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"The Chuquicamata underground mine will achieve a production of 140,000 tons per day"
"The Chuquicamata underground mine will achieve a production of 140,000 tons per day" "The Chuquicamata underground mine will achieve a production of 140,000 tons per day"

2014.04.09


Press room - Interviews - "The Chuquicamata underground mine will achieve a production of 140,000 tons per day"

Patricio Adriasola Caulier, Underground Mining Development Manager for Codelco’s Chuquicamata mine, updates us on the current status of the project, as well as its future prospects.


The current state of Chuquicamata’s open pit mine features breathtaking dimensions, What are the main challenges in operating within a mine of this size?
The main challenge in an operation of this size is the efficient management of the assets that allow the mine to remain competitive. Within the Chuquicamata pit we have to face a current scenario in which the copper ore grade decreases while operating costs increase, largely due to a substantial increase in both the amount of ballast we have to remove, as well as in terms of the distances that the extraction trucks must travel in order to deposit such material. A major challenge in strategic planning was to determine the date or period where surface extraction ceased to be economically viable and when it was time to make the switch to underground extraction. Studies determined that the date was the end of this decade, at some point around 2019 and 2020.

At what stage is the Chuquicamata underground mining project?
We are in the construction phase of the early works, which consist of the main infrastructure elements and detailed engineering development. During the coming months we will apply for the Codelco board’s approval for the investment budget covering the project’s total cost.

What challenges does underground mining involve?
The Chuquicamata underground mine is inspired by the concept of a XXI century mine, and this is a project that has the highest occupational health and safety standards, aiming to be a world reference in this respect. It also needs to be capable of running a highly competitive operation, and it therefore incorporates the best technology currently available on the market, with designs that include concepts like flexibility, so as to be able to continue incorporating all the latest technological advances as they are developed over the coming years. Additionally, we are preparing a training center that allows for the workers to be trained and certified in each of the functions to be developed. All of this allows us to maintain a safe, efficient, highly productive operation that contemplates improvements in the workers’ quality of life.
 
What size is the underground mine expected to have?
The project is set to begin operating in 2019, ramping up production over the course of seven years, and ultimately reaching an average production rate of 140,000 tons per day. When production begins there should be some 190 km of tunnels and shafts ready. The tunnel will have 7.5 kilometers long two-way access, and to date we have 3.1 kilometers excavated; the ore transport tunnel spans 6.5 kilometers, of which 2.8 are already complete. Five clean air injection ramps will each be 4.5 km in length. Two air exhaust tunnels nearly a kilometer deep are also being built; currently, one of the shafts is in the initial phase, with 65 meters built. During the project’s lifetime over a thousand kilometers of tunnels and shafts will have been built on all four levels of the mine.Regarding the number of workers during the construction phase, an average of 3,000 workers will be required, with a maximum of 4,500 people; during the operation stage, an average of 2,600 is estimated directly, including both employees and collaborators.

How long is the deposit expected to last once the underground mining project begins?
According to the engineering studies, this underground mine is expected to last until 2057.

Chuquicamata mine is the main driver of employment and economic activity in the region’s neighboring towns. How does Codelco collaborate with these communities socially?
Codelco has planned a recruitment drive that includes its own employees as well as the external applicants who meet the process requirements. In that vein, as I mentioned previously, we are also incorporating an underground mining training center in Calama, with the aim of creating the conditions that will favor the city’s youth, giving them a real possibility of participating and thus increasing their employability. In turn, we are participating with other institutions in the creation of a supply cluster for underground mining operations in the region, allowing providers to adapt to the new service requirements, something which will result in the creation of new, indirect employment in the area.



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