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Rio Tinto has recently sold its 80% share of Northparkes to China Molybdenum Company, Japanese based Sumitomo Group will retain their 20% share in the venture. It will continue to be operated by Rio Tinto during the transition period and workers have been reassured of their jobs under the new ownership.

China Molybdenum Company is the second largest tungsten and fourth largest molybdenum concentrate producer in the world. It is the company's first foray into copper. Northparkes will contribute significant gold and copper production for its new owner and give it the opportunity to use its business relationships and operational skills to add value to its assets.

Northparkes is Operated via a Block Cave Method of Underground Mining
Northparkes began as an open pit operation but these days it is an underground mine utilising the unique, to Australia, block cave mining method. Block caving is the method of mining large volumes of ore underground by means of creating an underground tunnel that leads to draw points that uses gravity to pull down the overlaying ore body. This enables the rock to be more easily removed for processing. Northparkes is the first mine in Australia to use this technology.

New Tunnel Boring System Being Trialed at Northparkes Underground Mine

In February 2013 Rio Tinto introduced a new tunnel boring system into the operation of the Northparkes Mine. It is a 64 foot long machine that is cutting through rock 600 metres below the surface. This machine is the first of three underground excavation methods to be introduced at the Northparkes mining operation by Rio Tinto that are designed to improve the development and operation of the mine.

The new German built tunnel boring machine now being used at the Northparkes Mine has taken four years to develop through a partnership between Rio Tinto and Aker Wirth. Northparkes Mines have welcomed the new machine claiming it creates a significant advantage over the usual drill and blasting techniques used in most Australian underground mines, as it is a system that can excavate ore at twice the speed of the more conventional methods used in the past. It is also claiming the new tunnel boring machine is far safer that other methods as well as being more efficient and cost effective.

The tunnel boring machine trial at the Northparkes Mine will cease in July 2013 after which its performance will be fully evaluated. The machine is operated by a team of 12 underground workers controlling its different functions as it keeps three underground haul trucks busy removing the ore from the tunnel it creates. There are also 15 personnel above ground giving logistic support to those working the machine below the surface.

Northparkes Began Mining Operations as an Open pit

Development of the Northparkes operation began in 1992 as an open pit, 15 years after the ore body was discovered. Processing of the ore takes place on site resulting in a high grade copper concentrate that is then transported by road train 13 kilometres to the Goonumbla railway siding. The concentrate filled containers are then transported by rail to Port Kembla where they are loaded onto ships for exporting to India, China and Japanese customers.

The Northparkes tenements cover an area of 6,000 hectares surrounding the mine site which is situated on a 1,630 hectare mining lease. Copper and gold deposits near the surface were mined first by open pit method to build up a stockpile to ensure production continued while the underground operations were being developed. The stockpiles are also used for the same purpose when workings underground are in the process of transitioning from one cave to another.
In 2011 mining contractor PYBAR was awarded a three and a half year contract to provide labour and equipment to develop the E48 block cave at Northparkes. The contract includes development of draw points, longhole drilling and cablebolting that is providing work for 200 mine workers. 

Mapping The Northparkes new Decline at the block Cave mine

Super Info Video on north Parkes, Block Caving and tunneling machines

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a major producer of iron ore, coal, bauxite, alumina, aluminium, uranium, copper, gold, diamonds, salt and energy across the globe. Businesses include open pit and underground mines, refineries, smelters, mills and power stations. Also a number of research facilities more


Rio Tinto
152-158 St George s Terrace
Perth, WA 6000



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PYBAR Mining Services has a contract role at northparkes

PYBAR Group includes PYBAR Mining Services and a partnership with JT Mining and Electrical Contracting in WA.Privately owned and based in Orange NSW with offices located in Sydney, Brisbane, Cobar, Parkes, Mt Isa and Kalogoorlie and have cotracts on projects and operations Australia wide.Operating ...Read More


PYBAR Mining Services
1668 - 1670 Forest Rd
Orange, NSW 2800


Phone02 6361 4499
fax02 6360 2783

More info about PYBAR Mining Services

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