The Alumbrera Pipeline, World's Longest Copper Ore Concentrate Sluny Pipeline

Ricks, Brad L. ; Connelly, Michael ; Morelko, Fred
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 16
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1998
INTRODUCTION The $1.1 billion Bajo la Alumbrera Project, started up in 1997 by Minera Alumbrera Limited in the Catamarca Province of Northwestern Argentina, is the first large scale modern mining project to be developed in Argentina. Like many modern Andean mining projects, existing infrastructure was not available to economically transport the 875,000 tonnes of product per year. A variety of alternatives were investigated, including upgrading of existing roads and railroads, slurry pipelines, and combinations of these systems. The final system selected was to combine a 312 km slurry pipeline with an 820 km rail haul to a ship loading facility near Rosario. The concentrate pipeline crosses divergent terrain between the minesite at 2400 m elevation and the filter plant at 400 m elevation. The system selected represented the lowest net present cost alternative by a significant margin. BACKGROUND The Bajo Alumbrera deposit was discovered in 1947 by Professor Cetioni from the University of Tucuman. It is a large (>750 million tonnes) medium-grade (0.6%) copper deposit with high gold values (0.5 g/t*). The deposit outcrops, making it very suitable to modern, large scale, open pit mining techniques using 218 t trucks and 43 m3 shovels. Advances in gravity concentration of the gold helped to demonstrate the feasibility of the project in a study prepared by Fluor Daniel for Minera Alumbrera in 1994. The initial concentrator is the largest green-field concentrator ever constructed, rated at 85,000 t/d. Production will peak at 190,000 tonnes of copper metal and 710,000 troy ounces of gold per year, one of the top 10 copper and top 15 gold producers in the world. * Throughout this paper, the word tonne and abbreviation refer to the metric ton of 1000 kg.
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