May 22, 2015
Interaction and dialogue get results in Indian mines India’s Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL) owner of the world’s largest zinc mine, is successfully developing its operations to meet future challenges and demands. A long-term partnership with Atlas Copco is helping the drive for more mechanization, higher productivity and increased safety. M&C reports on the progress so far.
The huge state of Rajasthan in the northwest of India is famous for its maharajas, historical landmarks and stunning palaces. But in the mining world, this “Land of the Kings” is recognized as the home of one of the world’s leading zinc producers – Hindustan Zinc Limited.
HZL, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, is India’s powerhouse of zinc, lead, silver and cadmium with an annual ore production in excess of 16 million tonnes extracted from five mining operations including open cast and underground mines.
But it is the Rampura Agucha and Kayad mines that are currently in the spotlight as the company moves to meet 21st century challenges in terms of efficiency, productivity and safety. And in this process, close collaboration with long-term supplier Atlas Copco is proving especially fruitful.
Rampura Agucha (RA), situated about 200 km southwest of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is widely acknowledged as the world’s largest zinc mine and the third largest open pit. Over the past five years this site has been gradually making the transition from open cast mining to underground operation.
Today, both techniques are in operation simultaneously with mining in the open pit taking place up to a depth of 372 m with a fleet of Atlas Copco drill rigs including FlexiROC D50, D55, D60 and D65, while underground mining is carried out below this level. Together they produce some 6.25 Mt/year.
"We have a target of 6.25 million tonnes per year from the open cast zone and 3.75 million tonnes per year from the underground mine which we hope to achieve by 2018 or 2019. So far our progress has been very positive"
In the underground RA mine, much of the progress to date can be attributed to the productivity and efficiency of the extensive Atlas Copco fleet including drill rigs Boomer 282, Simba H1354, Boltec 235H, LHD Scooptram ST1030 as well as Minetruck MT436B and MT6020.
In fact, progress is right on target. The company has deployed operators with international experience and proven skills and is now actively discussing deployment of automated machines for production drilling. The mine believes that more mechanization and automation will increase the level of safety and precision, and thereby increase productivity and make the entire operation more cost-effective.
It is not surprising that Jain puts his faith in this fleet at Rampura Agucha as he has more than 30 years of experience of working with Atlas Copco equipment at other sites. In addition, he says constant interaction and dialogue between the managements of both companies has contributed to making the transition process smoother.
“We have been on a big learning curve together over these past few years, but now I think we have established a win-win situation,” he says.
"You could say that we have moved to the next level and are able to make use of each other’s competencies. Of course, now that the machines have clocked so many hours, there are new issues that will soon need addressing, but I have no doubt that Atlas Copco is geared to meet these fresh challenges"
For example, wear and tear on the equipment and the safety of the operators is a top priority and will require close cooperation and innovative solutions in the coming years.
Con Panidis, Head of Underground Operations and Deon Joubert, Head of Engineering, both of whom work in the underground mine, advocate increased computerization as one way to improve safety in the mines as well as boost productivity. Another way is through training. “Training our operators is a never-ending process as the technologies are constantly being upgraded,” Panidis points out. Joubert adds
"Well trained operators is the key to minimizing downtime and keeping safety as high as possible"