Atlas Copco Puts World’s Largest Primary Silver Producer On Track to Achieve Ambitious Mining Goals

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Atlas Copco Puts World’s Largest Primary Silver Producer On Track to Achieve Ambitious Mining Goals

Monday, January 4, 2016 - 2:15pm

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Mexico’s Fresnillo PLC, the world’s leading primary silver producer, is on track to reach new production targets at its Fresnillo Mine. One of the world’s most successful mining companies, Fresnillo is also one of its safest.

On the open plains of the Zacatecas State in central Mexico, Fresnillo is charging ahead with a major expansion, with plans to ramp up production by 25 percent over a two-year period.

A vision for growth
The Fresnillo operation advances on multiple faces at the rate of 3.4 kilometers per month. As the mine works toward increasing its already high rate of production, new operations in the San Carlos section are a major focus.

“We expect 70 percent of the mine’s overall ore production to come from the San Carlos area, or 5,000 tonnes per day,” said Gonzales.

Robbins raiseboring machines, such as the Atlas Copco Robbins 34RH C QRS, make operations smoother and more efficient in a high-production environment. The raiseborers open slot raises and improve the mine’s ability to install short utility raises for ventilation, water and electricity.

Drilling and raiseboring efficiency
For production drilling, the Fresnillo mine uses the Simba M4 C in-the-hole (ITH) drill rig with rock drills to maintain straight holes. Gonzales said fast, accurate products like Atlas Copco’s ITH hammer help ensure a correct angle through the entire hole.

New ore haulage shafts in the San Carlos zone will also help reduce costs. “To bring ore to the surface today by truck costs 32 dollars a tonne,” said Gonzales. “With our new haulage shafts, the rate drops to one dollar per tonne.”

Large shafts that can be excavated with a raiseboring machine are not just more efficient, faster and cheaper – they’re also safer.

Added safety
Fresnillo’s new ore haulage shafts help prevent accidents, because they eliminate the need to put workers in a shaft-sinking environment. “(They reduced) exposure to falling rock, or having to lift men and equipment from the shaft,” said Queiroz de Macedo, mine planning manager. “Also, no blasting means no unwanted rock fragmentation.”

Safety has also been improved via new rigs such as the Atlas Copco Scaletec scaling rig, employed at the Fresnillo mine to smooth out the walls of new stopes. Operators of both the Scaletec and Robbins raiseborer said the rigs are high-quality, and features such as computerization and user-friendly controls help speed up their work and keep them safer.

“The work done by the Scaletec helped reduce accidents in the mine, because scaling was previously performed manually,” said Gregorio Castruita, Atlas Copco’s Mexico-based sales representative. “The Scaletec is comfortable and very fast, and the work is done safely from the cockpit.”

Operators like the 7.5-meter boom, which can reach 8.5 meters high and up to nine meters when scaling on the jacks. This reach enables them to work at a safe distance from the rock walls, and because the boom can be brought close to the rig, it also provides excellent mobility while moving through the mine.

In some areas, the silver vein in San Carlos is five to eight meters wide, while in other areas the veins are as narrow as one meter. Blocks of ore are mined in 200 by 25-meter areas using the cut-and-fill, long-hole stope method, and operators backfill as they go.

Where the rock is unstable, this mine method requires that operators use remote-controlled Scooptram ST14 loaders to muck the ore. Gonzales likes the Scooptram because it keeps operators safe from the possibility of falling rock.

Fresnillo is also improving safety by reducing its truck fleet by up to 50 percent thanks to an increase in the number of new shafts.

As one of the world’s largest mines grows its operations, it continues to shine – thanks, at least partly, to its investment in top mining technology.

““We are a 100 percent Atlas Copco mine,” Gonzales said.

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