Two years ago, Mexico’s Cobre del Mayo (CDM) was attempting to solve common, yet complex issues at its open-pit copper mine in southern Sonora, 21 kilometers from the town of Alamos. That’s when the company started using the Leica Jigsaw fleet management solution from Hexagon Mining – Operations. The results are impressive.

First, the issues:

1. Geology

CDM produces grade-A copper cathode, supplied as refractory, and vein-type ore for processing into concentrate. The mine is a copper porphyry system, structurally controlled by shear faulting with mineralization stockwork, disseminated and variable depth ranging oxidation.

Oxidation is from the surface up to 430 meters, with chalcocite from 40 to 430 meters. The challenge lies in two types of minerals that cannot be processed the same way. The dominant alteration is quartz-sericite and sporadic areas with intense argillic alterations, meaning that close control is essential in the dilution and the selectivity of the ore.

Cobre del Mayo is Mexico’s third largest copper mine, and is located in southern Sonora.

2. Fleet management

CDM’s fleet comprises the following:

  • Three hydraulic shovels, Komatsu and Terex, and two retro excavators, Komatsu and Caterpillar
  • Three loaders and three high-precision first loaders
  • 26 haul trucks, (twenty 789s and six 777s)
  • Three drills, Sandvik, D75KS, and a high-precision dozer
  • Auxiliary equipment, including dozers, graders and water trucks
  • Retro excavators, which are roughly the size of the ore polygons (deposit areas).

The potential 2,000 tons in one polygon make a system for dilution control essential.

3. Tracking and reporting

CDM must deal with waste in various forms, from low grade to medium and high grade. Constant awareness of waste-type is important because the loading equipment can be working with three or more polygons simultaneously, requiring frequent changes from truck to truck. So, like any mine, fleet management is important to CDM. The complicated ore distribution means CDM’s teams of operators must use the best tools to avoid dilution and improve selectivity.

However, even great systems and great tools can fall short if reliable and accurate reporting is not part of the process. Since CDM began commercial production in 2006, operators had compiled reports manually in the absence of an automated reporting process. Truck operators would include their cycles from origin to destination, and the dispatcher would capture all the information from the operators by hand and compile them. CDM tracked usage times and equipment delays by hand and by radio. Real-time alerts of delays were unavailable and receiving reliable data from the drill operator was difficult.

Without a system to automate tracking and reporting, time management is a challenge.

Leica Jigsaw technology helps Cobre del Mayo address complex ore distribution.

In June 2013, Leica-Jigsaw was among six systems evaluated by CDM to help solve these issues. After a technical economical study of Leica-Jigsaw, Micromine, Modular, Wenco, Logimine, and Caterpillar, CDM made its decision.

“The best option was Leica Jigsaw,” said CDM’s Dispatch Manager, Victor Rodriguez. “The evaluation process was done in the form of a cost evaluation, as well as with a group of people who visited various mines. Most of them were in Chile and observed first-hand the Leica Jigsaw working.”

Less than two months later, initial hardware and software were deployed and on Oct. 1, 2013, CDM went live with Leica-Jigsaw. On Jan. 6, 2014, CDM began officially logging reports with Jview, Leica-Jigsaw’s business intelligence suite.

Jview converts operational machine data into usable, actionable information via a suite of reports and dashboards that deliver a real-time view into mine operations. Jview allows decisions to be made, based on accurate data, drastically improving site productivity practices on numerous levels.

Paola Flores and Francisco Bustamante put Hexagon Mining’s fleet management solution to work.

For CDM, the core implementation timeframe from first installment to go-live was roughly three months. Like most mines, CDM’s overriding objective is to produce more while lowering costs. Armed with Hexagon Mining’s fleet management solution, CDM was quickly able to increase safe mining operations and production output, while managing cost, quality, and control.

Dispatchers Francisco Bustamante and Paola Flores are Leica-certified.

The chart above shows an average of 1,818 additional tonnes per first hour, representing a 21% increase in production for the month of March 2015, compared to December 2014.

