutoMine solution, is employing electrification with the use of Sandvik and MacLean Engineering battery-powered mobile equipment, and, in the process plant, has Gekko Systems’ highest volume InLine Pressure Jig IPJ3500 to improve gravity concentration.

More says the ShovelSense unit could be in the Cat LHD bucket at New Afton in August, with the machine then going through an above-ground trial ahead of the underground transition at the end of September.

“By early Q4, we should have completed the pilot,” he said.

New Gold heads towards New Afton’s B3 Zone

New Gold is set to soon start ore extraction activities at New Afton’s B3 Zone in British Columbia, Canada, after receiving its Mines Act Permit from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.

The gold-copper mine has recently been focused on development of the B3 and C-Zones, which are likely to represent the major production sources over the next decade.

Current production is coming from the B1 and B2 Zones (Lift 1) where there are two panel caves (west and east) in operation. The B3 Cave is 160 m below and immediately to the west of Lift 1. Ore from B3 will be hauled by truck to the existing gyratory crusher, with production continuing until at least late 2024.

The C-Zone block cave zone is around 550 m below Lift 1. Development towards the C-zone is underway with production planned to commence with the first of 143 planned drawbells in the second half of 2023.

On the permit award, Renaud Adams, President & CEO of New Gold, said: “This is a significant milestone for the New Afton Mine. With the receipt of the B3 permit, ore extraction activities will begin this quarter and ramp-up over the year.

“C-Zone development continues to advance with C-Zone extraction expected to begin in the second half of 2023.”

The C-Zone permitting process was initiated during the March quarter of this year with the submission of the pre-application package to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Indigenous groups.

JDS Energy & Mining to run the PFS numbers at Gold Mountain’s Elk gold project

Gold Mountain Mining has engaged JDS Energy & Mining Inc to complete a prefeasibility study on its Elk gold project in British Columbia, Canada.

The PFS was commissioned to reflect the recent advancements the company has made to the project, most notably the signing of both the contract mining agreement – with Nhwelmen-Lake LP – and the ore purchase agreement with New Gold. These key inputs provide Gold Mountain with the near-term cost certainty required to delineate a maiden reserve at the project, the company says.

It is anticipated the PFS will also update the company’s resource estimate at the Siwash North Zone based on the results of its phase one drill program.

JDS will lead the PFS update with support from Knight Piesold Consulting and certain key independent consultants, Gold Mountain said, with the study expected to be completed in the September quarter.

Kevin Smith, Director and CEO of Gold Mountain, said: “We are very pleased to have JDS lead the PFS update. Their proven track record of engineering expertise in building ‘fit for purpose’ projects in Canada’s north will greatly contribute to the Elk gold project.

“Having a reputable group validate our economics, assess the underground potential, and continue to advance the Elk gold project strengthens our upside and ability to deliver long-term value to our shareholders.”

Gord Doerksen, President of the Engineering Division at JDS, added: “We are happy to be working with Gold Mountain to support near-term production and long-term planning at the Elk gold project. The team has built a strong foundation for JDS to add our extensive operational and permitting experience on a number of quality projects in British Columbia, and we look forward to maximising value together as partners.”

Gold Mountain acquired Bayshore Minerals in September 2020, gaining 100% ownership of the Elk gold project in the Merritt area of British Columbia. A past-producing gold mine, Elk comes with an NI 43-101 resource of 454,000 oz of gold-equivalent in the measured and indicated categories and 95,000 oz of gold-equivalent in the inferred category.

A previous preliminary economic assessment contemplated an operating able to mine 50,000 oz/y by year four.

ColdBlock and Nucomat partner to automate mineral sampling prep process

Two technology companies that take laboratory efficiency and workplace safety to a new level have pooled their expertise to help automate one of the more labour intensive and risky elements involved in the mineral sampling process.

The combination of the ColdBlock Digestion 3rd Generation Product Line and Nucomat’s Compact Sample Preparation Unit will enable an automated process of “raw sample in, analysis-ready sample out at unprecedented speed and level of operator safety” for labs dealing with mineral samples, according to Nick Kuryluk, CEO of ColdBlock Technologies.

