May 17, 2020

Grasberg: The World's Largest Gold Mine

4 min
Grasberg: The World's Largest Gold Mine
The story of the Grasberg mine began in the mid-1930s when Dutch colonists discovered copper deposits in the Jayawijaya Mountain glaciers in the Indones...

The story of the Grasberg mine began in the mid-1930s when Dutch colonists discovered copper deposits in the Jayawijaya Mountain glaciers in the Indonesian part of New Guinea. Mining operations commenced in 1972, however the mine was largely exhausted by the mid-1980s. It wasn’t until 1988 when PT Freeport Indonesia (subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.) began exploring additional deposits in the area, that they discovered it had the potential to become an exceptionally profitable site.

Estimated to have $40 billion in gold ore reserves, the Grasberg mine has reached mythical status, earning the title of the largest and most lucrative gold producing mine in existence. But does Grasberg still hold its coveted designation?

From mine to super mine

Located in the providence of Papua, the Grasberg mine sits at an altitude of 14,000 feet in the remote highlands of the Sudiman Mountain Range. The mine is a joint venture between Freeport-McMoRan and mining juggernaut Rio Tinto, with Freeport owning 60 percent of the mine and Rio Tinto owning the remaining 40 percent. Freeport owns a 90.64 percent interest in PT Freeport Indonesia, which operates the mine. In its first full year of operations the Grasberg mine produced 196,000 ounces of gold, making it an immediate success.

The rate at which the company has been excavating the site has grown year-on-year. According to Freeport McMoRan’s 2013 annual report, the company’s gold production reached 1.14 million ounces in 2013, 862,000 ounces of gold in 2012, and 1.44 million ounces of gold in 2011. Gold production for the mine increased 32 percent from 2012 to 2013 and gold sales are expected to touch 1.6 million ounces in 2014.

Grasberg’s title as largest gold producing mine hasn’t been without competition and obstacles. Various mines throughout the world have rivaled the super mine, including South Deep located in South Africa; the Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea; and the Muruntau mine in Uzbekistan. In recent years, unexpected accidents  and complexities in contract negotiations with Indonesia have slowed production down.

Mining operations and infrastructure

Grasberg requires careful management owing to its vast and often complex nature. Freeport is able to conduct exploration, mining and production activities in the 24,700-acre area in agreement with the government of Indonesia. Mining operations include an open-pit mine, an underground mine, and four concentrators. A number of processes are used on site, including various stages of drilling, blasting, sorting, hauling, and crushing of ore.

PT Freeport Indonesia began open-pit mining in 1990, however transitioned its operations from primarily open-pit extraction to underground mass mining in order to maintain its high production rate. The company suspended this method in 1991, but resumed it in 2000. Open-pit operations are expected to continue through 2016.

According to Freeport McMoRan’s website, one-third of its underground mining production is from the Deep Ore Zone (DOZ), a single deposit within the greater Grasberg mine complex located on the western half of New Guinea. The Grasberg DOZ block cave mine is one of the largest underground operations in the world. Currently, about 75 percent of the Freeport production is sourced from its open-pit.

Production equipment includes 30m3-42m3 buckets, a 170-strong fleet of 70t-330t haul trucks, together with 65 dozers and graders with radar, GPS and robotics used in the mine’s state-of-the-art slope-monitoring system.

Mine facilities include a power plant, several mills, crushing and screening operations, concentrators, thickeners, and a pump station. Freeport has also constructed an airport, a port, a 119 km road, an aerial tramway, a hospital and related medical facilities, two town sites with housing, schools, and other facilities sufficient to support more than 17,000 employees.

Freeport has laid out plans for an extensive underground facility to extract more gold as its current open pit resources are set to extinguish sometime between 2016 and 2017.

Not so bright future

While the Grasberg mine still holds the title as largest mine in the world, the outlook is uncertain. Freeport is attempting to secure a 20-year extension to their existing mining contract in Indonesia while the government is trying to shop for a better deal based on the 2009 Mining Law. The government is targeting for more revenue from Indonesia’s resources and wants the mining company to comply with the new Mining Law, which limits concession areas for miners, an increase in government royalties, and greater domestic ownership.

