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Orion tests continuous loader as copper mining starts at Prieska in SA

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Orion announced that trial mining will get underway at its Prieska Copper and Zinc Mine in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. WhyAfrica visited the Prieska mine last year as part of the 2023 WhyAfrica Road Trip. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

Orion tests continuous loader as copper mining starts at Prieska in SA

ASX listed Orion Minerals will be testing an ITC120 continuous loader and bi-directional drive trucks as trail mining gets underway at the company’s Prieska Copper-Zinc Mine (PCZM) in Copperton close to Upington in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

Orion announced yesterday that it has awarded a 6-month trial mining contract to P2 Mining, a subsidiary of South African mining contractor Newrak Mining Group (Newrak) to undertake the early works trial underground mining program at Prieska.

“This is a tremendously exciting period for Orion as we move to active trial mining at Prieska and start our transition from developer to operating mining company,” says Orion’s Managing Director and CEO, Errol Smart.

“We have spent the past two months completing essential preparations, such as installing underground refuge chambers, upgrading hoisting capacity of the emergency escapeway to surface and sourcing and installing key ventilation equipment.

“With these essential safety and environmental preparations now complete, we can finally mobilise the mining contractor to commence drilling, blasting and hauling ore to surface,” says Smart.

Conventional and alternative methods (Orion tests continuous loader as copper mining starts at Prieska in SA)

The trial mining will target the +105 Level Crown Pillar, using conventional and alternative underground mining methods. The trial mining will comprise 120m of footwall ramp development, before accessing the high-grade supergene ore of the +105 block with ore development along strike for 150m on either side of the primary access as the primary in a cut-and fill mining cycle.

The Newrak contract also covers the opening of the 143 Level historical stope draw-points for selective loading and hauling to surface of broken ore remaining in the stopes, to perform bulk sampling and metallurgical trials on the material.

If successful, this exercise will continue to build a stockpile on surface for future processing once the concentrator plant is commissioned. Part of the trial mining contract with Newrak is to test an ITC120 continuous loader and two 20-tonne bi-directional trucks in the underground development cycle. This machine trial is being undertaken at Orion’s request with equipment secured from Germany.

Improved cycle times (Orion tests continuous loader as copper mining starts at Prieska in SA)

According to Orion the ITC120 loader shows great promise in delivering improved cycle times and development rates compared to conventional mechanised rock loading and hauling methods.

It is envisaged that these improvements can deliver significant a positive impact on both the +105 and the Prieska Deeps mining once dewatering has been completed.

The ITC120 continuous loader and the Paus 20t dump trucks are supplied via Hurst Mine Tec (HMTEC), the newly established local representative for Swiss group ITC.

HMTEC is introducing the proven European tunneling technology into South Africa for the first time and will support the imported equipment locally.

Lowering development costs (Orion tests continuous loader as copper mining starts at Prieska in SA)

Orion says in their latest statement that during development, the combination of the continuous loader with the two bi-directional drive dump trucks is expected to show significant improvements in safety, cycle time reduction and lowering development costs, with one machine doing all scaling, mucking and loading in a face.

“Direct conveyor loading into dump trucks driven into the face removes the need for shuttling load haul dumpers and removes the requirement for loading and passing bays in the development tunnels.

“The bi-directional drive trucks also improve safety, removing the need for reversing long distances by load, haul & dump loaders.

“Importantly, the number of engines running is reduced, with a resulting decrease in exhaust gases and heat. The continuous loader and paired bi-directional trucks are anticipated to have particular application in the drift-and-fill stopes that will be prevalent in both the +105 mining block and in the shallow-dipping Prieska Deeps ore blocks.

The anticipated improvements in development cycle time and associated cost reductions will be demonstrated during trial mining and carried forward to the revised BFS for the early mining start and planned future deeps mining at PCZM.

WhyAfrica visited the PCZM last year during its 2022 WhyAfrica Road Trip through Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.  

Orion tests continuous loader as copper mining starts at Prieska in SA


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Orion tests continuous loader as copper mining starts at Prieska in SA

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