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First ore from Onaping Depth by 2022

Glencore plans for 2,600-metre shaft

Glencore said its Onaping Depth project, located in the vicinity of its Craig and Onaping Mines, is a robust orebody with promise for extending the company’s mining activity in the Sudbury basin.

Glencore said its Onaping Depth project, located in the vicinity of its Craig and Onaping Mines, is a robust orebody with promise for extending the company’s mining activity in the Sudbury basin.

When Shayne Wisniewski envisions what the future of underground mining will look like in Sudbury, he sees depth and innovation.

As general manager of mining projects for Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, Wisniewski is responsible for evaluating the company’s Onaping Depth project, which will extend to a depth of more than 2,500 metres.

Located about a 45-minute drive from the city of Sudbury below the company’s Craig and Onaping Mines, the nickel-copper-PGE deposit was first discovered in 1994 when the company was looking for the down dip extension of Onaping and Craig, Wisniewski said.

Glencore undertook a drill program in the area in 2014 looking for footwall mineraliztion and to define a southeast zone.

“The grades are probably double what we’ve mined here to date in the Sudbury Basin at Falconbridge and now Glencore,” Wisniewski said during a recent presentation to the Sudbury chapter of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum. “The grades are very good.”

The project is awaiting full approval, but development work has already begun. In 2017, the company is planning $29 million worth of work, which includes driving two 1.1-kilometre tunnels. That work will take the company to Sept. 30, Wisniewski said. Then it will look for more funding for the balance of the year.

In years two and three, the company plans to sink a shaft to just under 2,600 metres, complete some off-shaft development, and install underground infrastructure. Additional diamond drilling will take place in late 2019 or early 2020 to firm up the resource and make the project more economical, Wisniewski said.

The first development ore is expected in late 2022 or early 2023. By year eight, the mine will be up to 60 per cent production capacity, he noted.

Though the project has a long lead time, Wisniewski believes it will be worth it, as the mine will be able to withstand the cyclical nature of the industry.

“This orebody, if it goes according to plan, will be in the bottom quartile of cash costs in the world of nickel mines,” he said. “It’s a good play. it’s robust.”

For hauling ore to the surface, the company has chosen battery-electric trucks, which Wisniewski said offers several advantages.

Workers’ health will benefit because of fewer diesel emissions, vibration and noise. Carbon emissions will be reduced, resulting in a better environmental footprint. And the economics are better, because of lower-profile openings and cost savings to operate the equipment.

“The cost for ventilation systems and refrigeration systems is astronomical,” he said. “Eliminating diesel … allowed us to cut the energy needed, and the refrigeration and the cooling almost in half.”

Not all decisions on equipment have been finalized, Wisniewski said, but Glencore does have some vehicles in use already, while testing will begin shortly on other equipment.

Caterpillar will start testing its 7-tonne load-haul-dump loader at Onaping Depth starting in July, and Glencore is involved with two projects with the Ultra-Deep Mining Network (UDMN) in Sudbury.

Ultimately, the company’s goal is to keep people out of harm’s way and reduce the time that workers have to be at the face.

“We’d like to have nobody at the face and everyone 20 metres back, so how do we do that?” Wisniewski asked. “We don’t know 100 per cent yet, but our goal is … to keep everybody safe.”

To service the fleet, the company will build a shop similar to the one in use at its Nickel Rim South Mine in Sudbury, which Wisniewski said “has paid for itself over time” in how it has extended the lives of the vehicles, reduced operating costs, and improved equipment reliability.

Glencore will deliver power to the mine via a 27.6 kilovolt distribution system, which will make power more readily available and allow the company to dig deeper, using its existing cables if more ore is found in the future, Wisniewski said.

Other features of the mine include refrigeration and ventilation-on-demand.

Onaping Depth will also have WiFi throughout the mine. The goal, Wisniewski said, is to avoid installing leaky feeder and rely solely on one communication system.

“If you don’t have that system in place, you can’t do everything else you want to do like autonomous mining and mucking from surface,” Wisniewski said. “So you need to get that backbone right.”

Miners will be equipped with tablets, and development will be tracked and scheduled through a scheduling system.

“Eventually, the goal is such that the schedule will get feedback directly from the equipment,” Wisniewski said. “So if you’re drilling, the drill will tell the schedule what per cent done it is, and take the miner out of the equation on providing information. We’re testing this as we speak.”

Ultimately, the company wants to use real-time monitoring, so it can find problems and address them quickly to boost productivity, he added.

Wisniewski noted that an “almost identical project” is simultaneously happening at Nickel Rim South.


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