Speaking of Precision Blog

Speaking of Precision

Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

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Copper Mine Landslide Forebodes Difficulties for Machining Industry

Posted April 30, 2013 12:00 AM by Milo
Pathfinder Tags: Copper landslide mining
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A landslide at the worlds largest open pit copper mine does not hold good news for our industry.

Dan Murphy of PMPA Technical Member Tsugami Corporation / REM Sales, Inc. sent me a link to Tim Hefferman's coverage on BoingBoing. I think it is coverage worth repeating.

Quick summary:

  • The event was expected. They evacuated the mine the night before based on sensor data, but they did not expect the landslide to be so large.
  • Equipment lost in the landslide and ensuing local earthquake was valued in the tens of millions of dollars.
  • No timeline for resuming operations.
  • Short term economic effects will be localized, though declaring force majeur will cause some contracts to be uncovered in the metal markets
  • Longterm economic effects will be larger than we can reasonably estimate- Insurance coverage for the lost property, for the counterparty rates on futures contracts will force costs to rise which will be built into the red metal prices going forward.
  • Also planned expansion at the mine will be delayed.

We did not see a spike in copper prices, but this event will be a long term determinant of higher prices for the red metal in the future.

Copper is so widely required in modern technology that this will be an imprtant event in the markets the precision machining industry serves.

Full story

Editor's Note: CR4 would like to thank Milo for sharing this blog entry, which originally appeared here.

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Re: Copper Mine Landslide Forebodes Difficulties for Machining Industry

05/04/2013 7:59 AM

Hi, Milo,

I've been reading this for a few days and read from various sources about the event.

Point #2 puzzles me - From what I've read, it seems that most machinery (ie those super-expensive trucks) was evaccuated before the slide. Obviously that's secondary to getting people clear. Rock Mechanics knew the event was going to happen, they just didn't figure how bad it would be.

The big deal seems to be the shear volume of material that needs to be moved in order to get the mine running again. Comparing the volume of that slide to truck capacity, that's going to be an awful long time. Apart from that simple calculation, one must add time to stabilize areas as they make progress. As far as I can read it, the landslide material has no economic value. That also slightly puzzles me - in opencast, the 'pit' is benched ever downward with slope stability being a primary concern. In general terms, copper deposits are not like following a seam of ore. They are often 'mass' deposits. A big caveat to that, but from what I've ever heard of the mine it is a bulk deposit operation.

Information on the internet seems to be scant. If you find any further stuff, I'd love to hear more on this. In global terms the production drop is not catastrophic, but it may be very significant in the US.

Not relevant, but it's amazing how few people are needed to run such a massive complex. They deserve credit for monitoring and warning of the event. It seems to me rather like a volcanic eruption - it may be possible to see the danger signals, but there's no way of predicting exactly how bad it will be. People working there were moved to safety, and people living/working in the vacinity were given warning.

Thanks for this interesting news update, Milo. It may well be some time before the technical details are available (ie - why the slide was so big, and what the solution will be).

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