Single-metal mines may be common, but it’s not unusual for a single mine to produce a wide variety of ores. After all, a cubic foot of earth can contain many basic minerals and their compounds. As well, multi-metal mines can satisfy the needs of a more diverse market. The Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) project near the Alaskan-British Columbia border, for example, a combined open-pit and underground mine, will meet demand for gold, copper, silver, and molybdenum. It contains a total of over 10 billion pounds of provable and probable reserves, around 90 percent of which is copper. Over the span of 52 years, KSM will contribute $400 million to British Columbia’s GDP and $42 billion to the GDP of Canada. It will also provide more than 54,000 direct jobs over its lifetime.
Of course, metals don’t come out of the earth in their purest form ready for market. Copper reserves at KSM, for example, may be approximately 9 billion pounds, but the amount of raw material coming out of the mine will be many times more than that. Worldwide, the average copper production yield is about .79 percent. This means that more than 126 tons of material needs to be mined and hauled in order to produce one ton of copper.
At the very least, crushing ore can take place onsite, but the rest of the smelting and refining process must take place on the surface. As a result, reliable mine haulage systems are required to bring crushed material from underground to the surface at a rate that balances both productivity and safety.
Typical mine skips can move as much as 600 cubic feet of ore at a time, but mine equipment fabricators like Wabi Iron & Steel Corp. can adjust to a mine’s needs. They are no strangers in designing and building heavyweight ore movers, like the 50-ton skip that’s now operating at the Vanscoy potash mine in southern Saskatchewan. In today’s mining world, it’s conveyance equipment like this that are being utilized to get the job done efficiently and safely.
(Source: “Canada approves world’s largest copper-gold project,” Mining.com, December 19, 2014)