Investment in design and management of its haul road network has reduced annual spending on the haul fleet at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi Mine by US$5 million.
Good pit road maintenance has reduced damage to the tyres – worth US$31,000 each – on its fleet of 82 massive US$3.8 million haul trucks that move 10 million tonnes of copper ore and waste rock to crushers, stockpiles and dumps every month.
Roads are a critical component to a mine’s productivity as they facilitate movement of waste and ore. A bad road network can lead to frequent breakdowns in the mine’s fleet, negatively affecting operations, for which efficiency is crucial to ensure profitability.
Innovation and world-class systems have helped FQM develop road maintenance practices to improve this aspect of its hauling operation.
Since most haul roads both within and outside the pit are unpaved and used by heavy mining equipment, they need special care and maintenance to remain in optimal condition.
“Improvements in haul road management techniques have yielded positive results in terms of safety, truck speeds, tyre life, and reduction in trolley faults,” said First Quantum Mining and Operations Project Manager, Colin Du Plessis.
Tyre life as a function of road conditions has increased from an average of 6,000 hours in 2018 to 7,500 hours in 2020 – a 25% improvement equivalent to US$5 million a year that the mine can invest in future projects, he explained.
And in exceptional circumstances tyres have been known to last 10,000 hours thanks to the attention paid to the haul roads.
To complement the achievements made in road maintenance, First Quantum has prioritised operator training to optimise productivity without compromising safety.
The mining firm views skills training as an opportunity to expand the knowledge base of its employees while also helping secure the country’s skilled labour pool for future investments.
In 2019, FQM introduced Zambia’s first-ever certification for heavy equipment operators. The certification is aimed at increasing efficiency, productivity, and overall success of the mining sector by standardising operators’ proficiency. So far, over a thousand certificates in the operation of drill rigs, excavators, trucks and various ancillary equipment have been issued to Zambians through this programme.