Ahead of a CEMI-hosted webinar to discuss the combination, IM put some questions to Kuryluk and Michael Van de Steene, Software Team Lead at Nucomat.

IM: Since unveiling the ColdBlock Digestion solution back in 2015 at the annual PDAC Convention, what has happened to the technology in terms of speeding up the sampling process for mining companies? I think back then, you were claiming the technology delivered fast digestion rates of between 10 and 15 minutes. Have you managed to speed this up even more?

NK: Since 2015 when we unveiled the technology at PDAC, we have focused on developing a solid evidence generation package that validated the performance of the technology in both the academic setting and the real-world setting through mining organisations and commercial laboratories.

The performance parameters that were validated include 1) high return on investment (ROI), 2) elevated workplace safety, and 3) high analytical accuracy and precision.

  • 1) The Amira Global P1196 project included SGS, Freeport McMoRan, New Gold, Centerra Gold and Newcrest. This project demonstrated that ColdBlock delivers similar analytical measurements to fire assay for gold determination and similar analytical measurements to hotblock for base metal determination (ie copper and iron determination). However, it was further validated that the ColdBlock process can be performed in minutes compared to hours and the cost savings were substantial (average of 50% cost savings vs fire assay for gold application);
  • 2) In regard to workplace safety, we eliminated the use of lead for gold determination (commonly used in fire assay) and, thus, eliminated potential lead contamination for workers and lead waste. For base metal applications, we reduced the use of hydrofluoric acid and perchloric acid in the digestion process, both of which are harmful reagents; and
  • 3) We have now published several papers. The body of work consistently demonstrates the high accuracy and precision in the recovery of elements in both mining and environmental samples. In 2019, the Geological Survey of Canada presented their work comparing ColdBlock to both microwave and hotblock for environmental applications (soils and sludges). It was demonstrated that ColdBlock improved precision from 12.9-1.3% with a 60% time saving.
The ColdBlock Digestion mechanism

The speed of our digestion system remains the same, however, it is unmatched when compared to conventional methods. We can digest sample materials for gold analysis in minutes compared to hours with fire assay. We can also digest sample materials for base metal analysis in minutes compared to hours with hotblock.

IM: Is Nucomat competing in the same sample preparation field as ColdBlock? Where do the two companies’ solutions overlap?

MVdS: Nucomat and ColdBlock Technologies manufacture complementary technologies that will take laboratory efficiency and workplace safety to a higher level.

NK: ColdBlock delivers solutions in optimising laboratory efficiency, productivity and safety:

  • Sample digestion system based on focused short-wave infrared radiation and a cooling zone;
  • Consumables and accessories;
  • Ancillary product solutions; and
  • Laboratory services in method development.

MVdS: Nucomat provides lab automation solutions for sample preparation, handling and testing for quality control laboratories. Our systems aim to control the sample preparation burden for 24/7 applications. These automated systems offer unique advantages compared to manual sample preparation, such as:

  • Operator safety;
  • Traceability and repeatability;
  • Gravimetric accuracy;
  • Validated results; and
  • Web-based remote control.

NK: Together, ColdBlock and Nucomat have joined forces to deliver a powerful solution offering a substantial ROI, elevated workplace safety and throughput while achieving high analytical accuracy and precision.

IM: How will this tie-up between the companies work? Will Nucomat be providing the automation solution for ColdBlock’s technology? How does this relate to the Amira Global P1196A project and delivering the ColdBlock 3rd Generation Product Line?

NK: This collaboration will deliver the integration of the ColdBlock Digestion 3rd Generation Product Line with Nucomat’s Compact Sample Preparation Unit (pictured below in a three reagent configuration). The combined technologies will provide an automated system capable of rapid acid dispensing and digestion. An optional making up to mass feature is also being considered. When combined, these features will enable a process of raw sample in, analysis-ready sample out at unprecedented speed and level of operator safety.

