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May 17 & 18, 2014 – Warsaw – The End of the Trip

May 17th was our last full day of the 2014 UBC Mining Poland Grad Trip, and today we part ways as some continue to travel elsewhere and others return home. Over the past two weeks we have spent many hours bussing, touring around, eating and visiting different mine sites. Our trip started off in Krakow, took us to Wroclaw and finished off in Warsaw.

Our time in Poland has exposed us to a country rich in mining history. Mining here is a respected profession, with almost all miners in Poland having a traditional uniform that is worn on special occasions. ZGH’s Boleslaw operation opened our eyes to the magnitude some of these old mines have and some of the struggles, such as water, that they face. A four day tour of KGHM’s underground mines, sampling labs, processing facilities, tailings impoundment, electrowinning and smelting plant and copper wire production factories exposed us to copper production from extraction out of the ground to a final copper product. The Bełchatów mine, an open pit coal mine using bucket wheel excavators, allowed us to witness a method none of us had seen. The size of the pit and the number of conveyors and excavators was overwhelming to see.

The last day in Warsaw allowed us to get in some last minute site seeing before departing this marvelous country. Most of the students spent the day walking around the old town and the street leading into it which is lined with significant monuments. It’s rich and sad history also meant multiple different museums, and it so happened that the night we were there was the “Night at the Museum” where the museums were opened late into the night – an opportunity that some took advantage of. Image

We concluded our trip last night with one final group dinner. A dinner filled with good food, great people and a lot of laughs. It is with sadness and happiness that we parted ways today, as one chapter of our lives ends and another begins.

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It was an amazing trip, and we are so thankful for all our sponsors who helped us to reach our destination and for Dr. Marek Pawlik, Dr. Maria Holuszko and Stefan Nadolski (Grad Student) who accompanied us on our trip and translated for us!

Farewell from Poland!

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Megan & Vanessa

May 16, 2014 – Wroclaw to Warsaw & Bełchatów Coal Mine Tour

On May 16th 2014, the mining crew left the wonderful Lothus Hotel in Wroclaw and headed to Warsaw! The bus ride is approximately 5 hours! On the way there, we visited one of the biggest open pit coal mine in Europe – The Bełchatów mine. The site was so big that it took us a while to reach the main office. Once in the office we were given a very thorough presentation about the company and its operations.

KWB Bełchatów owns the mine which has an area of 3800 ha, with a depth of approximately 300 meters! The mine produces  40 million tonnes of brown coal which supplies the power plant. The power plant, also owned by the company, generates 5000 megawatts of electricity every year which supplies around 20% of the electricity in Poland. Currently, there are two mines in production, the Bełchatów pit (ending in 2018) and the Szczercow pit (started production in 2009). The mining method is open pit cast with a strip ratio of 3:1 ( 150 meters of overburden and  a 50 meter thick coal seam). There are three key equipment: bucket wheel excavator, conveyor system and spreader. Another astongning fact about the mine operation is that around 244 million cubic meters of ground water is being pumped to the surface every year! This means that around 10% of the mineral water from the area are actually being supplied by the mining operations!

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The Bełchatów Power Plant (from Wikipedia)

Soon after the presentation, we were guided to the control room, where the operation  is being monitored through a big screen which allows the operators to oversee the entire mine operations.  This “simplified” overview allows the operators to direct the operations with efficiency. For us, this “simplified” overview still seemed very complexed and we soon found ourselves overwhelmed with the amount of  information shown.

After getting safety boots and hard hats, we hopped onto two MAN Trucks (it is a brand name) and headed to the Bełchatów pit. Everyone was astonished as soon as the pit came in our sight. After 20 minutes of bumpy truck rides we arrived at the first  bucket wheel excavator.

Here is the group picture at the  monstrous Bełchatów  pit. The background is a bucket wheel excavator, with a diameter of 18 meters with  22 buckets, and runs on 3 500 Kilowatts engines! Just look at that magnificent machine!

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The Bełchatów Mine by the Bucket Wheel Excavator

After the mine tour, we continued our journey towards Warsaw! And we arrived at the four star hotel!

Dongha & Zibai

May 15, 2014 – KGHM Day 4

KGHM arranged a 4 part tour for our Grad classes designed to show the entire copper production process from extraction to final product.  Today our group traveled to KGHM’s Glogow plant which included a smelter plant, electrowinning plant, and two copper wire factory tours.  The experience gave us a unique glimpse of the downstream processes we rarely get to see.

KGHM is known for copper production, but they are also the largest silver producing company in the world.  At the Glogow site, they produce copper, silver, lead, and other valuable industrial products.  Their first smelter was commissioned in 1971 by the Soviet Union, and the second smelter, that we visited, was constructed 7 years later to add capacity.  The original facility is currently being upgraded with modern technology to reduce energy consumption and emissions.

Concentrates from their copper mines are stored and blended in order to achieve the proper feed grade into the smelter (25.6% at Smelter #2).  Up until the 1980’s, the smelter was a large polluter until strict environmental regulations led to significant investments to reduce dust and SO2 emissions.  Just two or three years later, their dust and SO2 emissions had dropped by a factor of ~100x.

