Las Bambas hopes to achieve production of approximately 2 million tonnes of copper between 2021 and 2025 – an average of 400,000 mt/y – an amount significantly above the levels estimated before production started.”
What were the highlights achieved by MMG-Las Bambas in 2019?
Despite having social problems, we still managed to achieve strong production levels in 2019. We closed the year with 382,500 tonnes of copper concentrate (mt/y). Thanks to several productivity efforts in mining and processing, negative effects were mitigated. We continue to make significant efforts to keep a strong dialogue with the surrounding communities and work towards sustainable development.
Las Bambas is the fourth-largest copper producer in Peru. Although we are slightly below our goal, we hold a strong national position. Our main investment projects are related to the upgrade of the molybdenum plant to achieve a 100% processing of this ore. Another large project we are working on is the construction of the third ball mill which began in mid-2019 and should be completed by the end of 2020. This will help achieve sustainability in copper production. On the other side, we have been purchasing mining equipment including a 75-cubic yard (+100-short ton) electrical shovel, 13 400-short ton haul trucks and related auxiliary equipment since 2019. As a result, this year, we will continue implementing our mining plan and start building our next pit.
What operational improvements have been made to optimize production?
Significant operational improvements were made in 2019. We managed to have a minimum of 35% of fine ore from the primary process of the mining operation, which allowed us to have a better milling throughput. We have also reduced the waiting time of the shovels when loading the trucks, enabling us to load approximately 5,500 tonnes per hour (mt/h). Furthermore, we have improved the weight, speed and tire lifespan of our trucks.
As for crushing, we have reduced the granulometric classification of the material so that we have more processing when grinding. We have also started using another type of liner in the grinding zone that allows us to process higher volumes of ore; as well as new reagents in the flotation area, which allow a higher recovery of difficult-to-process minerals like clay, marble and talc. These reagents make material float and stop them from being encapsulated in the tailings. We have changed and implemented an air-forced system in the first cells of the rougher-scavenger flotation system to improve the copper recovery.
Can you explain Las Bambas' approach to tailings management?
We now have a 95% water recovery, and thus do not re-introduce much fresh water to the process since we can re-pump the same water. Las Bambas uses a lot of geotechnical and hydrogeological instrumentation that allows us to monitor the process in real time and avoid any issues. Independent auditing firms inspect our operations twice a year and keep us permanently informed in case of any potential situation. We have placed piezometers that monitor any filtrations around the dike, along with robotic radars and geotechnical monitors to detect any instability in or near the tailings storage facility.
What are the main goals and objectives of MMG-Las Bambas in the coming years?
Las Bambas hopes to achieve production of approximately 2 million tonnes of copper between 2021 and 2025 – an average of 400,000 mt/y – an amount significantly above the levels estimated before production started. Our primary goal is to have zero production incidents. Safety is the number one pillar of our company, so we are working on programs such as Safe Tasks, We Take Care of One Another, Stop and Think, the 3 Qs, and Behavior-based Safety, to promote an interdependent culture of safety across the company.
Do you have a final message for the Peruvian mining community?
MMG and Las Bambas will continue betting on mining investment in Peru. Our focus relies on our operations area: process improvement and reservoir identification. We will continue working with the communities and contributing to the development of their regions. The company gives away 3% of its sales as royalties, which benefits the 84 municipalities of the Apurimac region, mainly the Cotabambas province where Las Bambas is located. Poverty reduction, improvement in nutrition and education are some of the proven positive impacts this province has had.
Before Las Bambas started its operations, Apurimac was one of the poorest regions and had the lowest development and growth rates. Currently, this region leads the regional growth rate. Mining promotes progress in remote places of the country and works as leverage to promote employment, entrepreneurship and other economic activities. The development and sustainability of Las Bambas will mean that other large mining projects located in Apurimac can be implemented to benefit the region and the country.