Optimization of mining and processing for an Albanian nickel-laterite mine

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School of Engineering | Master's thesis
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The scope of the project was to re-evaluate, optimize and update an existing pre-feasibility study of a nickel-laterite project in south-eastern Albania. This included, but was not limited to, the development of the resource estimate; geotechnical assessment of the different rock zones; investigation of potential mining methods; design and optimization of selected mining methods including equipment selection and CAPEX and OPEX estimation; development, optimization and cost estimation of the raw material handling process stream; investigation of potential processing methods; process plant design and capital and operating expenditure estimate; environmental impact assessment (EIA); project risk assessment; market analysis; and project finance. The project was designed with two different mine systems; room-and-pillar and long wall mining. A variation of the room-and-pillar design, referred to as Post room-and-pillar design was also costed. New software to link Microsoft Excel and Gemcom Surpac was developed for this project to allow optimization of the mine design. Over 12 000 individual mine configurations were constructed validated and measured so that the optimum design was selected. A total of 7 different mining constructs were designed. The transportation of the raw material to the surface is achieved with either trucks or conveyors. The CAPEX and OPEX of mine and/or sized stockpiles were estimated as well as the costs of changing from conveyor to trucks mid-process. In total, 32 different material handling scenarios were fully designed and estimated. The processing technologies for nickel laterite ores were reviewed and heap leaching was selected as the most appropriate. A slight alternative to the normal heap leach design is the creation of two leach pads; a quick leach pad for saprolite ore and a long leach pad for mixed ore. The combination of 7 different mining strategies and 32 materials handling options gave 72 valid options in which the deposit could be mined and processed. The net present value for each option was calculated for production rates ranging from 1 000 to 15 000 tonnes per day and for cut-of-grade ranging from 0.0% to 1.3% nickel with an ultimate total of 15,192 net present values being calculated.
Rinne, Mikael
Thesis advisor
Ruiter, Hans de
Albania, nickel laterite, heap leaching