COPPER MINING: Copper Mountain marks successful first year

The following article and photo were provided by Atlas Copco.

The following article and photo were provided by Atlas Copco.

BRITISH COLUMBIA - Copper Mountain Mining of Vancouver reports that the Copper Mountain mine is approaching design capacity of 35,000 t/d as its first year of operation draws to a close. Continued 93% availability in this mine of a four-unit mixed fleet of diesel and electric-powered Atlas Copco Pit Vipers ensures more than enough ore to reach that goal.

Copper Mountain Mining’s careful planning, perseverance and high tech investment achieved full production in June 2011from a copper mine that had lain dormant for 15 years. It is largely due to the strategy of combining both diesel and electric Pit Viper blasthole rigs in its fleet.

Alastair Tiver, Copper Mountain’s chief engineer, said a mix of electric and diesel is working well. “Use of electric allows us to lower operating costs,” he said. “The pit will be developed with a series of push backs, so having a diesel rig affords us some additional mobility to move a rig from one mining area to another, should additional drilling capacity be required.”

The first quarter of 2012 was the first quarter of reporting for the mine. Though the mine said that a strong Canadian dollar coupled with inflation for consumable unit costs has adversely affected its initial feasibility prediction, the mine still realized total revenues of $71 million from 13.7 million lb of copper. It completed four shipments to its buyers in Japan for a total of 29,400 tonnes of concentrate that contained approximately 15.7 million lb of copper, 5,781 oz of gold and 124,546 oz of silver. Gross profit was $27.3 million.

Even before commercial production was announced, the historic mine was already rewarding the Princeton, BC, region with good jobs and the promise of an economic windfall to come from billions of dollars of copper, silver and gold.

During its previous life, the open pit porphyry mine had already yielded 770,000 tonnes of copper, 258 million grams of silver, and 20.7 million grams of gold from 23 years of continuous production before it closed in 1996. The new owners estimate the orebody contains at least 680,000 tonnes of copper, with precious metal credits of more than 12.8 million grams of gold and 127.6 million grams of silver.

From day one, Copper Mountain Mining made a conscious effort to reduce operational risk, which included its choice of equipment. For instance, to move the 22.7 million tonnes of material in preparation for full start-up, and then to move the additional 54.9 million tonnes anticipated during the first production year, all blasthole drilling was awarded in a three-year agreement to Atlas Copco and its Pit Viper series, as well as all drilling rig parts, ancillary equipment and tools.

Gary Wright, the Atlas Copco sales representative for southwestern Canada, said of such an agreement, “It’s good for start-ups because it creates a partnership with the manufacturer and the mine. It includes everything from service to the steel and bits and allows everyone to work together.” The first rig, a diesel-powered PV-271 was joined by its electric counterpart. A second electric model, a PV-351, arrived at the site later.

Pleased by the performance of the rigs, Copper Mountain added a refurbished Pit Viper 351, and they continue to contract with Atlas Copco for all rotary bits and drilling tools for the four machines.

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