Greens Creek Moves to Automated Loading With Sandvik System

Mine operator Hecla says automated loaders are improving mucking performance by
operating between shifts when workers cannot be underground during blasting.
Sandvik announced that Hecla Mining Co.’s Greens Creek operation is the first U.S. underground mine to employ its AutoMine loading technology. The move to Automine Lite-controlled automated loading, according to Sandvik, will enable increased productivity, improved safety and better cost control, while bringing digitalization of the mining process closer and increasing operational transparency.

The Greens Creek silver mine in southeast Alaska is one of the largest and lowest- cost primary silver mines in the world. In 2016, Greens Creek produced 9.25 million ounces (oz) of silver, the highest annual silver production since Hecla acquired 100% of the operation in 2008.

“Greens Creek commissioned the AutoMine system in January 2017,” said Keith Malone, vice president and mine general manager. “We have been able to increase mucking time by operating the AutoMine loader between shifts when personnel cannot be underground due to blasting activities. As we add wireless communication into additional work areas and a second or third remote loader is added to the fleet, we expect further gains will be realized.” The system is currently operating in two areas of the mine where bulk longhole mining methods are used.

“However, with 90% of our production coming from conventional drift and fill stopes, installing the AutoMine system in these areas is key to overall productivity gains,” Malone said. “We have just received two additional safety gates from Sandvik and are expanding our wireless infrastructure into these conventional stoping and development areas in order to maximize our productivity through implementation of this technology.”

The Hecla Greens Creek mine is located on Admiralty Island, approximately 18 miles southwest of Juneau, Alaska. Opened in 1989, it produces silver, zinc, lead and gold. The site is accessed by boat plus 13 miles of road on the island, and consists of the mine, concentrator, dry stacked tailings facility, ship-loading facility, camp facilities and a ferry dock.

As featured in Womp 2017 Vol 07 -