After a short introductory presentation, we split into two groups to tour the smelter, electrowinning plant and wire plants. glogowII flowsheet

Process flowsheet for Glogow II Smelter (http://www.kghm.pl)

 At the smelter, we saw the operators pouring blister copper from their flash furnace as well as the “tapping” process used to start the flow of molten metal.  Additionally, our group saw an operator skim waste by-products called slag from the furnace into a ~3m high crucible.  In the smelter, they also cast copper anodes, the input to the for the electrowinning plant.



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Molten copper being poured into a crucible at Glogow Smelter (http://www.kghm.pl/)

Crucible at Glogow smelter

 

Giant crucibles used for transporting molten metal and waste slag. (http://www.kghm.pl/)

 

Copper Annode pour at Glogow smelter

 

Copper annodes being poured at 99.2% copper. These annodes are upgraded to 99.99% copper in the elctrowinning plant. (http://www.kghm.pl/)

In the electrowinning plant copper annodes are placed in large pools of pungent blue solution between copper cathodes. Electric current on the order of 20,000 amps and 2-3V flows though the cells to encourage copper ions to migrate from anode to cathode. Eight days later, at end of the process, cathodes of 99.99% copper weighing 115kg each are produced. By-products including silver and platinum group metals precipitate out of solution and collect at the bottom of the tanks to be recovered and treated in a separate process.

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Many copper mining companies produce and sell the copper cathodes. KGHM takes the process a step further in its two onsite has two copper wire factories. To produce oxygen-free copper wire demanded by high-tech applications such as communications and sensitive instruments, KGHM using a proprietary “Upcast” process. We also visited a more traditionally copper wire production facility that was able produce wire at a much higher rate. The copper wire is spun into spools usually of 1-4 metric tonnes each according to customers’ requirements. The process, which started with the melting of copper cathodes, consisted of pouring a continuous bar of molten copper which was then cooled and rolled into a smaller and smaller cross section under controlled conditions before reaching the desired diameter. While the oxygen-free upcast method took a day to create a spool, this method produced a spool of copper wire every 6 minutes. The spools of copper wire are packaged and stored in a large warehouse before being loaded on transport trucks to be shipped to customers.

 

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Copper wire spool Walcowka-3_1

Standing in a warehouse surrounded by millions of dollars’ worth of copper was a great way to end the 4 part tour that led us through KGHM’s copper production from mine to refined product.

While our students are sure to remember the amazing scenes of molten metal, vast elctrowinning bathes and huge warehouses full of copper we were not able to take photos for your benefit. Trust us though, it was amazing!

Thanks KGHM for your hospitality.

– Andrew and Ryland

May 14, 2014 KGHM Day 3

Day three of our KGHM tour took us to their tailings management facility as well as their head office and football (soccer) stadium. KGHM is a very diversified company, with having KGHMI (International) as well as owning their own football team, which is currently playing in the highest league in Poland.

We picked up our tour guide for the tailings facility at the nearby office, and drove to the toe of the tailings dam.

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Photography was not allowed on the tailings facility, but the site was quite large. The dam is 60m high at the highest point, which was because of the topography. The average height of the dam was 40m. The dam covers an area of 1400 hectares or 1.4 square kilometers. The dam is increasing in height at a rate of 2.2-2.4m per year. Tailings dam push back occurs every two years with a height increase of 5m for each push back.  The tailings facility gets tailings from all three of the KGHM concentrators. The concentrators from Lubin and Rudna sent sand like tailings which are used to help build the dam. The tailings from Polkowice-Sieroszowice are more clay like in nature, and are deposited into the center of the tailings facility. The facility is also located in close proximity to a local town. The tailings facility has several monitoring methods including 1400 pizometers, 70 inclinometers, various automatic survey prisms scattered around the dam that are scanned in 20 minute intervals, and various other monitoring methods.

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The next stop for our tour took us to the head office and football stadium.

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At the stadium, we were greeted with hot and cold beverages as well as snack food. After some time to eat, we had three presentations about the company. The first presentation was about the company as a whole, and how they plan to explore and expand on their current resource base. The second presentation was on Glogow Gleboki (GGP), and their plans to expand mining in the current active districts within Poland. The GGP area is between their current operations in Rudna and Polkowice-Sieroszowice. The GGP area spans 50km between the furthest points, and is the deepest part of the deposit. The average underground temperatures in the region are expected to be around 41-50 degrees Celsius. The third presentation was about Human Resources, and how their globalization as a company has changed the core values of the company and has effected the company as a whole. They discussed the core values of the company which are: Zero Harm, Success Through Teamwork, Drive for Results, Courage, Accountability. These values are to be stressed throughout the entire company. We were then fed lunch, and concluded our trip with a short tour around the football pitch. We were able to make it onto the field for a picture, and we saw inside the security office at the stadium.

