Published Sep 18, 2015

A 64% reduction in rod mill downtime at Codelco’s Chuquicamata

The Chilean copper producer Codelco entrusted Metso with the replacement of the pinions and gears for 21 ball mills and 12 rod mills at its massive Chuquicamata open pit mine, and the results have been remarkable.

Codelco’s Chuquicamata mine in Chile is one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world. Located 1,200 kilometers north from the capital Santiago at an altitude of nearly 3000 meters, the site is part of the Chilean national miner’s northern division.

Operations at Chuquicamata began in 1910, and today, the mine employs well over 6000 people. It produces approximately 530,000 tons per year of electrorefined and electrowon cathodes with a purity of 99.99 percent copper, as well as about 11,000 tons of fine molybdenum.

Metso has provided technology and services to Chuquicamata for more than 40 years, so when the mine was looking for a supplier to execute a major overhaul of 33 grinding mills as an integrated service, Metso was a natural choice.

Significantly shorter service shutdowns

Chuquicamata employs two different extraction processes based on the ore type. Oxide ores pass through a leach solution, then a solvent extraction process and subsequently an electrowinning process. Sulfide ores first go through crushing and grinding, and then smelting and refining.

Starting 2014, Metso has been responsible for replacing the pinions and gears for 21 ball mills and 12 rod mills, and maintains an on-site team of about 30 people. Thanks to their deep knowledge, the Metso service experts have managed to reduce the downtime needed for the service work by approximately 50% in the ball mills, going down from 8 to 4 days. In the case of rod mills, the reduction in downtime has been even greater – the service breaks now take 5 days instead of 14, a 64% reduction.

Highly qualified Metso staff replacing pinions and gears in Chuquicamata, the world's largest open pit mine.

Crusher mantles in top shape

Metso’s specialists have also carried out mantle repairs of the crushers, which is expected to result in flawless operation until the next scheduled service in 60 months’ time. To add to the success, all work has been carried out with zero accidents and with top marks in audits performed by the Codelco.

The results have been greeted with satisfaction at Chuquicamata’s management.

“These results confirm the high quality of the work of the Metso people, indicating similar or even better outcomes in the future. Safety is inherent to all our business projects, as it acts as a social tool which allows us to show the respect we have for people and their wellbeing, as well as successfully directing operations, which in itself reduces accident rates, something which is paramount in all actions we do as a company”, stated Roberto Escobar, Project Manager and Contract Administrator of Chuquicamata Division, Codelco.

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