The Dugald River team is looking to bump up production further in 2019 after taking the North-West Queensland operation’s processing plant right out to design capacity in the past year.
General manager Sam Rodda said the MMG site would aim for an ore throughput as high as 2Mtpa and was still ramping up its underground mining operations with contract partner Barminco.
“It’s exciting for us. We still don’t totally understand what the ultimate capacity is for mining this site,” he said.
“Part of our challenge and opportunity is to find our right sustainable production rate.”
The MMG-owned Dugald River mine and processing operation, 65km north-west of Cloncurry, came online in late 2017.
In its first full calendar year of operation it achieved an output of 147,320 tonnes of zinc in zinc concentrate and just under 17,000 tonnes of lead in lead concentrate.
It produced 38,665 tonnes of zinc in zinc concentrate in the first quarter of this year.
“Over the last 12 months, pleasingly, we’ve been able to optimise how the plant runs and steadily improve mine production and, even with some of the flood interruptions, we’ve been able to maintain really strong production in the first quarter (of 2019),” Mr Rodda said.
“We reached design capacity for the processing circuit last year in a record rate.
“We’re able to process targeted metal at 1.75Mtpa and we reached those targets by the back end of 2018.
“We will continue to try to optimise the plant to see if we have the ability to extend that to 1.8 million, 1.9 million, 2Mtpa.
“That’s going to be part of our project opportunity over this year, to see how we can get more out of our processing plant through efficiencies and less downtime on the equipment and working with the team to identify little business improvement opportunities along the way.”
Plans to increase mining areas
Underground, the Dugald River team is looking to increase the number of production levels it has on the go to consistently achieve a throughput rate of 1.8Mtpa by the end of the year.
Mr Rodda said the operation was mining about 15 productions levels, taking ore from about three at any one time while others were the subject of drill and blast activity or being prepared for backfilling.
“When we get to full production we aim to mine about 23 or 24 and have four or five of those producing ore at any period of time,” he said.
Mr Rodda said Dugald River was a highly variable ore body, with many localised faults and structures that caused complexity regarding the mining approach.
“In the last two or three years we have done a huge amount of drilling, geological and geotechnical interpretation and a lot of predictive modelling which has enabled us to get better, smarter and safer at working through each of the challenges in any given area,” he said.
“That allows us to find the most efficient way of extracting ore and this is what has enabled us to continue to improve our mining and production rate.”