Mass mining makes low grade deposits profitable
The fact that Laurentian University is hosting the International Conference and Exhibition on Mass Mining June 10-14 is a pretty big deal, according to the chair of the conference.
“Getting this conference into Canada is a huge deal,” Greg Baiden, a Laurentian University engineering professor and the owner of a local mining technology firm called Penguin Automated Systems, said. “The fact that Sudbury and Laurentian got to host it is an even bigger deal. All the big mining schools were vying to get access to it.”
About 700 delegates and exhibitors from more than 30 countries are attending the conference, which is being held in Canada for the first time. Federal Minister of Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was on hand to open the conference.
He highlighted the importance of the mining industry to Canada’s economic growth and long-term prosperity, adding that Greater Sudbury is a centre of job creation and innovation in the mining sector.
“Our government recognizes the importance of mining to the Canadian economy and resource-based communities,” Oliver said, in a press release.
“That is why we are committed to innovation, investments in public geoscience and renewing Canada’s regulatory system with our plan for responsible resource development.”
Oliver said the government plans to make project reviews more predictable and timely, reduce duplication of project reviews, strengthen environmental protection and enhance Aboriginal consultations.
Mass mining is an underground technique used to make lower-grade mines profitable. Methods such as block caving, panel caving, sub-level caving and open stoping are used to remove and process large amounts of ore at a time, making up for the lack of rich mineral concentration.
“You try to move as many tonnes as you can,” Baiden said. “You think about the contrast. For example, (Vale) here moves 35,000 tonnes a day. There was a guy who spoke about a mine that moves 365,000 tonnes a day. So 10 times the volume, and do it with lower grades.”
This type of mining hasn’t been used much in Canada – or in Greater Sudbury – because “we’ve been blessed with really rich ore bodies,” Baiden said.
“But the more we mine, the more the grades are going to decline,” he said. “These methods have to get applied so we can continue to remain in business.”
The conference features sessions on a number of topics, including using robotics to mine under the sea.
“Some of the underseas mining might become quite bulk as well,” Baiden said.
Mark Jamieson, who hails from Brisbane, Australia, was one of the conference delegates. He said he’s involved in a block caving mining project in Papua New Guinea, and wanted to find out the latest developments in the mass mining field.
Jamieson said he’s impressed with Greater Sudbury.
“It’s a lovely place,” he said. “It’s the second time I’ve been.”
For more information about the conference, visit www.cim.org/massmin2012.