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Nyrstar Does More with Less Tennessee Mines maximizes efficiency and uses operational excellence to separate from the competition Written by: Eric Harding Produced by: Jason Wright



Mid TN’s GorWood Mine


oing more with less and striving for operational excellence is what separates Nyrstar from the other mining companies. Its Tennessee Mines is a prime example of Nyrstar’s dedication to quality.

of 902 employees. Middle Tennessee is made up of three underground zinc mines—Gordonsville, Elmwood, and Cumberland— as well as a processing plant located at the Gordonsville mine site. Each of the three mines is located in Smith Operations County, which is about 100 miles Located in the heart of Tennessee, from Nyrstar’s Clarksville smelter. the Nyrstar Tennessee Mines The operations have a history of complex consists of six mines and close association, as the smelter was two processing plants distributed originally built specifically to treat zinc among two distinct operations— concentrate from the mines. Middle Tennessee and East East Tennessee operations also Tennessee. The two combine to consists of a processing plant and produce 111,000 tonnes of zinc in three underground zinc mines: concentrate in 2014, and have a total Young, Coy, and Immel. The three 4

July 2015


Prepping to lower new CAT haultruck components into the East TN Operation, Immel Mine for reassembly underground

mines are located in and around Tennessee’s Knox, Jefferson, and Grainger counties. Each of the mines is located approximately 20 miles from each other, 150 miles from Middle Tennessee Mines and 250 miles from Nyrstar’s Clarksville smelter. In addition, ore from the three mines is processed into zinc concentrate at the Young mine site. Improvements To maximize efficiency, Nyrstar is introducing an array of mill improvements at its East Tennessee operations. The company has added three stateof-the-art belt scales to improve metallurgical balance calculations. Other innovations include increasing ball mill throughput by nearly 20 percent.

“What the systematic does is reduce the placechange time from one working phase within the stope to another thousands of feet away. When you stay within one stope, you can work multiple phases. It’s almost like a coalmining mindset” – Nyrstar VP of Business Improvement Glenn Smith w w w . n y r s t a r. c o m




“That 20 percent improvement is the result of several factors such as increased horsepower on some of the pumps that would supply the material upstream of the ball mill,” said Glenn Smith, Nyrstar VP of bBusiness iImprovement. The key to our success was all about eliminating variation from the process through classic business improvement techniques, such as keeping the mill regularly charged with ‘X’ amount of grinding media, reducing the size of the grinding media, and more. These fundamentals have led to the 20 percent improvement.” The upgrades are the first steps in streamlining the entire process and optimizing the performance of the mill. The goal is to have every unit in the existing footprint perform as designed, or even better than expected, before making a


Nyrstar VP of Business Improvement Glenn Smith


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N Y R S TA R capital expenditure to increase the throughput. Operational Excellence Before spending money to expand the mine, Nyrstar is first implementing operational excellence strategies to maximize the potential of the existing operations. As further evidence of Nyrstar’s commitment to improving and growing the business, Smith was recently promoted to the Vice President of Business Improvement for the entire Nyrstar Mining Segment, as his career has been heavily focused on business improvement. One of his challenges as general manager was getting the variation out of their processes in order to achieve consistent performance. “Before we make any capital expenditures to increase the capacity, we need to eliminate the variances,” Smith said. “It’s like having an old car. You don’t buy a new car just because the tires are worn- you rotate the tires and keep an eye on their wear.” The systematic mining approach recently introduced in Middle


Tennessee is an entirely new way to mine, where they basically delineate the boundaries of a given ore zone. A weighted average recovery is used to develop rooms and pillars, compared to the previous method of random room and pillar, which is more of a meandering approach. This system promotes improved mine planning in terms of establishing your infrastructure, water supply, electrical supply as well as ventilation needs. “What the systematic approach does is reduce the place-change time from one working phase face within the stope to another thousands of feet away,” said Smith. “When you stay within one stope, you can work multiple phases. It’s almost like a coal-mining mindset.” Smith believes his transition from coal mining to underground base metal mining has been an excellent transfer of skill sets, from ventilation to maintaining equipment, human resources, and safety. The only real difference he’s noticed is instead of cutting material like he would in coal mining, they now have to drill and blast it. “It’s still ground support, loading, w w w . n y r s t a r. c o m



Prepping to lower new CAT haultruck components into the East TN Operation, Immel Mine for reassembly underground

and hauling material,” he said. “It’s been a great transition. As I learn from my hard-rock miners, I also share a little bit with my coal mining background with conveyance systems and efficient processes like systematic mining. You have more uptime when drilling and breaking material versus traming from one stope to the next.” 10

July 2015

Collaboration is a major aspect they drive within the mining segment—which includes open lines of communication in terms of what is working at one site compared to others. It’s yet another trait Smith brings from the coal industry, as it was a common theme from his 34 years in the business. “With the Tennessee mines, for


instance, we contributed around 20 percent of the zinc production of Nyrstar last year,” he said, “so it’s a large player in the mining portfolio for Nyrstar.” The initial systematic mining plans came together in late Q3 of 2014, while they actually began implementing late Q4. In just those seven months, Smith said he’s seen dramatic changes. “We’re now able to see the results,” he said. “Naturally when you start a new process, it comes

Glenn Smith

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Prepping to lower new CAT haultruck components into the East TN Operation, Immel Mine for reassembly underground

with a certain element of change. The guys have to back up and figure out how to handle certain situations. It’s always the theory of constraints when we’re pushing the bottleneck out of the system.” The goal behind using geophysics 12

July 2015

is to improve drilling or exploration success rate. It essentially maps out an area using geophysical techniques from the last several years, and has typically identified some target-rich areas so they can drill and verify.


“We’ve seen great correlations, and that’s what gave us our trust in it,” Smith said. “We actually put it over areas that we mine and were able to baseline it to get certain readings to see what the fingerprint looked like in a certain area. We were quite pleased when it said, ‘Drill here.’ We drilled, and low and behold, we hit the ore. Now we’re actually planning on a more aggressive drilling program to further delineate those areas so we can get them into some 3D mine bottle blocks.” Automation with software that predicts maintenance upgrades will be Nyrstar’s next venture in the future, including equipment health monitoring and tracking. The company has looked at various types of maintenance scheduling so it can provide maintenance on a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week schedule compared to just a five-day schedule. It has seen equipment availabilities increase as much as 20 percent by having maintenance crews rotate with production crews, similar to a race car driver with his pit crew. “As the equipment passes by any Wi-Fi hotspots located within the mine, they will have particular mechanical data downloaded from the equipment monitoring the equipment health in addition to equipment tracking similar to employee tracking in United States coal mines,” Smith said. “This way, they can generate realtime electronic times studies compared to an individual doing it. That’s our next avenue to dive into.”

Company Information INDUSTRY

Mining and Smelting HEADQUARTERS

Tessinerplatz 7, Zurich FOUNDED


Approximately 6,500 REVENUE

USD 3.21 billion

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NYRSTAR www.nyrstar.com

Profile for Business Chief USA

Bro brusa nyrstar mining july2015  

Bro brusa nyrstar mining july2015