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minera los pelambres - mining technology | mining news and views updated daily

minera los pelambres - mining technology | mining news and views updated daily

The Los Pelambres deposit, located 200km north of Santiago and 45km east of Salamanca in Choapa Province, was discovered in the 1920s by one of Chilean coppers founding fathers, William Braden. Antofagasta Holdings started the project in the 1990s, and the mine has become one of the biggest copper mines in the world.

The Los Pelambres deposit, located 200km north of Santiago and 45km east of Salamanca in Choapa Province, was discovered in the 1920s by one of Chilean coppers founding fathers, William Braden. Antofagasta Holdings started the project in the 1990s, and the mine has become one of the biggest copper mines in the world.

With partner project finance loans secured, mine development started immediately and production began in December 1999. Fresh water supply is drawn from three mountain streams, but is carefully recycled.

Antofagasta owns 60% and manages the operation, which employs 521 people, via Antofagasta Minerals SA. One partner consortium comprises Nippon Mining and Metals (15%), Marubeni Corp. (8.75%) and Mitsui & Co. (1.25%), while Mitsubishi Materials (10%) and Mitsubishi Corp. (5%) constitute the other.

The expansion is expected to increase Los Pelambres production by 55,000t a year. Annual copper production from the mine is anticipated to increase from 40,000t in the first year and will reach 70,000t towards the end of operations.

The project includes the construction of a 400l/s reverse-osmosis (RO) desalination plant and a water pipeline with an estimated investment of $520m. The plant is expected to serve as a back-up water supply source and also help in further growth phase.

EIA for phase two is underway and the regulatory approvals are expected by the end of 2018. The phase two is anticipated to increase copper production from the mine by 35,000t a year, starting from 2022. The phase is also expected to increase the capacity of Mauro tailings storage facility and mine waste dumps.

Three Ingersoll-Rand electric rotary rigs drill blastholes, two initial P&H 4100AS mining shovels and a LeTourneau L-1800 wheel loader, as well as a 4100XPB shovel added later, were used with a haulage fleet of five 329t-capacity Caterpillar 797 haul trucks to shift waste and ore in equal proportions. The mine is operated in two 12-hour shifts.

Trucks feed an FFE Minerals 60in x 110in primary gyratory crusher, while a sophisticated overland conveyor system engineered by ThyssenKrupp transports the ore 13km to the stockpile at the concentrator, which is down at 1,620m asl.

Two 17,000hp FFE Minerals 36ft x 19ft SAG mills work with four 9,500hp FFE Minerals 21ft x 33.5ft ball mills, giving a throughput of approximately 85,000t/d. In 2001, Los Pelambres decided to install pebble crushing to improve the SAG mill performance, and Bechtel designed an upgrade programme to raise the throughput to 114,000t/d.

Concentration and separation are performed in two steps in a bulk flotation plant and a molybdenum plant. Bulk flotation involves rougher, scavenger and cleaner flotation with associated concentrate regrind stages and is optimised by the Metso Minerals VisioFroth system.

The concentrate slurry is piped via Salamanca and Illapel to the purpose-built port of Los Vilos (Punta Chungo) where it is dewatered for shipment. Los Pelambres treats the water extracted for use in irrigating a nearby eucalyptus plantation.

In April 2004, the Chilean Government approved an environmental impact statement covering a second tailings disposal site, Mauro. Construction of the Mauro tailings dam was completed in December 2008 at a cost of $600m.

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