Innovation is a big part of what makes underground mining contractor Pybar tick, according to business development and operations manager Dave Noort.
The hardrock specialist has recently won a swag of Queensland contracts, including at the Thalanga operation south-west of Charters Towers and at Auctus Minerals’ Mungana and King Vol projects in the Chillagoe region.
Mr Noort said Pybar would have a workforce of about 200 across those sites in addition to a 20-strong team working in Mount Isa for Glencore. The company has also won a raise bore contract with Capricorn Copper at the former Mount Gordon mine.
It represents somewhat of a Sunshine State resurgence for one of Australia’s big three underground mining contractors in the hardrock arena, with Pybar’s previous projects including the development of the Lady Loretta zinc mine and a whole-of-mine service at Osborne in north-west Queensland.
Mr Noort said contract mining had a long history of innovation, including adapting technology from other areas.
“One example of that is shotcreting, which was typically used in civil applications but generally not used in underground applications, and the contracting industry some 20-25 years ago pioneered its use in the underground environment,” he said.
“We certainly want to be seen as the company that takes new technology and applies it in an innovative manner in the underground environment.”
Among Pybar’s initiatives is its iPlod system, which Mr Noort said would be rolled out to all of the contractor’s sites in coming months.
“It’s an in-house data entry system that allows our operators to input the production data that would normally be handwritten to log what you have produced for the day,” he said.
“That data now will be entered directly to a tablet device and from there it uploads into our production reporting system, allowing the supervisor to just focus on validating and approving the data rather than transcribing it.
“Overall I think it will be of great benefit to us in being able to improve the efficiency and accuracy of our underground mining service but also to quality-assure what we do.”
With a lull in greenfields exploration during the commodities downturn, Mr Noort believes brownfields opportunities will dominate for mining contractors in the near-term – including mine expansions, satellite pits and restarts.
But he said the general outlook for the hardrock mining industry was definitely on the upswing.
“We recently attended the Diggers and Dealers conference in Western Australia and there was an encouraging atmosphere and people were reflecting on the market indicators looking quite positive,” he said.
“Overall the outlook supports a strong focus on improving our capabilities and efficiencies at a corporate and operational level so we can be well placed to capitalise on the next upturn.”
Read more about the iPlod system at http://pybar.com.au/iplod-improving-operational-efficiencies/