The economic and environmental case for IPCC
SRK Consulting’s Scott McEwing believes the greater use of in-pit crushing and conveying (IPCC)systems by Australian mining companies would reduce their exposure to the skills shortage, equipment and tyre availability problems, diesel fuel requirements and help companies with their carbon credits.
“While an IPCC requires an investment, in the long-term it helps mining companies reduce their capital and operating costs. Your traditional truck and shovel mining operation is equipment intensive and has a heavy reliance on diesel fuel. You have loaded trucks travelling up and out of the mine 24 hours a day, so you need a fleet of trucks and a roster of drivers. You’re burning up huge amounts of diesel and wearing tyres, at a time when there is a worldwide shortage of them,” said Scott.
“Once you investigate the IPCC option you will discover that it provides a significant saving in operating costs because you are using less trucks, less fuel and less manpower. And to me there’s no doubt that reducing carbon emissions is also becoming a key driver to having an IPCC.”
Scott added that IPCC systems can be used for either ore or waste, or in specific instances, both.“ “In an ore focused IPCC installation, the primary ore crusher in front of the processing plant,
isrelocated into the operating mine. The crushed ore is then carried out of the mine by a conveyor back to the processing plant. As the crusher was required regardless, the capital cost is largely
driven by the conveyor system.”
“Offsetting the capital cost of the conveyor is the reduction in the fleet truck size, as less trucks are required to transport the ore.”
Scott, who is a mining engineer and a Principal Consultant with SRK Consulting, said that mining companies often overlook the use of an IPCC because of a desire to get a rapid return on their
“As a result of the boom and bust cycle in Australia’s mining industry, it has traditionally had a truck and shovel mining fleet, which has a high emphasis on short-term flexibility as opposed to looking at a project’s long term optimisation.
“A lot of mining companies put in place a traditional operation because they are looking for low risk,early payback on their investment and to make hay while the sun shines.
“One of the problems with the Australian mining industry is that for too long there has been a reluctance to put the right amount of initial investment into a project so that it is more financially stable.
“If you go to other parts of the world, they’re not afraid to heavily invest in the right infrastructure for the long term. The benefit is that once they go into production, their operating costs are low, so they can keep mining, even when commodity prices drop. The IPCC concept has been well proven across the globe by many major mining companies.”
Scott said that IPCC’s can be used to mine a range of commodities and are best suited to deep, long-life mines. He believes that during the evaluation stage of a project, engineers should compare the costs and weigh up the benefits of an IPCC system to a traditional mining operation. “Studies have demonstrated that operating costs can be significantly reduced which shows that if you’re prepared to outlay that extra money upfront, there is the potential for large savings in the long run,” added Scott.
With 16 years’ experience in both open pit and underground mining operations and having been actively involved in mining feasibility studies for the past 10 years with SRK, Scott says at SRK Consulting they’re always looking to improve project value for clients.
“The calibre of staff and technical expertise at the top of our organisation is second to none. We’re also a multi-national and work on projects all over the world, so we’re exposed to a whole range of mining techniques, not just how things happen in Australia, so we can see where there are efficiencies and savings to be made. That’s why I see the costs savings and environmental benefits of an IPCC,” added Scott.
“Back in the early days of FMG, we recommended the use of a surface miner. It was new technology for the iron ore industry, everyone else was still focused on drill and blast, truck and shovel. It was leading edge, Fortescue implemented it and it worked. The IPCC system isn’t leading edge, it’s well established and should be considered.”
SRK Consulting operates from more than 40 offices worldwide, and its 1000 plus staff are committed to providing a full range of mineral resources consulting services from exploration to mine closure. SRK is renowned for its breadth of skills and talented people who strive to find the most applicable and cost-effective solution for each client. Visit: www.srk.com.au