Capstone’s copper mines produce at an impressive pace
When you talk about a contrast in temperatures, Capstone Mining of Vancouver knows all about it thanks to its projects in Yukon, Arizona, and Mexico. Those locations provide the company, but more accurately its employees, with three very distinct climates and working conditions.
From its Minto Mine located about 250km northwest of Whitehorse in Yukon, where temperatures often reach -30 C, to its Pinto Valley Mine 130km east of Phoenix, Arizona, where it’s much warmer but extremely desirable most of the year, to Cozamin, located close to Zacatecas, a world heritage site about 200km northwest of Mexico City, where the weather is very mild and pleasant year round, Capstone’s three main projects provide a varied contrast in both geographic locations and temperatures.
Minto, Pinto Valley and Cozamin are as unique in their own rights as the countries in which they’re situated but for Capstone Mining, they’re also three successful projects that serve to demonstrate why the company has been one of Canada’s leading miners when it comes to overcoming challenges.
Since it was founded in 2003, Capstone Mining has focused primarily on copper and through its work at the aforementioned mines, plus further exploration and development in Chile and British Columbia, the company has become recognized as one of Canada’s leaders when it comes to taking on large and challenging projects.
Minto, for example, went into production in October 2007 and is still one of its prouder achievements in that it is Yukon’s only hard-rock mine but also the Territory’s most prolific mine.
With reserves at 9.5 million tonnes grading 1.65% copper, with measured and indicated resources of 49.3 million tonnes grading 1.1% copper, and inferred resources of 16.2 million tonnes of 0.92% copper, the Minto Mine is also one of the more productive copper-mining operations in Canada.
It’s anticipated that the Minto Mine will produce approximately 18,500 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2014.
Company President and CEO Darren Pylot said recently that he expects “no material difference” in Minto’s 2015 production.
Capstone Mining has been producing copper for more than eight years now and while its Minto Mine is just up the street, so to speak, or 1728km from its head office in Vancouver, the company’s Pinto Valley Mine in Arizona is actually only 906km farther away, or 2634km by road from Vancouver.
Its Cozamin Mine in Mexico is considerably farther at 4936km from Vancouver, but all three mines are located on a similar longitudinal parallel on the west coast to help make the day-to-day operations more in sync with head office.
As mentioned at the outset, Capstone Mining runs three very distinct operations in terms of their geographic locations and its Pinto Valley Mine in Arizona is perhaps the most envied of the three for its weather and proximity to a major urban centre.
Just 130km east of Phoenix and located in the Globe-Miami historical mining district known for being one of the world’s more favourable jurisdictions for tax, regulation and labour regions, the mine is Capstone’s “new kid on the block” and has only been in production for the company since October 2013.
With measured and indicated mineral resources at 1,563 million tonnes grading 0.30% copper, the open-pit mine has an estimated mine life to 2026 and a planned operating throughput of 50-52 thousand tonnes per day.
To handle these volumes of ore, Capstone will be investing almost $188 million over the next 12 years into a mine plan that includes upgrading its mining fleet to include 19 haul trucks, two hydraulic shovels, one loader, four track dozers, three water trucks, three graders, one tire dozer, three rotary blast hole drills and one air track drill.
In terms of production facilities, prior to Capstone acquiring the operation from BHP Billiton in 2013, new and upgraded components were installed during the 2012 restart, including a new mining fleet, upgraded electrical and controls and upgrades to the primary, secondary and tertiary crushers, six ball mills, plus copper concentrate and molybdenum flotation circuits.
A minor investment has also been made in upgrading the mine’s low-grade dump leach field, its pumping extraction network and the electrowinning and raffinate distribution system.
Like most miners, Capstone has spent a great deal of time and money on tailing management and its Mine Plan reflects that through its plans for new tailings pipelines, booster station upgrades and its focus on an environmental program to provide an increased awareness of environmental issues to employees and neighbouring communities alike.
Farther south at its underground Cozamin Mine in Mexico, the company continues to produce copper with a Mine Plan that currently runs until 2020.
By then, Capstone will have been working the mine for almost 14 years since starting commercial production at the site in September 2006.
Cozamin has been a good mine for the company and last year it produced 20,600 tonnes of copper in concentrate.
The mine has a current operating throughput of 3,300 tonnes per day with 258.7 million pounds of contained copper in reserve.
The mining method at Cozamin is long-hole stoping with the mined ore being brought to the surface either by shaft or up the two production ramps. Ore is trucked to a crusher and processed through a three-stage crushing plant ahead of grinding.
Once reduced in size, ore is sent to flotation then through a circuit where copper-silver, zinc and lead-silver concentrates are recovered and eventually shipped to customers around the world for treatment in off-site smelters.
Similar to the Pinto Valley Mine Plan, Capstone has invested in equipment purchases and upgrades to keep its Cozamin Mine producing efficiently and it’s thanks to its extensive fleet of machines that it has been able to meet it production schedules on time and at a profit.
The fleet consists in part of four haul trucks, eight loaders, two jumbo drills, two jumbo bolters, two long-hole jumbos, one stope mate, one long-hole cubex, two 14 m(3) highway trucks, one scissor lift, two telehandlers, two utility trucks for diesel fuel and finally, a passenger bus to transport miners to and from the site.
It’s an extensive fleet that also compliments and feeds the mine’s sophisticated production facilities that includes a crushing circuit with primary, secondary and tertiary crushers, a grinding circuit featuring two primary ball mills and one regrind ball mill, and flotation/thickening/filtration circuits for copper and silver concentrates, plus fully equipped assay and met labs.
Again, like Pinto Valley, Capstone has also spent a great deal of time and money on its tailings storage and has engineered two more stages to serve the mine for at least the next six years.
Regardless of where Capstone is mining or exploring and developing new properties, the company has demonstrated that it fully understands what it takes to work in different parts of the world, under severe conditions, and its Minto, Pinto Valley and Cozamin mines are a true testament that Canadian mining technology is second to none.
And, with approximately 1,700 direct and contract workers, including a development project and exploration staff in Chile, Capstone Mining is also a major employer in four countries with a reputation for being a fair and responsible company.