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Small Mine Development

http://www.undergroundmining.com
Small Mine Development

Small Mine Development, founded 31 years ago by former U.S. Marine Ron Guill, is a leader in safe, productive and innovative underground mining solutions. Based in Idaho, SMD specializes in underground, hardrock mining and taking projects from exploration, through engineering, development, production mining, and, ultimately, closure. 

“Small Mine Development is about building and operating America's underground mines,” says Keith Jones, general manager and COO of SMD. “The company believes in the strength and value of underground mining and created a niche in that market. We like the development and we like the mining.”

In 2010 Guill sold the company to a group of senior management that have carried on the tradition of keeping SMD on the leading edge of mechanized underground mining. SMD has had as many as 10 major projects in progress, including the Fire Creek gold mine project for Klondex Gold and Silver Mining Co. in Crescent Valley, Nev., which recently earned the company a Sentinels of Safety Award for U.S. mining operations from the National Mining Association.

Culture of Caring

“The most important job you have is to go home safe and uninjured at the end of your shift,” is a quote from Guill that resides on every brass board so the miners see it as they begin and end each work shift. But safety is more than words at SMD; it is an important part of its culture.

SMD adopted the Safety Journey program from Newmont Mining Corp. three years ago and has successfully implemented it throughout the Company. The Safety Journey describes a path from safety being only awareness to safety being fully integrated into how to do business. All employees go through the Safety Journey training – from supervisors to hourly workers. Supervisors also attend leadership training programs.   

“We have a culture of caring,” Jones says, “one that shows we're concerned about safety, the environment, and having open lines of communication with our employees. Safety is a high priority across the industry, all the clients we work for demand a certain level of safety programs and safety performance. We want that as well.”

In the field SMD completes work area inspections utilizing the 5-point safety system. Lead miners or superintendents review everyone’s 5-point cards throughout the work day to ensure employees are working safely. A field level risk assessment is also incorporated into the 5-point safety card to review daily activities as necessary.

There are daily lineout meetings where immediate concerns are discussed and, in addition, more in-depth weekly “tool box” meetings are conducted with every member of the crew to ensure everyone is working safely. The Company performs task analysis and planned observations as well. The safety system is focused on the conditions, training, and procedures to do the work safely and eliminating unsafe behaviors.

“Safety is always a challenge, but I do believe accidents are preventable,” Jones says. “About 90 percent of our incidents are behavior based and that is a tough thing to control.” SMD’s next piece of the Safety Journey is called Vital Behaviors. This program is being implemented throughout SMD and focuses on employee motivations and abilities to work safely.

 The Company’s safety system is anchored on the belief that miners must be able to make decisions and correct situations immediately as their shift progresses. SMD recognizes the importance of, and is committed to, maintaining a constructive and aggressive program to identify and control hazards to life and property.

“Our goal is working on zero fatalities and zero restricted duty or lost time accidents,” Jones says. “We set our sights there. The goal is zero.”

Some of SMD’s most recent safety accomplishments are:

  • 2007 – Sentinels of Safety Winner for the Small Underground Metal Group at Cortez Hills. Approximately 9,100 feet of drifting was completed while working 64,860 hours.
  • 2008 – The Chukar mine accumulated more than 135,000 hours with no injuries. Over 600,000 tons of ore were mined, 10,500 feet of drifting was completed, and 250,000 tons of backfill were placed during the year.
  • 2008 – SMD mined 200,000 hours with one medical reportable injury at the Leeville Project.
  • 2008 – SMD was recognized by MSHA with a Sentinels of Safety Award for the “Safest Underground Mine in 2008” at their Exodus project.
  • 2010 – SMD worked over 585,000 man-hours without an LTA or permanently disabling injury.
  • 2011 – Sentinels of Safety Winner for the Small Underground Metal Group at Fire Creek. Approximately 3,200 feet of drifting was completed while working 33,792 hours.
  • Present – SMD has worked over 2 ½ years and 2.4 million man-hours without an LTA or permanently disabling injury.

