The layout of a mine is designed to locate the processing facility as close as possible to the raw material. However, if a mine opens a new location and/or expands into adjacent areas, owners must determine how to get the new location’s raw material to the processing facility.

Even though the mining company may have had a fleet of trucks that handled the raw material transport from the previous mine location to the existing processing area, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a simple trucking route modification will be the most cost-beneficial solution. Rather than simply extending current operations, owners should evaluate three potential options for a cost-effective strategy:

  1. Adapting trucking capabilities on-site should consider impacts to costs for operations and maintenance (O&M), as well as additional personnel and fuel requirements. An evaluation could also determine if the new route will save time.
  2. Extending conveyance systems would look at mechanical conveying technologies available — from traditional overland conveyors with transfer points to accommodate direction changes to fully-enclosed conveyor (e.g. pipe, teardrop-shaped) systems that can handle three-dimensional curves without needing additional transfers. The variations in grade and curvature of the conveyor path will determine the most affordable combination of these technologies to get the raw material to the processing facility, while still factoring in O&M costs.
  3. Tearing down and relocating processing facilities is rarely chosen, but it may be a viable option depending on the estimated locations of future mines. Though building a new facility might take extensive capital investment, it is often possible to reuse significant equipment from the existing facility. Front-end engineering can establish a realistic time frame and outage schedule to build the facility, move equipment and set up operations, helping to limit downtime.

If your mining company doesn’t possess the resources to vet these options, an impartial third-party engineering firm can be a partner. The firm will review existing drawings, operations and mine growth plans, including anticipated growth locations to establish a general layout of the extended facility’s footprint and routing, as well as drilled-down costs such as production capacity, personnel, fuel, O&M and more. This evaluation — and resulting plan development — can provide a mining company with a path forward for decades to come.


Data visualization can streamline program management for mines, providing insight and risk mitigation.

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Nathan Bland is a senior material handling engineer at Burns & McDonnell with an extensive background in mining engineering.