Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tour of the Freeport Copper and Gold Mine

We left the hotel at 5:00 in the morning. Yes, somehow, we all managed to be on time for the departure. We had to leave early as the clouds rise to the mountains early, and if you leave too late, the clouds completely cover the mountains, and you can't see anything.

The drive up the mountain was simply amazing. Freeport built a road through the massive jungles and swamps that run through the lowlands, and then up to 14,000 feet of cliffs and rocks to where the mine is located. How this was done, is a miracle in itself. Not only did they build a road through the most hostile terrain I have ever seen, they managed to get gigantic trucks, cranes, and other equipment up there as well. Just incredible!!
There are two mines up in the mountains. The first was called Eckberg, which is no longer mined. In the late 80's, the mother load was found about two miles from Ertzberg which is called Grasberg. To get to the mines, they had to somehow travel up the sheer 2000 foot cliffs. A large cable car was built to get to the top. That is what I am traveling up in the photo above. the buildings built below is the mill where the copper and gold are stripped from the rock.
At the top of the Grasberg Mine, there are equatorial glaciers. We are at about 14,000 feet at this point. The air is thin, and it is chilly.

Above, is the open pit mine of Grasberg. They dig and move thousands and thousands of tons of ore every day which results in over 6000 tons of copper and gold (hundreds of ounces per day) concentrate which is piped 75 miles down the mountain and to the sea port via gravity.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I grew up in Tembagapura, the small town you passed on your way from the lowland to the mine site.

A little bit of correction, its Ertzberg (=ore mountain) and Grasberg.

Nice pictures.

Scotty Graham said...

Thanks for the comment, and sorry about the spelling mistakes...I knew it didn't look right. I have made the corrections. Cheers, Scotty

Phillipa said...

How did you get to do that tour? Was it costly?

Scotty Graham said...

Hi Phillipa,

The trip was a school trip. The CFO of Freeport is a parent and good friend, and was able to pull some strings for an affordable trip to visit the mine. It was incredible.

Thanks for visiting my blog...hope you enjoyed it.