The details of the commercial framework are in progress. The integrated product line will first be offered through the Amira Global Project P1196A initiative. This will be delivered in Q2 (June quarter) 2021. The commercially available product will also be delivered through direct sales and a channel distribution model, which is targeted for Q3 (September quarter) 2021.

IM: What is the end goal of the collaboration?

NK: The end goal of the collaboration is to deliver a powerful solution to today’s challenges of sample preparation and to meet the current needs of the laboratory environment.

The aim is also to address a segment of small and mid-size laboratories that are looking for automated solutions but cannot justify the risk and ROI on a large full-scale automation system.

We aim to deliver:

  • High ROI, including high efficiency/productivity;
  • Elevated workplace safety; and
  • High analytical accuracy and precision.

IM: Is the agreement a reflection of the need to provide more environmentally sensitive sample digestion technologies that are automated to the mining and metals industry? Will the collaboration speed up the development of such a solution?

NK: The agreement is a reflection of both ColdBlock and Nucomat working together to respond to the current needs of the laboratory environment and to deliver a powerful and sustainable laboratory solution.

ColdBlock and Nucomat deliver solutions that are already proven in the marketplace. As such, this collaboration will speed up the development and commercialisation of the integrated solution.

With respect to gold application as an alternative to fire assay, we eliminate the need to use lead as part of the digestion process. So compared to fire assay, we eliminate lead waste and we eliminate lead contamination to workers.

IM: Where in the mining and metals space do you see the most demand or opportunities for deploying such a solution? Do you already have a trial lined up for the solution?

NK: The applications of our technologies are in the following spaces:

  • Mining and minerals applications such as precious metals (namely gold), base metals (such as copper, zinc, iron and nickel) and rare earth elements;
  • Metals and alloys;
  • Environmental; and
  • Other industry applications.

ColdBlock and Nucomat are working together with Amira Global to recruit participants for the Amira Global P1196A project that will see the delivery of ColdBlock’s third-generation product line with Nucomat’s automation solution. This includes both mining organisations and commercial laboratories.

Participating prospects currently come from Canada, USA, South America and Australia.

ColdBlock Technologies and Nucomat will be taking part in a CEMI-hosted webinar titled, ‘The Integration of ColdBlock Digestion with The NUCOMAT Automation System’ on December 2.

Sandvik provides productivity boost at New Afton block cave mine

An automated loading solution has enabled Canada’s only block cave mine to mitigate mud rush hazards and improve productivity – and it paid for itself in less than two months, according to Sandvik.

Operated by New Gold, New Afton development began via decline ramp in 2007 and the mine reached commercial production in 2012. The mine, which employs a workforce of around 450, produced 77,329 oz of gold and 85.1 MIb (38,601 t) of copper in 2018.

Tonnage is tantamount to profitability at New Gold’s New Afton mine in south-central British Columbia. The mine has moved and milled as many as 22,000 t of ore in a single day and routinely extracts 18,500 t from Canada’s only block cave.

Like other prolific block caves, New Afton enjoys enviable efficiency at extremely low operating costs. But the mine has also had to conquer one of the biggest block cave challenges: mud rush.

Mitigating mud rush hazards was the major motivation for implementing automated loading at New Afton. As the block cave grew, more and more drawpoints became finely fragmented and wet. By 2016, one in five drawpoints were assessed as high risk, according to Sandvik.

To ensure operator safety, New Afton stopped manual mucking in those drawpoints and implemented line-of-sight teleremote loading.

“When 20% of your ore source needs to be remotely mucked, you run the risk that you can’t supply your mill with adequate tonnages,” said Mine Manager Peter Prochotsky, who joined New Afton in 2009 as a Mining Engineer and has seen the operation grow from a development project into Canada’s highest-tonnage underground mine. “The line-of-sight systems just weren’t keeping up with the growing production demand over the years and we needed a new way of doing things.”

New Afton conducted an engineering study in late 2016 to assess the potential value of implementing automated production loading to overcome the production constraint caused by line-of-sight and further improve safety.

