Lomas Bay Copper Mine
The Lomas Bay Copper Mine is an open-pit mine located in the Atacama Desert in Chile’s northern region. First commissioned in 1998, the mine is elevated to approximately 4,921 feet (1,500 m) and is owned and operated by Falconbridge, a subsidiary company to Xstrata. The mine currently employs approximately 390 people. Because the mine is located in a desert, workers have to contend with water control and dust while working within the mine and processing raw materials. The mine is anticipated to last until 2020.
 Construction History
The mine was first discovered in 1998 when 19,300 tons of copper was extracted in the mining of 2.6 metric tons of ore. A company called Westmin Resources Ltd. purchased the mine and invested $244 million on the property where they developed it for further resale. They then sold it to Boliden.
The Lomas Bay Mine posed challenges with the design of the mine because high levels of nitrates and chloride decreased the effect of the SX, a substance used to recover copper. Boliden increased its input by 16 percent in 2000 when it rectified this problem.
The desert location also posed water control and dust concerns. To alleviate these concerns, water is pumped to the site of the mine where its use is optimized by recycling and conservation. Dust within the mine is monitored and regulated accordingly.
In 2001, Boliden sold the mine to Falconbridge for a price of $175 million.
In 2004, the mine underwent a crushing expansion program. The expansion resulted in an increased capacity of 36,000 tons per day of ore for processing. That year, the mine produced 62,041 tons, a reported 2000 tons more than it produced the previous year. Production increased once again in 2005 to 63,147 tons.
In 2006, Xstrata purchased Falconbridge and is the current owner of the copper mine.
Five main zones for minerals have been named for exploration: the Tirana, the Candelaria, Andacolla, East, and Gordo zones. Inside the open-pit mine, the surface has been excavated at 984 feet (300 m) deep with a 100XP blasthole rig and 2800XPB electric shovels provided by P&H. Once this process is complete, the ore undergoes a crushing process, and ore is loaded onto leach pads in a conveyor system. Materials are later loaded onto trucks to be delivered to a processing plant.
Copper is processed using solvent electrowinning (SX-EW). The process involves placing the crushed ore on a sloping pile where sulfuric acid melts the metal into a liquid. The acid is used until the metal sufficiently dissolves and it subsequently undergoes an electrowinning process.
The ore from the mine that has not been crushed is placed along with the metallic solution into an electrowinning circuit. Metals are removed from the copper using organic solutions and the copper is also purified during this process. Electrowinning is utilized to produce the best quality of copper cathodes. Once this process is complete, the product is delivered to its distribution plant in Antofagasta.
 Equipment Used
 Refurbishment/Recent Projects/Renovations
The Fortuna de Cobre property near the Lomas Bayas region could bring as much as 60,000 to 90,000 tons per year to Falconbridge and extend the life of the mine to 2020.