Development Begins on New Northparkes Block Cave

The world’s most automated mine plans to expand.
China Molybdenum Co. (CMOC) and Sumitomo have started development of a new block cave mine at their Northparkes Mines joint venture 27 kilometers (km) northwest of Parkes, New South Wales. Ownership of the joint venture is 80% CMOC and 20% Sumitomo.

The new mine will be called E26 Lift 1 North. Investments will total more than $200 million over a 3.5-year period, with construction beginning in January and full production planned for mid-2022. The project will produce approximately 40 million metric tons (mt) of ore over a 10-year period.

The project includes 11 km of underground development, installation of an underground primary crusher, conveying systems, and associated infrastructure. At the peak of construction, it will employ up to 180 people, including employees and contractors.

The project is covered by current Northparkes approvals, licenses, and permits. An upgrade to the ventilation system is currently being developed that will provide the new mine with sufficient air flow to support development and production activities. E26 Lift 1 North operations are designed to utilize an increased level of automation and digitization, helping to deliver a safer and more productive mine.

“We are really excited to see this project come to fruition and to watch Northparkes continue to develop and grow,” CMOC Group Executive Chairman and CEO Steele Li said. “Northparkes plays a pivotal role in our strong and long-term presence in Australia as an internationally renowned mining company.”

Northparkes has been operating for 24 years and was the first mine in Australia to use the block cave mining method. In 2015, it became the world’s most automated underground mine, with 100% of production from automated loaders. The operation has outstanding Zero Harm performance across all areas of health, safety, environment.

In 2017, Northparkes transported 134,114 mt of copper concentrate by rail and sea to customers in Japan and China. As of December 31, the mine had reserves of 125 million mt of ore, plus an additional 471 million mt of resources. The mine has operating capacity to process 6 million mt/y of ore, containing roughly 60,000 mt of copper and 50,000 oz of gold. Economic viability of the mine is projected to extend at least until 2032.

“We know the exploration potential of Northparkes, and we believe we will discover more copper and gold deposits to take us even further into the future. Northparkes is the world’s most automated underground block-cave mine, and we are proud of our history and achievements,” Northparkes Acting Managing Director Hubert Lehman said.

As featured in Womp 2019 Vol 02 -