PTFI has several of the fastest growing underground mines in the industry. In 2017, when GBC (Grasberg Block Cave) begins production, it will be the largest underground hard rock mine in the world, and PTFI’s collection of GBC, DOZ (Deep Ore Zone), DMLZ (Deep Mill Level Zone), and Big Gossan will make up the largest underground mining complex in history. Technologically advanced systems of remote-operated and autonomous machines will control loaders, ore chutes, rock breakers, and train ore haulage systems around a labyrinth of tunnels to pull about 240,000 metric tons of ore from the mountain every day. It will be a sight to see!
Even today, the functions of PTFI’s underground mines are a remarkable display of mining prowess. Chris took Ally on a tour of two of the mines that are being developed, DMLZ and GBC, last Saturday morning. Between these two mines, PTFI develops well over a kilometer of new tunnel each week. Traveling six kilometers back into the deep, dark bowels of the Sudirman Mountain Range was an overwhelming and intimidating experience for Ally, but it is one that she will never forget.
A picture that Ally took of the underground portals from Chris’s office. These lead to DMLZ, Big Gossan, and GBC, which will set records for sophistication and production. The adjacent waterfall, the surrounding rainforest, and the incredible terrain also make them some of the most beautiful mining portals on the planet.
After entering a portal and driving along several miles of underground road, Chris parked his vehicle, so they could get out and explore the area by foot. Ally loved how she could feel the penetrating vibrations of loud, moving trucks and loaders in the walls and the ground that surrounded her.
Chris and Ally dressed in full underground gear – hard hats with cap lamps, safety vests, safety glasses, earplugs, respirators (strapped around their necks), self-contained self rescuers (strapped around their waists), and steel-toed boots.
The expression in Ally’s eyes describes her experience of going underground – “Holy Crap!” In this photo, a large loader was quickly making its way towards her. She thought she was its target; Chris knew it was turning to her left down another tunnel.
Ally standing near the loader after it stopped and parked. She was hoping to get a picture standing next to an explosives truck, but they didn’t stop when she and Chris were there.
Ally standing near the front of a specialized mining machine with a web of tunnels behind her.
Before anyone goes underground, they have to check in using a tracking system, so the mine rescue team knows who to look for if there is an emergency. Ally was relieved when she checked out and was back on the surface, but was disappointed that the tour was over.