World-first training centre opened at NSW copper mine
February 15, 2013

Rio Tinto’s Northparkes Mine, located near Parkes in the state’s central west, was Australia’s first underground mine to use the block caving technique fifteen years ago. Unlike traditional open-pit mining, block caving is an innovative way to extract copper by collapsing mineral deposits under their own weight. And as many of the more easily accessible copper reserves are mined, more and more copper mines will be relying on this specialist underground method to extract copper.




At the moment, only around a dozen mines worldwide use the block caving technique. But while block caving is becoming more popular – it’s set to dominate over traditional open-pit mining by 2018 - the technology is not well represented in university engineering courses. That’s why Northparkes has partnered with the University of New South Wales to open the Block Caving Knowledge Centre, located at the mine site. 

The 1200 square metre facility gives engineering students an opportunity to learn to use machinery in a theatre that displays geophysical data in a 360 degree, 3D simulation of the underground environment. 

The Centre isn’t just for budding engineering students, either. It’s also used by experienced mining engineers, who may have worked on open-pit mines, to learn underground techniques to apply at new block cave mines worldwide. 


NPM Underground Crusher


''Northparkes was the first mine in Australia to use block caving, starting 15 years ago,'' said Stefanie Loader, the mine's managing director. ''Since then we have refined the method and it is now in its third generation. It has given us improvements in safety, productivity and a reduction in operating costs. Our expert knowledge and capability makes our mine an ideal location for a state-of-the-art training complex.''


The Block Caving Knowledge Centre is part of Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future program, which aims to make mining more efficient and safer through increased automation and remote operation.

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