“Leica Jigsaw presented the strongest technical offering, with its flexible and robust software all supported with remote problem solving,” said Rodriguez. A flexible user-permits policy also helped, said Rodriguez. The base license permits access to all users onsite.

“Although various people see the reports, and many departments contribute information, licenses were not needed for everyone so this was a benefit,” he said.

“So, as far as navigational systems, Leica Jigsaw products are the leader in the field. Therefore, the solutions for the satellite navigation in the high-precision products are the most advanced in the market. This was a decisive part for us,” said Rodriguez.

The system installation included a room for the dispatch in the highest part of the mine. This offered a full view of mine operations via visual controls. Three 52-inch screens were installed to display different dashboard views of the mine. Each dispatcher was supplied with three additional 32-inch screen displays. The smaller screens manage the roads on Jview and allow for real-time reports. The other dispatcher handles control of the operation and production equipment, including loaders and trucks.

Now CDM has designated maintenance dispatchers equipped with the proper notification systems, preventing maintenance issues from draining time and resources. Operators needing support or experiencing problems with equipment can speak directly with maintenance or text messages from the system, thus reducing radio frequency demands.

CDM enjoys numerous benefits from Leica Jigsaw. The primary crusher is now monitored in real time. Any delay generates an immediate alert, avoiding the need for phone calls or radios, which can sometimes be unreliable. Individual dumps in the crusher, waste, leach pads, and stockpiles are monitored and reported on. With multiple destinations, every truck is unloading exactly where and when it needs to be.

“Prior to partnering with Hexagon Mining Operations, it had been extremely difficult for us to achieve precision in our extraction, given the size of our equipment,” said Rodriguez. “Since the implementation, significant improvements have been achieved in our ore control, as can be seen in our current production increases.”

Daily plans can also be visualized via a quality tracker in each loader. Short-term planners load the plan in 12-hour increments so loading machines display their hauling requirements. This is a significant improvement on the old process, which involved marking surveyors with flags – flags that would sometimes be washed out in the rain.

“The solution provides reliable and flexible and automatic reporting, for production, productivity, availability, drilling information, and many other aspects of the mine operation,” said Rodriguez. The chart below shows an increase of 19,963 tonnes from July 2014 to August 2014, representing a 9% increase in overall production.

The road hazard alert equips each truck to recognize dangerous rocks on the road. A road hazard alert is sent, the coordinates are tracked via GPS, and a signal is sent to the graders who immediately know when and where they are needed.

“In contrast to the past, we now have real availability metrics on every equipment, and when equipment goes down, the operator pushes one button and reports it to the maintenance people who may be out for maintenance somewhere, but can react quickly and respond effectively while minimizing lost time,” said Rodriguez.

CDM has seen great benefits in time management. The chart below shows an average decrease of 35% on time-consuming, yet crucial activities, such as fueling, shift changes, and food services. Prior to the system, the average time required for truck haul was 2.6 hours, compared to 1.7 now.

CDM now monitors the authorizations of each worker and ensures only authorized personnel operate the machinery. Information on their ability and authorization to operate equipment is stored and retrieved in real time, ensuring safety and efficiency. 

CDM is implementing automatic shift changes to remove the paper reports generated by operators. Soon, employees will simply use a CS screen to know which truck they will be operating that day, and which mode of transport will get them to the pit.

“This will eliminate paper reporting and will greatly improve the process, as we eliminate some 12 or 15 reports that we did by hand,” said Rodriguez. “That’s great for us. We will use that time for doing other things.”

The chart below shows the July and August improvements in time saved on daily shift changes, after Leica Jigsaw implementation and staff training.

The new software helps CDM deal with its data. “Because with Hexagon Mining Operations, with the Leica Jigsaw tool, I simply make a simple filter from Day 1 to Day 30 and I have all the information from the dispatch I need,” said Rodriguez.

Pictured in Cobre del Mayo’s dispatch center, Carlos Favela, Paola Flores, Angelica Almada, Victor Rodriguez, and Francisco Bustamante. All images courtesy Cobre del Mayo