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Development of the Ernest Henry Underground Mine – The Challenges and the Solutions


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Author T Purvis and C J Carr


Xstrata Copper is extending the Ernest Henry Mine with a 6 Mtpa sub-level cave (SLC) mine being constructed under the pit. The SLC mine will maintain the EHM operation until 2024 after the pit is completed in August 2011.

In February 2008, the first cut of the new underground mine at EHM was fired with the start of an exploration decline. Since then Xstrata Copper has continued the development and construction of a SLC mine. During this process a number of challenges arose, some of which had not been anticipated in the planning stages, that in turn has been addressed to ensure the development continued. The challenges have been many and varied and range from setting up the portal area and commencing the exploration decline development in an active large open pit, to management of underground water. Further challenges were presented by the effects of the GFC on investment recommendations, with the scale of the mine varying from a shaft mine to a smaller scale trucking only mine in mid-2009 and back to the full shaft mine in late 2009. The effect was the parallel development of two separate mining scenarios, with the challenge of maintaining commonality for as long as possible to keep both options alive until the final board approval was obtained. In 2010 the RSPT caused further impacts.

This paper will describe the current progress of mine
development as well as how the various challenges have been met and some key
lessons learnt from these experiences.

Purvis, T and
Carr, C J, 2011. Development of
the Ernest Henry underground mine – the challenges and the solutions, in Proceedings 11th AusIMM Underground Operators’

pp 143-150 (The Australasian Institute of
Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).