Decrease of easily accessible ores is observed in mining sector nowadays. Companies face problems on low quality of raw materials and deterioration of mining and geological conditions. In other words, the time of simple solutions has come to an end. Mines with deeply bedded ore bodies and low content of useful components as well as man-made mineral formations are involved in processing. Moreover, quantity of explored deposits is getting lower. In these conditions companies have to seek new approaches to increase effectiveness of mineral deposits development, create new cost saving technologies, modernize mining equipment. Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) is not an exception. Zhairem GOK of ENRC is an example of introduction of advanced solutions.
We talk about technologies of transition from open extraction to combined development which the company applied at Ushkatyn-3 mine – one of the mines of Zhairem GOK in Karagandy region. Iron and manganese ores are extracted here. Firstly all deposits were expected to be developed by open extraction with stripping ratio of 8.6 cubic meters for one metric ton.
As is known, development and exportation of subsurface rock greatly contributes to the costs of an end product. And of course Zhairem GOK has a clear understanding of this point. Therefore it was decided to decrease the extraction of the subsurface rock at the mines. Scientific research centers were involved to conduct research on stability of open-pit slopes and possibility to increase their angle. Their implementation resulted in decreasing total size of subsurface rock by 80 million cubic meters. Total cost saving until the end of exploitation of Ushkatyn-3 mine made nearly $180 million.
However average strip ration remained quite high – 7.67 cubic meters for one metric ton. At the same time maximum cost effective level shouldn’t exceed 5.5 cubic meters for one metric ton. Technical specialists highlight that when development of the mine was at the stage of determining prices for diesel, electricity and other components were low, ore price was high. Later due to unfavorable external economic conditions the situation has changed. Production costs increased and ore price slumped.
“We have to find low cost technologies to compete with other mining companies. Review of project solutions on development of Ushkatyn-3 mine may serve as a successful example of creative approach and cost saving,” – stresses Felix Vulis, ENRC PLC CEO.
Transition to combined (underground and open) development of Ushkatyn-3 mine resolved range of core issues on cost savings. According to the project, Southern part of the mine will be developed by open extraction, Central and Northern parts of the mine – by underground method. Zhairem GOK launched the combined technology in 2006. It allowed to decrease the volume of strip mining for 50 million cubic meters. On Southern part of the mine volume of strip mining decreased to 130 million cubic meters. Workers brought all data in line with standards. Nowadays high quality manganese ore matching all technical conditions is extracted there.
“ENRC does not simply aim to decrease prime cost of products by all means. We search for technologies which would allow us to increase effectiveness and productiveness of the enterprises and to reduce environmental impact,” – says Felix Vulis.
Indeed, thanks to the combined technology Zhairem GOK was not forced to dispose subsurface rock, the company saved considerable volume of fuel and lubricants. Moreover, environmental impact was lowered: number of exhaust from diesel consumption and dust from loading decreased, lands can be used in other purposes. In other words, all-inclusive effect was reached.
Currently underground mine is being built here. It also relates to transfer from open extraction to underground. According to specialists, the project opens new page in the rich history of Ushkatyn-3. It includes construction of additional bores and allows twofold increase of productiveness of extraction. Life of the business will be prolonged for decades. Industrial development of the mine and construction of air shaft is planned in 2013.
It should be noted that with the implementation of advanced solution company improved its technology. Mining engineers decided to drill a large diameter hole through all drilled depth with subsequent extension to the project size. Therefore specific charge of explosives can be reduced as more baresurface appears. There is no need to organize drainage shaft and more important there is a possibility to significantly reduce time of rock harvest. This enabled Zhairem GOK to increase the speed of shaft sinking.
It is indicative that many of the works been carried out by local specialists. Drilling operations – "Semey” Service Company” LLP, development of shaft sinking – “Karagandagiproshakht and K” LLP etc.
Relevance of the project is undeniable. Only few large deposits left, so it is time to develop untouched ones. A matter of resumption of exploration activities is on. First step, according to industry experts, must be taken by the government.
“As it was said by the President Nursultan Nazarbayev the task of the state is to search new deposits and examine potentially productive regions, – says Felix Vulis. – Follow-up exploration and detailed outlining are matters of business, and we are ready to invest. Now we are working on getting mining rights of Yuzhnokempirsai ore deposit. We want to make additional in-mine exploration of small deposits with low-quality ore, which were found in the Soviet times. The government revealed them once, but they were unexplored due to lack of competitiveness.”
The company has capabilities to explore new deposits. For example the combined mining technology which was implemented by Zhairem GOK also was successfully used at Donskoy GOK as well and is scheduled for introduction at SSGPO. These are not the only promising projects of the corporation.
ENRC pays special attention to new technologies. Over the past five years for modernization of facilities, reconstruction and purchase of new equipment the company invested over $5 billion. Long term programs of modernization and technical upgrade have been developed and are being implemented an all Kazakhstani enterprises of the Group. Last year ENRC had established its own Engineering and Research Centre. It deals with research and development; creation, improvement and implementation of new technological processes in the field of mining, dressing, metallurgy and energy. All this measures intended to increase efficiency of production of ENRC enterprises.