The mine trialled an AutoMine-equipped Sandvik LH514 for one month in early 2017. Although the 14-t loader proved too long for some of the cave’s tighter turns, New Afton estimated impressive cycle times and buckets per shift for a smaller Sandvik LH410 based on the trial performance of the Sandvik LH514.

“To transition from a line-of-sight solution to an automated solution, we calculated a 54-day payback period,” Prochotsky says. “If we continued using line-of-site teleremotes, that production loss was essentially, over 54 days, the value of a brand new Sandvik LH410. And, we obviously made the choice pretty quickly that it was the right way to go.”

New Afton’s existing block cave extraction level layout wasn’t optimised for automation, Sandvik said. “Two dedicated colleagues worked hand in hand to champion the project, implementing the system and building operator buy-in,” it added.

Bob Garner, a technical expert with decades of block cave experience, led the operational side and trained operators on the AutoMine system. Electrical Instrumentation Technician, TJ Williams, meanwhile, handled installation of all electrical systems.

Garner says: “We needed to figure out the infrastructure, figure out the Wi-Fi, where we were going to put antennae points, how far apart they had to be, and then teach the loader its path and dial everything in to get it running efficiently.”

Sandvik provided initial engineering assistance, starting system implementation in the west cave that Williams was able to replicate himself in the east cave.

“The infrastructure is relatively simple,” he says. “Sandvik provided excellent documentation that we followed to a ‘T’ and I picked things up along the way working with their engineers. The overall process of installation was pretty straightforward.”

Within a week of commissioning in late 2017, the first of the mine’s two automated Sandvik LH410s was already proving significantly more productive than the teleremote solution, the mining OEM said.

Williams says most of the mine’s line-of-sight operators were comfortable running AutoMine within five days.

“The Sandvik automated loaders are much more technologically advanced than the competitor loaders featuring aftermarket line-of-sight, but the learning curve wasn’t steep,” he says. “Everybody picked it up really easy.”

New Afton has used its Sandvik LH410s for production mucking on the mine’s extraction level, one of the block cave’s five main underground levels. The average tram distance between drawpoint and ore pass is only 250 ft (76 m), limiting automation’s benefits.

Prochotsky says: “The longer the distance from drawpoint to ore pass, the faster the loader can tram and complete a cycle and the greater the value of automation.”

Despite the limitations created by the level’s short trams, the automated Sandvik LH410’s cycle time is almost twice as fast as the mine’s line-of-sight loaders, according to Sandvik. Manual mucking is still faster in the areas New Afton can use it, but the automated Sandvik LH410’s lower downtime and higher utilisation compensate for its modestly higher cycle time, the company said.

“At the end of the day, the tonnes moved by a manual loader and an automated loader are very similar,” Prochotsky says.

On top of recouping the investment cost of the automated loader in less than two months of operation, New Afton has experienced equipment health benefits on its bottom line, Sandvik said.

“AutoMine steers the loader with pinpoint precision and its collision avoidance features help eliminate damage while enabling high speeds that accelerate overall cycle time,” the equipment maker added.

“We used to do about C$10,000 ($7,565) of collision damage per loader per month, directly related to operating our line-of-sight loaders in a tight environment,” Prochotsky says. “This cost has dropped to zero thanks to AutoMine.”

The mine has also seen a 30% increase in tyre life on the automated Sandvik LH410s compared with the mine’s other 10 t loaders, Sandvik said.

After successfully managing the step change from line-of-sight to automated loading, and improving mucking efficiency while mitigating mud rush hazards, New Afton started thinking bigger.

For the first 18 months, operators oversaw the automated Sandvik LHDs from two underground control rooms. New Afton recently finalised a permit amendment process with British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to allow the mine’s operators to run AutoMine from a third chair on surface, eliminating travel time and enabling automated mucking through shift change.

“We think that’s really going to enable us to unlock the productivity benefits of automation,” Prochotsky says. “The gains we expect to see from this change should more than close the narrow gap between manual and automated mucking productivity.”

