New Chuquicamata underground mine opens operations in Chile
Santiago, Chile—On August 14, 2019, Codelco celebrated the opening of the Chuquicamata underground mine—one of the largest and most advanced mines in the world—following more than ten years of study, engineering, and construction. The ceremony was attended by more than 250 people, including government authorities, representatives of the communities and industry, suppliers, and employees.
Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, is transforming the century-old Chuquicamata mine from an open-pit operation to an underground mine as part of a ten-year conversion of their core assets. The transition from open-pit to underground mining is expected to extend the mine’s life by at least 40 years, allowing Codelco to maintain production rates at this mine despite declining ore grades.
Hatch has been involved with the Chuquicamata project since the early study phase, through to design, and detailed engineering. “The Chuquicamata underground project is one of Codelco’s largest-ever engineering projects. It was designed with the highest safety standards in the mining industry and will be one of the most efficient and technologically advanced mines in the world,” said Nabil Habib, Hatch’s Regional Managing Director, South America. “We are extremely proud to support our client on this strategically important project.”
The mine, which has reserves for 1,028 million tonnes of copper ore, is expected to produce 320,000 tonnes of fine copper annually by around 2026. The underground work will be three levels deep, a total of more than 898 meters from the bottom of the current pit, and more than two kilometers from the surface.
With an expected network of more than 700 kilometers of underground tunnels and shafts throughout its useful life, the mine will be controlled from the Integrated Operations and Management Centre—a surface operation eight kilometers south of the mine site. From that facility, workers will telecommand the production by remotely driving the semi-autonomous load, haul, and dump scoops, which operate at the production level, through the crushing and belt systems until they reach the plant. The underground exploitation will allow for more efficient and sustainable production, reducing particulate emission and diesel consumption.
Open-pit operations are expected to gradually decrease until mid-2020, with the transition to a fully underground operation.
Read more about the Chuquicamata mine, here.
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