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Ernest Henry Underground Mine – Access and Support Infrastructure Design


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Author P Christen and C J Carr


The Ernest Henry Copper gold mine situated in North West Queensland, Australia, is owned and operated by Xstrata Copper. Currently the open pit produces 11 Mtpa of ore. With open pit mining ceasing in mid 2011 development has begun on an underground sublevel cave mine to extend the life of the operation by another 12 years.

When completed the open pit will be 530 m deep and 1.5 km in diameter. The orebody dips at approximately 45° and has been outlined a further 450 m below the base of the pit. This provides some challenges for the Ernest Henry underground mine which is designed to initially truck development and production ore from the end of the pit until a hoisting shaft is commissioned in 2013. Production will then increase to 5.0 Mtpa on its way to an ultimate rate of 6.0 Mtpa in 2016.

This paper will focus on the capital development and infrastructure requirements for the underground mine. Areas covered include mine accesses, ore handling system, accommodations for the dip of the orebody, primary ventilation design, dewatering systems and selection of an underground workshop over surface only maintenance.

Discussions include
the complications arising due to the mine being located directly below a large
open pit and the combination of first principle cost analysis and risk
assessment which has been used to safely optimise the feasibility study designs.

Christen, P and
Carr, C J, 2011. Ernest Henry
underground mine – access and support infrastructure design, in Proceedings 11th AusIMM Underground Operators’

pp 35-44 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: