Progress has been the name of the game at Kansanshi copper mine this month, where the first in a fleet of 36 new trucks has just been put into commission. It’s a Hitachi EH4000 (RD170) dump truck, and these beasts mean business! Each truck has a payload capacity of 220 metric tonnes, meaning that it can carry up to around 50 African elephants or over 100 medium-sized cars in weight.
Why do new trucks spell progress?
Growing Kansanshi’s mining fleet is a crucial part of increasing copper production at the operation in Solwezi, and makes up a large portion of the US$1.25 billion that First Quantum Minerals is investing in the expansion of Kansanshi’s operations (known as the ‘S3’ project).
How is Kansanshi going to increase its copper production? Think of it as a two-pronged approach. It’s expanding the mining pit to extend into a new section of the ore body, in what’s called the Southeast Dome deposit. The S3 expansion will also mean transitioning from a “high-grade, medium-scale operation to a medium-grade, larger-scale mining operation” – as the company describes it – because lower-grade sulphide ores are what’s in abundance at the depth that’s now being mined, after years in the game.
This is where enormous dump trucks like the Hitachi EH4000 (RD170) come in. The more the volume of ore that’s mined increases, the more material there is that needs to be removed from the pit in powerful vehicles like these. Once the S3 expansion is complete, the mine expects to increase copper production from 150,000 metric tonnes of copper a year to 280,000 tonnes.
How close to ready is the S3 expansion?
Operational Readiness Superintendent at Kansanshi, Kelvin Chitambo, said earlier this month that the southeast ore pit is ready for mining, as soon as the company receives the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities.
Other key aspects of the S3 project are Kansanshi’s smelter – which is undergoing upgrades and expansions to be able to handle the increased voumes of copper ore – and the construction of a standalone 25-million-tonne per annum processing plant, which is underway.
Kansanshi Mining Plc’s General Manager, Mr Anthony Mukutuma, said that over 3,400 jobs have been created during the expansion project so far. Speaking about this particular Hitachi dump truck, he added: “One of the other things that we are really proud of about this truck is that it’s a diesel electric truck, so that means our carbon emissions are going to drop significantly as we invest in technology – particularly in trucks that are using electricity.”
Kansanshi already makes use of an extensive network of electric trolley assist infrastructure which, in a nutshell, aids trucks’ movement on site by connecting them to an electrified trolley system, slashing carbon emissions. But this is just the beginning. At the end of this year, Hitachi will be trialling their battery-driven trucks at Kansanshi, in a joint effort to advance sustainable mining solutions across the globe.
Keep a look out for our exclusive interview with Mr Anthony Mukutuma, in which Kansanshi Mining Plc’s General Manager shares more exciting details about S3 and Kansanshi’s future, and the story of his inspiring career path with First Quantum Minerals.
Images courtesy of FQM and Kansanshi Mining Plc