“We believe the Safety Journey program is influencing positive behaviors and making us be even safer,” Jones said.

Training and Technology

SMD has upgraded most of its fleet to cleaner burning EPA Tier 2 and 3 engines. And in an effort to reduce diesel particulate matter, the Company included the entire fleet operation on the use of bio-diesel fuels and installation of exhaust diesel particulate filters.

SMD was the first to operate an entire fleet of underground equipment on a B-50 bio-diesel with no extraordinary maintenance issues. Also they have invested heavily in operator cabs by purchasing new equipment with cabs and retrofitting existing equipment with cabs. Cabs help tremendously in reducing noise exposure and can help in reducing exposure to diesel particulate matter.

As technology has upgraded the systems on mining equipment – with everything being computerized – workers’ skills had to be upgraded as well. In conjunction with vendors such as Atlas Copco, Caterpillar, and Sandvik, classes are offered in hydraulics and electrical systems.

“Vendors help us bring our employees up to speed on those new systems,” Jones says. “That training rolls through to all operations as well as for operating the more advanced rig control systems. Some of our vendors look to us because we are willing to try new technology, get the equipment in the field, and see if it works.”

SMD has been using technology for innovative mining solutions since the 1980s. They brought Cubex RC drilling underground and proved the value and versatility of this drilling method for exploration and production. In addition, remote mucking capabilities were added to the mining fleet more than 20 years ago. “We outfit our remote muckers with Nautilus’ “Buddy System”, a personnel proximity detection system which keeps the remote operators at a safe distance from the remote controlled machine,” Jones states. MSHA is now recommending proximity detection systems for all remote machines.

SMD recognized the safety and productivity advantages to utilizing mechanized bolting and now have one of the largest fleets of mechanical bolters in the U.S. Wet shotcrete capabilities were added to several projects in the mid-1990s and proved the safety of this ground support method. The Company also successfully implemented Atlas Copco’s RCS system on a two-boom jumbo drilling rig, which allows for computerized pattern drilling.

New Projects

SMD has a new project with Veris Gold, as well as with Stockpile Reserves LLC, and ongoing projects with Newmont Mining Corp. in Nevada.

The Veris Gold projects is in Starvation Canyon, named after a large herd of cattle died during a brutal storm in the winter of 1889. SMD started development there in November of last year, did about 4,400 feet of development, and have been producing ore since early April – even though the grand opening for that mine was actually July 29.

“… Small Mine Development has done an incredible job in developing the mine [at Starvation Canyon], which is on schedule and on budget. The portal was started in late November and just over four months later the mine is already producing ore,” says Randy Reichert, former co-CEO and COO of Veris.

SMD is currently rehabilitating the Fencemaker Mine for Stockpile Reserves LLC. Fencemaker is an antimony mine in Pershing County, Nevada.

In addition to these two new projects, SMD is working at the Lee Smith Mine for Veris Gold. In addition, they have been at Newmont Mining Corp. for over 20 years on virtually every underground project Newmont has started. SMD is currently mining for Newmont at Chukar, Full House, and the Leeville Complex.

By being a mining contractor SMD is subject to the ups and downs of the mining industry. For instance, as the price of gold retreated, some projects were either scrapped all together or tabled for a later date. But throughout its history, SMD has ridden the waves of growth, handled the downturns, and readied itself for the next upturn in the cycle.

“Being a contractor in a cyclical business is a challenge but is also makes the business fun – being able to manage that,” Jones says. “I think one way we manage that is still having that small company feel and mentality. We want to be known as the kind of company that has a family-oriented atmosphere where people want to come to work.”

Statistics

  • INDUSTRY

  • FOUNDED

    July 1982

  • EMPLOYEES

    Currently at 450 tot

  • REVENUE

    Not Disclosed

Contact Us

http://www.undergroundmining.com

Boise, Idaho, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

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Small Mine Development


Small Mine Development, founded 31 years ago by former U.S. Marine Ron Guill, is a leader in safe, productive and innovative underground mining solutions. Based in Idaho,...

http://miningglobal.com/company/78/Small-Mine-Development