Posted on June 22nd, 2011

World class underground

operating practice in Bulgaria


In less than a year from now Chelopech aims to break the mould in continuous improvement of underground mining bringing world-leading underground operating practice to Bulgaria. John Chadwick will report in detail in the magazine about the attention to detail, reliable and innovative communications, some of the latest trackless mining technology, commitment and passion that are all coming together at the Chelopech copper-gold mine in Bulgaria (IM, October 2006).The specific goals are to double ore production to 2 Mt/y and to reduce cost/tonne from $52.2/t in 2010 to $29.8/t after the expansion, all without any increase in personnel or the mining fleet. The concomitant benefits will be as reported by Dundee Precious Metals’ (DPM) Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Rick Howes, at the Mining Americas Summit in Denver in June:

OLD WAY                                                                            NEW WAY

Paper reporting at end of shift                                  Real time display of information

Supervisor interaction once or twice per shift   Supervisor dispatched to critical shift problems

Limited knowledge of shift delays                          Delays identified in real time

Slow response time to process interruptions     Problems identified immediately

Reactive maintenance                                                  Real time equipment health monitoring

Small picture view                                                          See activities in whole mine in real time

Poor co-ordination                                                         Co-ordination through CCR with big picture

Poor use of resources                                                    Resources used to optimize shift results

Lost time locating equipment/materials, etc.    Real time equipment and materials tracking

from shift to shift.

Howes describes what is being done at Chelopech as “taking the lid off,” i.e. making underground operations as visible and well-controlled as those of open-pit mines. He estimates the quantifiable benefits of this program to be 10-30% improvement. This will be achieved using an Integrated Mine Management approach with Continuous Improvement becoming a standard way of working within the operations.

This article will focus on the mine and the great work being done there, including new projects to install a Sandvik underground crusher and a new conveyor system and decline to haul ore to surface. A second part next month will examine the updated concentrator at Chelopech and the greater DPM world that is directed from Sofia, Bulgaria and currently has production or near-production facilities in Armenia and Namibia.

There is a strong partnership at Chelopech between Sandvik and the mine. The mining fleet is predominantly of Sandvik manufacture with seven 50 t trucks (Toro 50s and one TH550), seven LHDs three Axera D07 development drills and four Solo production drills.

For the trucks and LHDs Chelopech has implemented Sandvik’s OptiMineTM – real time monitoring of operating performance and equipment health, which will increase the safety and efficiency of operations and maintenance.  OptiMine has the  system elements required to assist in onboard data gathering that can serve as an enabler for fleet management. The unit monitoring includes onboard devices, which monitor mobile equipment health, status and production output and transmit this data to the central computer applications.

OptiMine Remote Monitoring System enables flow of data and information, stores the data, makes it accessible for other applications and offers some basic reporting capability. As part of the Integrated Mine Management System (IMMS), the OptiMine Process Control System is to be commissioned in the first quarter of 2012.

Howes has over 30 years experience in the mining industry, and has been closely associated with the practices that make for world class mining operations, including Inco’s North mine which won the 2006 Ryan Award as the safest mine in Canada. He has much experience with ‘preferred supplier’ agreements and the like and says this relationship with Sandvik “is the best example of a partnership I have seen. The collaboration is much closer than I have seen anywhere and there are none of the disagreements about machine performance that are so common, allowing us to move forward with achieving our common goals, unencumbered.”

The partnership has also fostered networking and exchange of ideas with other key Sandvik partners. Gemcom is the third, very important, member of this groundbreaking underground mine management team. Chelopech has selected Gemcom InSiteTM as its mine production management solution.

InSite is used as an integrated production management solution for shift reporting and analysis. It also acts as the central monitoring and control system for the mine and provides metals balancing and accounting for the site and its smelter in Namibia. “We selected InSite as our mine production management solution because of Gemcom’s partnership approach to understanding our goals and objectives as we seek to expand production,” said Howes. “InSite provides the tools that will help us improve efficiencies across the operation, including metal balance from the block model through to final product. This will create synergies between the mine and the mill, resulting in productivity gains such as improved equipment utilization and greater throughput.”

The InSite deployment at Chelopech is also being integrated with technology developed in collaboration between Gemcom and Sandvik which provides a system and interface for monitoring underground mobile equipment. This will enable the tracking of production, equipment, and personnel metrics in a simple and effective manner and provide hard data from which to make informed business decisions for things like capital equipment expenditures.

With InSite, mining operations are able to link production data, costs, and planned versus actual production. The result is greater efficiency, lower costs, and the ability to continuously improve performance of all processes, activities, and equipment.

“Sandvik has developed an in-depth understanding of the demands of modern mining operations and how automation of loading and hauling processes in the mining cycle can contribute to the improvement of safety and efficiency of ore transportation,” explains Allen Vaughn, Executive Vice President of Gemcom. “Sandvik’s desire to provide customers with more in-depth knowledge on the condition of the equipment for maintenance purposes, as well as production monitoring to more effectively manage draw and production control, creates the opportunity to leverage InSite.”

Chelopech remains Bulgaria’s most mechanized underground mine. The deposit lies in the northern part of the Panagyurishte mining district hosting a number of copper-bearing massive sulphide and porphyry copper deposits. The Mining License covers an area of 266 ha and includes the area of the Chelopech mining operation and its immediate surroundings. The mine has operated since the early 1950s, was acquired by DPM in 2003 and is operated by DPM subsidiary Chelopech Mining.

The mine currently produces 75,000 oz of gold and 12,000 t of copper in a high arsenic concentrate grading about 16.5% Cu and 30 g/t Au. All concentrates produced are currently processed through DPM’s Tsumeb Smelter in Namibia.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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