Greens Creek automates loading with Sandvik

Hecla Mining Co’s Greens Creek is the first underground mine in the US utilising automated loading technology from Sandvik
Greens Creek automates loading with Sandvik Greens Creek automates loading with Sandvik Greens Creek automates loading with Sandvik Greens Creek automates loading with Sandvik Greens Creek automates loading with Sandvik

An operator at Greens Creek using Sandvik AutoMine Lite

Staff reporter

Sandvik stated that this major step will enable increased productivity, improved safety and better cost control, while bringing digitalisation of the mining process closer and increasing operational transparency.

Hecla’s Greens Creek silver mine in southeast Alaska, US, is one of the largest and lowest-cost primary silver mines in the world. In 2016 Greens Creek produced 9.25Moz of silver, the highest silver production since Hecla acquired 100% of the operation in 2008.

Sandvik AutoMine Lite is used in production areas at the mine to enhance safety, accelerate underground efficiency and improve production numbers.

Keith Malone, VP and general manager of the Hecla Greens Creek mine, said: “Greens Creek commissioned the AutoMine system in January 2017. The start-up was flawless as Sandvik did a great job commissioning and training our engineers and miners to operate the AutoMine system. We have been able to increase mucking time by operating the AutoMine loader between shifts when personnel cannot be underground due to blasting activities. As we add wireless communication into additional work areas and a second or third remote loader is added to the fleet, we expect further gains will be realised.”

The system is currently installed in two areas of the mine where bulk longhole mining methods are used.

Malone explained: “However, with 90% of our production coming from conventional drift and fill stopes, installing the AutoMine system in these areas is key to overall productivity gains. We have just received two additional safety gates from Sandvik and are expanding our wireless infrastructure into these conventional stoping and development areas in order to maximise our productivity through implementation of this technology.”

Hecla has a long term vision to increase the level of automation in its mines.

Paul Painter, manager account management, application & automation, US at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, said: “This is truly a mutually beneficial relationship between Sandvik and Hecla, where both companies have put a plan together to work further with automation solutions. A growing number of other mines globally are showing interest in implementing Sandvik AutoMine applications.”

The Greens Creek mine is located on Admiralty Island approximately 18 miles (29km) southwest of Juneau, Alaska. Opened in 1989, the mine produces silver, zinc, lead and gold and is located within the Admiralty Island National Monument. The entire project is accessed by boat and served by 13 miles (20.9km) of road, and consists of the mine, an ore concentrating mill, a dry stacked tailings facility, a ship-loading facility, camp facilities and a ferry dock.