[GIFS] The 5 Stages of the Mining Life Cycle
Mining operations are complex. They aren't your run-of-the-mill type projects. These billion dollar complexes consist of various interconnected projects, operating simultaneously to deliver refined commodities like gold, silver, coal and iron ore. It’s a five stage process and we’ve broken it down using GIFs.
The beginning of any mining project begins with the exploration stage. It's where the magic happens. Companies enlist geologists and others to prospect remote areas in search of mineral deposits. Methods such as geological surface mapping and sampling, geophysical measurements and geochemical analysis is often applied at an early stage to pin out potential deposits.
Mine-site design and planning
Once mapping and mineral resource data is collected, and the results are strong, the project can move forward to the design and planning stage. This typically consist of studies to help companies determine if and how a project can be safe, environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible.
If you build it, they will come. The construction process occurs after research, permitting and approvals are complete. Construction of mining sites invovles building roads, processing facilities, environmental management systems, employee housing and other facilities.
The two most common methods of mining are surface and underground mining. The method is determined mainly by the characteristics of the mineral deposit and the limits imposed by safety, technology, environmental and economical concerns.
The first step in the production stage is recovering the minerals. This is the process of extracting the ore from rock using a variety of tools and machinery.
The second step is processing. The recovered minerals are processed through huge crushers or mills to separate commercially valuable minerals from their ores.
Once processed, the ore is then transported to smelting facilities.
The final step in production is smelting. This process involves melting the concentrate in a furnance to extract the metal from its ore. The ore is then poured into moulds, producing bars of bullion, which are then ready for sale.
Closure and reclamation
The fifth and final stage in mining operations is closure and reclamation. Once a mining site has been exhausted of reserves, the process of closing the site occurs, dismantling all facilities on the property. The reclamation stage is then implemented, returning the land to its original state.
A comprehensive rehabilitation program has many clearly stated objectives which may include:
• ensuring public health and safety
• minimizing environmental effects
• removing waste and hazardous material
• preserving water quality
• stabilizing land to protect against erosion
• establishing new landforms and vegetation
Copper production from top ten companies to increase by 3.8%
Copper production from the world’s top companies is set to increase by up to 3.8% this year, following a fall of 0.2% in 2020, GlobalData analysis reveals. Last year’s marginal slump saw production drop to 11.76 million tonnes (Mt).
The initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mining operations was immense, however, six of the ten largest copper producers succeeded in increasing output last year. In 2021, copper production from the top ten copper companies is expected to bounce back, rising by up to 3.8%, to reach 12.2Mt, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The highest increase in copper production was by Canada’s First Quantum, which, despite all the challenges, reported 10.4% growth in 2020. The company’s Sentinel mine in Zambia and Cobre Panama were key contributors to this growth. While the latter remained under care and maintenance between April and August 2020, it delivered record production levels during the subsequent months.
Codelco, the world’s largest producer of the red metal used in electric vehicles, also bucked the trend.
Vinneth Bajaj, Associate Project Manager at GlobalData, commented: “Despite Codelco reporting over 3,400 active cases during July 2020, the company achieved 1.2% growth in its production in 2020. The company implemented a four-phase plan, as part of the COVID-19 measures, to ensure the health and safety of its employees, while also avoiding any significant impact to its copper output.”
Although the overall impact was minimal, declines in production were observed from Glencore (8.2%), Antofagasta (4.7%), BHP (3.9%) and Freeport McMoRan (1.3%). Reduced operational workforces due to COVID-19 measures, lower ore grades and production halts due to maintenance were the key disruptors to output during 2020.
The move towards electric vehicles and clean energy from renewables sources such as solar panels and wind turbines has driven the copper price to all-time highs. Copper has been among the best performers over the last month where metals ranging from aluminum to iron ore have surged to their highest prices in years. The rally is being fueled by stimulus measures, near-zero interest rates and signs that economies are recovering from the global pandemic.