While New Afton focused almost solely on production during 2018, the mine has also recently restarted development to access a new zone that is expected to extend mine life to 2030. New Afton must maintain the same 18,500 t/d output despite three fewer operating hours due to twice-daily blasting.

Running AutoMine from surface enables New Afton to solve this challenge, too.

“We’ll keep our block cave productive by using an automated loader to muck our development rounds through blast clearing delays,” Prochotsky says. “If we can save 90 minutes in each shift, that’s a huge efficiency gain that also de-risks the project.”

Prochotsky contends New Afton couldn’t have implemented automated loading at a more ideal time.

“The opportunity to take your learnings and put them into action happens infrequently in block cave mines, as a new level is only developed every five to 10 years,” he says.

“We’re fortunate that we brought the AutoMine system in at really the perfect time for us, to learn how to use it for maximum benefit and position ourselves to take full advantage of it in future mine design.”

For New Afton, AutoMine has proven to be the complete automation solution that management assessed it to be, according to Sandvik.

“If another Mine Manager came to me and asked me who they should automate with, I think that Sandvik has the best system on the market, and it’s really because they have the total package,” Prochotsky says.

“They’ve got field service representatives available to come to your site to help train your people, they’ve got great safety documentation that allows you to make sure there won’t be any incidents or accidents underground, and they’ve got a product that works. It’s a pretty simple solution in my mind.”

The full version of this article appeared first as a Sandvik Solid Ground online news story, see following link: https://solidground.sandvik/the-ultimate-proving-ground/

New Gold after different funding strategy for C-Zone block cave at New Afton

New Gold has launched an internally-funded strategy for the development of another block cave at its New Afton gold-copper mine in British Columbia, Canada, as it looks to extend production through to 2030.

While further details of the strategy are expected later in January, a 2016 feasibility study on the C-Zone implied another 25 Mt of gold and copper ore reserves, equivalent to five years of mine life, could be added through the development of the new block cave.

Early last year, the company decided to defer development of the C-Zone in 2018, electing to evaluate opportunities “that have the potential to further optimise the C-Zone project”. Some of the opportunities identified, which were not featured in the feasibility study, included different tailings options (such as dry stack or thickened/amended tailings), as well as mining approaches based on operating experience in the B-Zone (including reassessing the amount of required underground development in the cave as well as optimising draw bell and pillar designs).

New Afton is a block cave mining operation able to produce 4 Mt/y of copper-gold ore for processing in a flotation plant. The deposit has been partitioned into three zones. The two nearest the surface cave readily and provide the initial mine production, while the deeper block is expected to require assistance in cave development.

An undercut and extraction level has been developed at each block, with ore hauled to ore passes and dropped to a tramming level for transport to the crusher. Ore from the deeper block is hauled by 50-t truck to the crusher level, from where it is conveyed to the mill via a 4.5-km long conveyor system.

Since the start of the current underground block cave operation in July 2012, exploration at New Afton has focused on extending the mineral resource below the current B-Zone block cave reserve. This work has resulted in the development of the C-Zone mineral resource, which was stated as 18.3 Mt at 0.8 g/t Au, 2.2 g/t Ag and 0.95% Cu as of December 31, 2017.

While investors will await further news of the internally-funded strategy for the C-Zone, the existing mine exceeded guidance in 2018. It produced 18,778 oz of gold in the December quarter for 77,329 oz in 2018, above expectations. Copper output also toppled expectations, with 20.8 MIb (9,435 t) and 85.1 MIb for the quarter and year, respectively.

And expectations are for these positive results to continue into 2019.

New Gold said in the December quarter results release that it had started an “ore segregation” strategy during the quarter, which has been further enhanced with the recent commissioning of an ore scanner. This is expected to increase overall mill grade, New Gold said.

Also, during the quarter, the initial phase of a two-phase mill upgrade to address supergene ore recovery was completed on time and on budget. This included the installation of pressure jigs and a magnetic separator with commissioning currently underway.

The second phase of the planned upgrade will be launched during the current quarter, with commissioning scheduled for the September quarter, the company said.