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Contact Information 
via McKinlay
Cannington, Queensland
Australia 4823
Tel: +61 07 4769 2100
Fax: +61 07 4746 8512
Time: AEST (Melbourne)
Mine Manager: Wade Bickley
Processing: Brian Calway
VP Operations: Bob Fulker
Asset Leader: Shane Hansen
Maint. & Eng.: Pete Townson

Overview  |  Location  |  Property  |  Operation  |  Process 

Summary Report  (printer friendly)

Overview - world location
Cannington is the world's largest and lowest cost silver and lead mine. It is located in Queensland, Australia and employs approximately 600 BHP Billiton employees and 300 contractors.

The deposit was discovered by BHP Minerals in 1990 and the mine was commissioned in 1997 at a cost of some A$450 million. Full production was achieved in early 1999, since then capacity has been expanded from 1.5Mt/y of ore to 3.1Mt/y.

The operation includes a rail-loading facility at Yurbi, about 15 km east of the town of Cloncurry, and a modern minerals concentrate handling facility at the Port of Townsville. processing plant

Cannington is an underground mine using both open-stope and bench mining methods.
Ownership Summary
 Name: BHP Billiton
   Interest: 100%
   Note: public

Reference: 30 Jun 2008

The mine is expected to have a life of 25 years, with an annual production of 750 tonnes silver, 265,000 tonnes lead and 111,000 tonnes zinc. These metals are produced by a range of metallurgical processes undertaken at the site including grinding, sequential flotation and leaching.

Location - regional locationThe Cannington silver mine is a fly-in fly-out mining and processing operation located in northwest Queensland, 200 km southeast of Mount Isa, near the township of McKinlay. Cannington is located approximately 800 kilometres west-southwest of Townsville, and approximately 250 kilometres south-southeast of Mt Isa, on the southeastern corner of the Mt Isa Block. The mine is 83 kilometres by road from the small community of McKinlay (population 17). the villageThe mine has an airstrip. The mine's village is 3 kilometers from the mine. A shuttle bus connects the village, the mine, and the airstrip.

The area surrounding the Cannington deposit is semi-arid. Average yearly rainfall is 250 millimetres, most of it falling between November and March. The area is prone to flooding. There are numerous meandering rivers crossing the area, most of them dry for part of the year.

Temperatures during the wet season are high, particularly in December and January when the annual monthly temperature maxima is 38.5 °C for both months. Temperatures range from 10 - 25 °Celsius in July. typical countryside

Location Summary
Nearest Landmark: CLONCURRY
Distance from Landmark: 139km
Direction from Landmark: SOUTH
Latitude: 21 deg 52 min S
Longitude: 140 deg 55 min E
Satellite Image: <click to view>
The countryside is flat, with rare, low, undulating rises, and occasional small, flat-topped sandstone hills called "mesas". Cannington lies at the confluence of the Hamilton River and Trepell Creek.

Property - regional terrainregional geologyCannington lies in the south-east corner of the proterozoic Mount Isa Block, within the metamorphics of the lower middle proterozoic eastern succession and overlain by 60m of younger sediments. It is divided by faulting into a shallow, low grade northern zone and a deeper, higher grade and more extensive southern zone. All mining and development to date is in the southern zone.

geologyThe southern zone contains a broadly zoned and faulted sequence of silver-lead- zinc, zinc and silver-lead lodes (Jun/03). The Cannington Growth project began in 2003, with the aim of improving recoveries, bringing the northern zone orebody into production and sustaining ore production at a rate of 2.4Mt/y. Surface exploration is continuing on a number of geophysical and geochemical anomalies in the mine lease area.
Reserves Summary
Name: Cannington
Commodity: silver
Class: Proven & Probable
Tonnage: 24 Mt
Grade: 348 g/t
Note: Grading 8.3% Pb and 3.9% Zn
Reference: 30 June 08

Cannington's major economic sulphides are galena and sphalerite. The silver occurs mainly as freibergite but is also present in solid solution within galena. The orebody contains proven and probable reserves of 23.2Mt grading 482g/t silver, 10.9% lead and 4.0% zinc.
Deposit Summary
Deposit Type: massive sulphide
Primary Commodity: silver
The metallurgical recovery rates for zinc, lead and silver are 72%, 89% and 89% respectively.

In 2000, a major airborne gravity survey was completed over the mine lease and BHP-held areas to the south of the mine lease.

The Cannington Growth project began in 2003, with the aim of improving recoveries, bringing the northern zone orebody into production and sustaining ore production at a rate of 2.4Mt/y.

