Authors: Webster, S; Samosir, E; Wyllie, A

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This paper is hosted with the kind permission of the Universidad de Chile, Eighth International Conference & Exhibition on Mass Mining, 2020.


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Webster, S, Samosir, E & Wyllie, A 2020, 'Learnings from mining cave extensions at Northparkes Mines and new technology to improve the value of future cave designs', in R Castro, F Báez & K Suzuki (eds), MassMin 2020: Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference & Exhibition on Mass Mining, University of Chile, Santiago, pp. 92-102,

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Northparkes Mines are located 27 kilometres north of Parkes in central New South Wales, Australia. The operations consist of two block caving areas, one sub-level cave and a 6.5Mtpa ore processing plant which produces high-grade copper and gold concentrate. E26 block cave mining began in 1997 and the ability to extend cave footprints and utilise existing infrastructure has been successful in providing continual ore sources and value, along with several technical challenges. Northparkes is currently developing the next extension, E26 Lift 1 North, and first sub-level cave from the system. Before these extensions, 46 Mt of the planned 61 Mt had been produced from E26. This paper summarises the improvements and learnings from cave extensions for undercutting and extraction level geometries, designing for ingress of old cave material, cave back growth, and mining high lift draw bells amongst remnant infrastructure. Changes to electric loaders and automation technology are revisited against the layout of future extraction levels. The paper also explores the process of realising the value of remaining cave material through the creation of a residual model of remaining grade using cellular automata. Near mine exploration indicates a continuation of mineralisation to the north and east of E26 making the success of recovering reserves from extensions and capital cost management important to the longevity of the business.

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