Peru Mining – Las Bambas Overview
Las Bambas is one of the largest copper mines to come online in recent years. The is project located in Apurímac, Peru – 72km south-west of Cusco City. The project is owned by a joint venture of MMG (62.5%), a wholly owned subsidiary of Guoxin International Investment (22.5%) and CITIC Metal (15.0%).
It is an open-pit mine located at altitude of about 4000 meters above sea level. The project began commercial production in July 2016 and has an operational life of more than 20 years. The cost was US$8.3bn. At the time of construction, it was estimated to produce more than two million tonnes (Mt) of copper in concentrate during the first five years of operation. Las Bambas is estimated to contain 7.71Mt of copper, 205,000t of molybdenum, 119Moz of silver, and 2Moz of gold.
Overview of Mining Operations
Las Bambas is an open pit mine that comprises of three deposits namely Ferrobamba, Chalcobamba and Sulfobamba. Mining is by way of traditional truck and shovels methods.
Chalcobamba, which will be mined in the following months; and Sulfobamba, which should come into operation in the coming years.Chalcobamba is important for the company to compensate for lower grades at Ferrobamba and maintain stable production.
Ore from the pits are processed using conventional crushing, grinding and flotation techniques to produce copper concentrate containing gold and silver, and a separate molybdenum concentrate.
The current fleet at the Ferrobamba pit now includes 15 Komatsu 980E trucks and 44 Komatsu 930E-4SE models along with 15 Caterpillar 797F machines so it has depth of experience in both electric and mechanical drive. These are loaded by five rope shovels (two Cat 7495 and three Komatsu P&H 4100) plus a Komatsu L-2350 large wheel loader and three Cat 6060 hydraulic excavators.
After the ore is processed through the primary crushers , it is transported to the concentrator plant on two 5.2km-long overland conveyor belts which are designed to transport approximately 9,400t of material an hour.
The copper and molybdenum sulphides are treated in a conventional concentrator having a capacity of 140,000t/d. The concentrator comprises two production lines equipped with a semi-autogenous (SAG) mill and a ball mill in each line.
Copper concentrates from the Las Bambas mine are transported truck to Pillones transfer station where it then loaded onto trains and sent to the Port of Matarani where it shipped to global customers.
There was major works needed for the project given its remote location and lack of local infrastructure. During the construction phase, Las Bambas was required to build power transmission lines. Power for the mine is supplied through a 130km-long, 220kV transmission line from the Peruvian grid at Cotaruse substation.
There was also the need for the re-settlement of the Fuerabamba community to the new town of Nueva Fuerabama. The new town has 441 houses for the same number of families. Amenities in the new town include a health center, school, chapel, and community hall for meetings; market and green areas; and a home for the elderly.
Fresh water for the mine was originally sourced from the Challhuahuacho River but the company has been able to reduce the water consumption of the mine. In 2018, there was a 24% reduction in water taken from run-off and a 71% reduction of water taken from rivers and creeks. This is due to the increased reuse efficiency and improvements in site water management processes.
The mine was able to source most of their processing water requirements from the tailings storage facility or directly from the tailings stream which means the company is now recycling more the 95% of the water that it uses.
Key 2021 expenditures include Chalcobamba development at $70 million (including new crusher and conveyor), tailings dam phase IV and V ~$50 million, mining fleet additions $30 million, a thirdball mill project at $32 million and Ferrobamba stage 5 infrastructure ~$26 million. The current reserves allow for a production of up to ~2040. This will require an ongoing development of new pits and infrastructure.
The mine by 2025 will have invested USD$90 million to aid in the development of technology to reduce costs and improve efficiency and security. Over the last 2 years, the mine has been able to implement significant changes. According to a self-assessment by the company, the digital maturity index of the mine in the last year went from 71.3% to 96.7%.
In 2020, Nokia and Telefónica Peru signed a contract with MMG’s Minera Las Bambas to enable digitalisation and automation projects. A private 4G LTE network which was duly commissioned in July 2020, the first in Peru.
A DOC (Digital Operation Centre) was built in Lima, more than 1,000 km from the operation, in order to assist with remote operations.
Under its Alto Nivel-Tech 2021 plan, the company looks to, among other things, automate operations and administration as much as possible to maintain minimum staffing levels at the site, applying artificial intelligence, developing cybersecurity and integrating communications systems.
Remote work, virtual e-learning courses, remote control of operations are among the technological opportunities that have been implemented to improve processes, reduce costs and increase the safety of operations.
Augmented reality is being used for inspections, monitoring and maintenance of certain facilities, mainly in the plant, while private LTE 4-G communication has been a facilitator to have better data transfer at higher speed and with adequate stability.
The company has also implemented applications to avoid drowsiness and fatigue, especially for the operators of concentrate and mining trucks.
Autonomous trucks are planned for the medium term.
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