Operation - Mine vehicle emerging from the entrance to the declineCannington is the world's largest single mine producer of silver and lead, representing about 6% of the world's primary silver production, while its lead production represents about 7% of the world's primary lead output. The lead concentrate contains 70% lead and over 3,000g/t silver with low levels of impurities.

It is an underground mine with access via a decline ramp from the surface. The hoisting shaft allows for a planned production rate of 1.8 million tonnes of ore a year. In 2008 Cannington mined 3.1Mt of ore. Total metal production in concentrate was over 31Moz of silver. Approximately 404,000 wet metric tonnes of lead and 163,000 wet metric tonnes of zinc were processed. The lead concentrate contains 70% lead and over 3 kg/t of silver. It is recognised as a clean concentrate with low levels of impurities. The zinc concentrate contains 50% zinc and 250 g of silver.

The stoping method used for the extraction of the main, thicker, hangingwall orebodies of the deposit is transverse, long-hole open stoping. Broken ore from the stopes is loaded from draw points at the bottom of each stope and currently hauled to the surface via the decline by trucks. The ore is hauled along the level and tipped into one of several ore passes.

The decline ramp has a cross section of 5.2 metres high by 5.5 metres wide and descends at a gradient of one in eight to the 450-metre level and thereafter one in seven. The main functions of the decline are to provide an access for mobile equipment and personnel to enter the mine and to act as one of the main intakes for fresh air into the mine. The decline has a total length of 5,250 metres.

Underground drill rig preparing an ore face for blastingExcavation involves stripping out a 1.8m-diameter raise-drilled pilot hole and lining with concrete from the surface. The hoisting shaft has a finished internal diametre of 5.6 metres and extends to a depth of 650 metres. The shaft is equipped with a tower-mounted friction winder and two 9t skips in counter balance running on rope guides. The skips are hoisted from a loading station on the 610-metre level and reach a final hoisting speed of 12 metres per second. On the surface, tipping scrolls in the shaft headframe tip the skips into a surface bin for transfer to the processing plant's stockpile area.
Mine Production Summary
 Mine - Cannington
   Capacity: 1.8 Mt/y
   Rate: unknown 
   Note: the hoisting shaft allows for a production rate of 1.8 Mt/y

Reference: 30 June 2008
Because the site is prone to flooding after heavy rains, the decline, shafts and surface infrastructure at the site have been elevated above known and predicted flood levels.

After completion of the ore extraction from each stope, paste backfill is used to fill the open void to stabilise the area and allow for mining of adjacent stopes.

Paste backfill is a high solid density material, around 80% solids and mixed from tailings produced from the processing plant with the addition of approximately 5% cement. The paste backfill is gravity fed underground via boreholes from the surface and pipe work into the open stopes.

Process - processing flowsheetThe Cannington mine includes a minerals processing concentrator to treat the silver-rich lead and zinc deposit. The purpose of the concentrator is to separate the valuable minerals (those containing silver, lead and zinc) from the remainder of the ore (known as gangue). The saleable products are known as concentrates. Cannington produces both lead and zinc concentrates which are sold to smelters in Australia and overseas.

Processing Summary
 Facility - Cannington
   Capacity: 3.1 Mt/y
   Rate: unknown 
   Commodity: silver
   Quantity: 35.5 Moz
   Cost: unknown 
   Note: 2008 silver in conc.; the mine also produced 251,548 DMT lead and 60,969 DMT zinc in conc.

Reference: 30 June 2008
The processing plant has been designed to treat 1.5 million tonnes of ore per annum during the 20-year life of the mine. The mill feed is a blend of a number of different lead and zinc lodes and mineralised types with varying silver, lead and zinc compositions. The average grade of this ore blend over the life of the mine is expected to be 520 g/t silver, 11.5% lead and 4.4% zinc. The concentrator recovers about 85% of the lead and 80% of the silver into the lead concentrate, and 75% of the zinc into the zinc concentrate. The target concentrate grades are 75% lead and 50% zinc, for the silver/lead and zinc concentrates, respectively.

Approximately two-thirds of the solids is used as fill in the mine. The remainder is stored in the tailings dam. Water reclaimed from the tailings dam is recycled to the concentrator. Port of Townsville The operation of the concentrator is automated with progammable logic controllers (PLCs), an online sample analyser being used to provide continuous assays on a number of the concentrator streams for silver, lead and zinc.

Concentrates are transported to rail loading facilities at Yurbi on the Matilda Highway. Queensland Rail moves the concentrates to the port of Townsville in 50 new 63t-capacity wagons for transporting for export to world markets.

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ABB - Mining Energy Conservation, Automation, Drives
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Nalco Company
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Last updated - 17 Nov 2008

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