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Lessons learned will guide PYBAR Mining as it digs in to mine Black Rock Cave

Specialist underground mining contractor PYBAR Mining Services has been awarded the production contract to mine Black Rock Cave at Mount Isa Mines.

Following successful completion of the two-year project starting in 2018 to develop the underground decline and establish the mining levels including primary development, drive stripping and shotcreting for the Black Rock Cave, PYBAR Mining Services will now carry on with production of the orebody.

Glencore’s Queensland Metals General Manager − Isa Mining, Simon Pope, says PYBAR Mining was well placed to mine the Black Rock Cave given it had developed intrinsic knowledge and experience working with the orebody.

“We have a strong partnership with PYBAR Mining and are pleased to see them continue on to mine Black Rock Cave,” says Simon.

“Through building the development levels and mine infrastructure, I’m sure they’ve learned many important lessons firsthand about how the ground is responding to mining which will help guide them moving forward.”

A jumbo at work building the underground infrastructure at Black Rock Cave.
The completed Black Rock Cave mine portal.

“Black Rock is using sub-level caving methods to extract ore which helps us understand how we can use this mining method in other orebodies with similar ground conditions,” Simon says.

The unique characteristics of the ore body allows for innovative drill and blast solutions to be used and work is progressing well.

“Since first production in mid-2020, two sub-levels are in full production with the third started in May 2021,” says Simon.

PYBAR Mining Services Project Manager, Bill Walls, says the company has had a long association with Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines and they’re looking forward to continuing production in the Black Rock orebody.

“The company will employ up to 60 personnel onsite at peak production and use one jumbo, a production drill, two loaders and two trucks to mine the area,” says Bill.

An aerial view looking at the Black Rock open cut operations in the 1960s. The Black Rock Cave orebody is located underneath the open cut pit.

The commencement of production at Black Rock Cave has also required some changes to the surface footprint of the site explains Simon Pope.

“We’ve needed to clear some surface areas around the old Black Rock Open Cut pit to allow a subsidence zone for the sub-level caving method being used,” Simon says.

“A multi-disciplined team has been working on the demolition of some redundant structures and several Mount Isa Mines work groups have been relocated to other parts of the lease.”

“It has been a great team effort and I thank everyone for their cooperation and assistance while these major changes were undertaken.”

The Black Rock Cave first production ore came online in September 2020, and will provide additional ore into the Mount Isa Copper Operations profile in parallel with existing mining activities to 2023.