For Independence Group (IGO), being at the forefront of technological change is paying dividends, with the company utilising a raft of alternate approaches at their diversified mine sites.

Independence Group’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Peter Bradford on site.

IGO recently shifted its focus toward minerals involved in battery production, with its world class Nova operation producing high grade nickel, copper and cobalt, while also holding a 30% stake in the Tropicana Gold Mine, a joint venture with AngloGold Ashanti Australia.

While Nova and Tropicana are major focal points, it is the exploration being carried out by IGO that is setting the company up for an exciting future.

The Search Continues in Three Dimensions

One of the main challenges faced by IGO is the vastness of the exploration areas they are faced with, with the search going deeper to find premium reserves.

IGO Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Peter Bradford explains that the company uses the very latest in geophysical and geochemical tools available, with previous collaborations with academic institutions proving their worth.

“Geophysics, especially electromagnetic (EM), has been a strong suit of IGO’s for many, many years… and going forward we see ourselves at the forefront of involving new tools for the understanding of EM,” Mr Bradford said.

Enter 3D seismic - a technique which has long been a staple of understanding the ground fill systems of oil and gas explorations, but has only recently earned a foothold in hard rock mining environments.

“Back in 2008, IGO first used it at our Long Mine, and that was one of the very first instances of 3D seismic used in a hard rock environment. We’ve gone on to use it at both Tropicana and Nova, and at Nova last year, we carried out the largest single 3D seismic survey ever undertaken in Australia,” Mr Bradford continued.

Building for the Future

Nova, which is 100% operated and managed by IGO, saw a rapid progression in development from its discovery in July 2012, with the mine moved rapidly through planning and construction, until it kicked off production in July 2017.

The mine is designed with future-proofing in mind, which will be a major driver of productivity.

Mr Bradford said, “We’re starting to put in a fibre optic backbone underground, with a Wi-Fi system already in place, and we’re using that to facilitate remote logging from the surface.

“In the coming months we will start doing remote firing using Wi-Fi, and from my understanding, that will be one of the first applications of remote firing over Wi-Fi systems ever.”

Nova also incorporates an infrastructure that will be easily adapted to automation, especially in terms of drilling and haulage.

Not only does it present a safety improvement for workers, but also efficiency and productivity gains for IGO.

Minestar for Progression

The Tropicana Gold Mine, a joint venture with AngloGold Ashanti Australia, has seen IGO lead the way, with the combination of new exploration techniques and mature technology, such as high-pressure grinding rolls in their plant, proving successful.

The mine is also one of the few operations worldwide with a fully integrated Caterpillar Minestar system for controlling activity.

“Recently we have adopted a strategic approach to the project using strip mining and in-pit dumping of waste – this is uncommon in the hard rock mining industry, although it is commonly seen in coal mining. I believe this will be the first ever occasion where this has been used in a gold mine, worldwide.

“Going forward, we would continue to look for opportunities, potentially leveraging off the Minestar system that we have, and progressing our mining activities through the different stages of automation,” Mr Bradford explained.

Hear Peter Bradford share more on enhancing productivity through people and technology in underground mining, when he takes to the stage as a special guest speaker at Austmine 2019.