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– Peter and Tony

May 13, 2014 – KGHM Day 2

The next stop on our KGHM tour was a visit at the mill and labs located at their Rudna Mine. The geology of the ore body is comprised of Dolomite, Shale and Sandstone. The high grade copper is located in the shales, with low grade within the dolomite and sandstone. This has created difficulties in processing, particularly the grinding, as the dolomite and sandstone are tricky to differentiate, yet it is required to grind these two ore types at different specifications.

We were welcomed by a team of KGHM representatives as well as a lovely surprise of tea, coffee and juice. After a quick introduction and presentation we geared up and were on our way!

First stop: the geological sample preparation lab. We were fortunate enough to witness first hand advanced automated sampling robots. Very few of these robots are yet to be employed in the industry, with KGHM running the only lab of this kind in Europe. Clearly KGHM is on the forefront of technology, constantly looking to improve and optimize their operations. 2 parallel robotic arms transported samples from small crushers to drying ovens as well as pulverizing stations. The capacity of this system is 1000 samples per day. Unfortunately photography was not permitted in the lab.

We were then whisked away to the next lab which completed mineralogical analysis on samples from all 3 of KGHM’s local mines. We observed and impressive Scanning Electronic Microscope (SEM) as well as a mineral identification database.

Our tour of the processing plant began with observing a large vibrating screen; the oversize was returned to the crushing circuit, the undersize continued to the rod mills for further grinding.

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The next stop on the tour was the crushing circuit. From here, we continued on to the grinding circuit. The grinding circuit is comprised of rod, ball and hammer mills, various specifications of grinding media were employed. After grinding, the ore was passed through hydro cyclones and spiral classifiers for further classification. In the picture below the rod mills can be seen on the right and the spiral classifiers on the left. A large overhead crane was used to transport pallets and other heavy loads to various locations in the mill.

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The class then ventured back outside to the train receiving yard. Here ore is delivered daily from KGHM’s Lubin and Polkowice mines for processing.

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Then it was on to the flotation circuit where there were banks and banks of flotation cell which were used to float the valuable minerals using differential wettability. A series of rougher, cleaner and scavenger cells were used to optimize the recovery. KGHM also employed an automated monitoring system which measured the size and the height of the froth bubbles. Below is a photo of a scavenger cell.

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While touring the facilities, KGHM conducted interviews showcasing the ‘Faces of Mining’, interviewing a few students as well as a professor. They were interested in our reasoning for choosing Poland as a destination for our grad trip as well as some of the differences between Canadian and Polish mining and milling.

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After the interviews, we were escorted to the dewatering and thickening tanks. The moisture content of the thickened concentrate was still too high for transport and must therefore be sent through a series of filter presses and a large drum dryer. After drying, at temperatures up too 500 degrees celcius, the final moisture content is approximately 8.5%. The concentrate final grade is typically 22.75%.

The tour concluded with a question period as well as a delicious lunch kindly provided by KGHM. We then boarded the bus for ‘home’ and spent the rest of the day touring the city of Wroclaw, hunting for Gnomes..

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– Danielle & Kim

May 12, 2014 – KGHM Day 1

The team experienced the earliest morning wake at 5 am to reach the KGHM mines, Lubin and Rudna, which are approximately 2 hour drive outside of Wroclaw.  The team was split into two groups of 15; the first group went to the Lubin mine while the other went to the Rudna mine.

The Lubin mine has been in operation for approximately 40 years with an estimated mine life of another 40 years. Based on the sedimentary sequential deposit, the Lubin mine utilizes the Room and Pillar mining method. From our tour, we were able to witness some high grade seams with approximately 2.6% Cu. However, the average grade of the mine is 0.87% and 40 g/t of copper and silver respectively. The working levels vary between the 350m to 850m with a typical drift height of 3 metres. During the mine tour, we were able to see various common underground mining activities such as loading of a underground haul truck with an LHD, installation of rock support with a bolter and dumping of ore into an ore pass. The end of the tour included a small presentation of the entire mine layout in order to give us a sense of the MASSIVE footprint of the Lubin mine.

Rudna celebrated 40 years of operation this year and the current mine plan is to continue till 2064. Using a Room and Pillar mining method the Rudna mine is massive. Mining copper and silver at a rate of 30,000 tpd at 1.6% Cu and 46 ppm Ag. It is the largest copper mine in Europe and one of the largest underground mines in the world. The mine has 514 pieces of equipment and employees 4,215 people, in which we got to see a few operate. After putting on PPE we walked into the cage and dropped 1km underground at 12 m/s, and then getting into a man carrier driving to one of the faces. When we got to the face we realized how hot it was. Approximately 30 degrees Celsius with 100% humidity, some of us were sweating more than others. The mine tour included witnessing scaling, rock bolting, loading explosives, loading and dumping of a haul truck. We were able to get up close and personal with the equipment in the underground mechanical shop. It was interesting to see the differences between Canadian and Polish mines.

Unfortunately, none of the underground photos were allowed to be posted.

Jason & Cameron