Palabora Mining Company operates a highly successful underground block-cave mine, producing 30?000 tons per day of copper ore.
It is an underground copper mine which also produces vermiculite (open pit) and Nickel and Magnetite.
The mine is located near Phalaborwa in the north eastern Transvaal, Limpopo Province of South Africa.
The pre-Cambrian carbonatite complex hosts a network of copper sulfide veins near the center of the intrusive. The intrusive contains other phases of recoverable minerals.
The copper orebody is hosted in a carbonatite pipe within which grades are typically concentric with the highest values (1.0% copper) at the core.
Mining & Operations
The Copper operation comprises an underground mine, a concentrator, a copper smelter with anode casting facilities and an associated acid plant, an electrolytic refinery tank house, a rod casting plant and by-product recovery plants.
The Vermiculite operation comprises an open pit mining operation and recovery plant.
The construction and development of the underground mine was completed in October 2004 when the 20th cross-cut was brought into full production.
The production footprint is geographically very small, measuring 650m long by 200m wide. It is through this footprint, consisting of 20 production cross-cuts and 320 drawpoints, that we break and load 30?000 tons of ore per day. With the coarse fragmentation of our orebody, a high degree of secondary breaking activities is required to treat hang-ups and oversize and keep ore flowing through the drawpoints for the loaders to haul.
A fleet of LHD?s tip 3?000 buckets per day into 4 jaw crushers on the northern side of the footprint. Ore is reduced to less than 220mm and fed onto a high capacity conveyor system up to the shaft complex for hoisting to surface.
The mine has full calendar operations, working 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, utilizing 3 by 8 hour shifts per day, keeping the underground alive with a buzz of focused activity at all times. Production, maintenance and service activities need to be scheduled carefully to obtain maximum benefit from the footprint, fixed plant, production machinery and people.
The onsite smelter and refinery have a nominal capacity to produce 143,000 tons of refined (cathode) copper per year. By-products recovered from the copper processing circuit include zirconium chemicals (baddeleyite), uranium oxide, magnetite and nickel sulphate, as well as small quantities of gold, silver and platinum.