“The discussions are going well and we feel we’re making great progress,” said Richard Adkerson, CEO of Freeport-McMoRan. “There is a sense of urgency on the part of both the government and company.”

Although the Grasberg mine is still number one in terms of gold, with more and more companies coming of age in the mining industry, it could lose its title in upcoming years.

WATCH: Inside the Grasberg Mine in Indonesia


Share article

Jun 2, 2021

Ericsson Private 5G to transform secure on-site connectivity

Smart Mining
3 min
Ericsson Private 5G is a next-gen private cellular 4G & 5G network tailored to drive Industry 4.0 and the digital transformation of industries like mining

Ericsson has launched Ericsson Private 5G. It offers secure and simple 4G LTE and 5G Standalone (SA) connectivity primarily targeting manufacturing, mining and process industries, offshore and power utilities, as well as ports and airports.



Ericsson Private 5G optimizes and simplifies business operations with cloud-based network management, keeps sensitive data on-premise, has zero downtime upgrades and guarantees high performance through Service-Level Agreements (SLAs).

It is easily installed within hours at any facility and can be scaled to support larger coverage areas, more devices and higher capacity when needed. The product is designed to be flexible and will support a range of deployment sizes, depending on requirements, to suit varied needs. Businesses can manage their networks and integrate with IT/OT systems via an open API.


Ericsson Private 5G builds upon Ericsson’s 4G/5G radio and dual mode core technology, enabling a wide variety of use cases for both indoor and outdoor environments while integrating well with business operations, devices and applications. As a result, companies can improve productivity, give their customers more value and provide better working environments for employees.

Innovative use cases include tracking assets and real-time automation to improve productivity in warehouses, and a digital twin that can help to optimize manufacturing operations. Efficient quality inspections can also be performed via augmented reality or smart surveillance drones to increase worker safety, particularly in potentially hazardous environments such as ports and mines.


Ericsson already has a significant track record of operational 4G and 5G private network deployments with customers worldwide. Ericsson Private 5G builds on the success of that solution portfolio and deployment insights, as well as insights from projects such as 5G-Industry Campus Europe.

Peter Burman, Program Manager Mine Automation, at Swedish mining company Boliden, commented: “Automation, and safety through automation in our mining operations is an absolute must for us. Ericsson Private 5G is exactly what Boliden needs to bring high quality, fast and secure connectivity into potentially hazardous environments allowing us to mobilize efficiency and safety improving use cases.

Niels König, Coordinator 5G-Industry Campus Europe, Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT added: “Private 5G networks are highly attractive for producing companies because of the uncompromised performance that 5G can bring, allowing them to tackle the challenges of production. Efficiently deploying and using network solutions in enterprises requires simplicity in installation, flexibility in connecting to existing production IT and lean operations while at the same time being able to scale the network to meet future challenges. Ericsson Private 5G delivers exactly these capabilities.”


Enterprise Networks

Leo Gergs, Senior Analyst, ABI Research, noted: “With this new offering, Ericsson will be able to address key trends in the enterprise cellular market.  The value proposition will appeal to operators and service providers as the solution hides technology complexity and therefore reduces the barrier of entry to deployment for many different flavors of enterprise networks.”

Thomas Noren, Head of Dedicated Networks, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses, Ericsson, revealed: “With Ericsson Private 5G, we take the best of Ericsson’s current portfolio and top it up with the best of our new technology. We do this to give businesses what they need to improve productivity, enable new offerings and give employees a better working environment. With Ericsson Private 5G, we also give operators a better way to serve business customers and leverage their assets - in short, to grow beyond mobile broadband.”

Ericsson recently joined a three-year initiative to develop autonomous, carbon-neutral mining processes supported by 5G connectivity. Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, the $16mn Next-Generation Carbon-Neutral Pilots for Smart Intelligent Mining Systems (NEXGEN SIMS) project is being coordinated by Swedish mining and infrastructure equipment manufacturer, Epiroc, in cooperation with a range of industry-diverse partners, including: Ericsson, K+S, Boliden, Agnico Eagle Finland, KGHM Polska and Luleå University of Technology.

Share article