Top Five Open Cut Mines from Around the World

Open-cut mining is used when the minerals are found over a large area and relatively close to the surface. It is a surface mining technique that extracts rock or minerals from the earth by their removal from an open pit or borrow.

Unlike the deepest underground mines, which are mostly concentrated in South Africa, the deepest open pit mines are scattered across the world in some of the most amazing places on the planet.

Here are the five largest open cut mines from around the world:

Mirny, Russia

The Mirny Mine, based in the Sakha Republic, Russia is the second largest man-made pit in the world.

It is so big that it has a no-fly zone around it due to the downdraft it creates!

The mine was built in 1957 and closed in 2011.  However, when the mine was operational it was notorious for the extreme conditions where temperatures dropped in winter enough to cause rubber and steel to shatter.

It produced 10 million carats of diamond per annum $$$

Escondida, Chile

Escondida copper mine ranks as the third deepest open-pit operation and is currently the world’s largest copper producing mine.  The pit is 3.9km long, 2.7km wide and 645m deep.

Located in the Atacama Desert, Chile the operation consists of two open-pit mines, namely Escondida pit and Escondida Norte pit.

BHP Billiton is the operator of the mine with 57.5% interest. Rio Tinto holds 30% stake in the mine.

It produced 1.1Mt of copper in the financial year ending June 2013, which accounts for about five percent of global copper production. Escondida’s recoverable copper reserve was estimated to be more than 32.6Mt as of December 2012.

Creighton Mine, Canada

Creighton mine is the ninth deepest mine in the world and the world’s deepest nickel mine with a mining depth extending to up 2.42km.

The first production from the open-pit was made in 1901 with underground operations commencing in 1906.

Owned and operated by Vale, current mining methods used include shrinkage mining and mechanised undercut-and-fill mining.

The mine produced 608,000t of ore grading 2.77% copper and 2.55% nickel in 2018.

Exploration drilling carried out at Creighton in 2007 confirmed mineralisation at depth. The Creighton Deep exploration project doubled the proven and probable reserve to 32Mt grading 1.9% to 2.2% nickel and 2% to 2.3% copper.

Fimiston Gold Mine, Australia

Fimiston Gold Mine is Australia’s largest open-pit mine, measuring 3.5km in length, 1.5km in width and 360m in depth.

Also known as the “Super Pit” and “Golden Mine”, it is located 600 kilometres east of Perth on the south-east edge of the Kalgoorlie-boulder

Owned by Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines, a joint venture between Newmont Mining Corporation and Barrick Gold Corporation, the mine produces 850,000oz annually and has an estimated 8.84 million ounces of proven and probable reserves.

Chuquicamata, Chile

The Chuquicamata (‘Chuqui’) mine is the second deepest open pit mine in the world, at a depth in excess of 850 metres and the largest open-pit copper mine in the world.

Located in the north of Chile, the mine has been operation since 1910, and is now owned by Codelco, a state-owned operation since the Chilean nationalisation of copper mining.

It produces around 11% of the world’s copper supply, which equates to 350,000 tonnes per annum.

MEC Mining provides a diverse range of consultancy services to clients throughout Australia and Internationally.  MEC Mining has a team of skilled and experienced mine planners and technical consultants undertaking work on mining studies across various commodities and mining methods.

The benefits of expat mining work: 4 reasons to take the plunge

Choosing a job where you’ll be working overseas is a major decision for most people. There are plenty of opportunities for expat work in the mining industry, so should you board that plane if you’re offered offshore work?

We’ve listed the top four benefits of expat work to help you decide.

An international education

Anyone who’s undertaken work as an expat will tell you that you can’t put a price on how much you learn. If you’re lucky, you may find yourself in an exotic and appealing location but regardless of where you are, you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • develop foreign language skills
  • step out of your comfort zone
  • work with people from other cultures
  • open your mind to new ways of doing things.

The future is global

The world is getting smaller, and different time zones and cultures are no longer barriers to business. The worldly insights that expat work provides is valuable currency in the job market and, increasingly, executive-level jobs demand global thinking and direct experience with other cultures. Whether you fancy yourself as a CEO down the track or you just want to position yourself for the best roles on offer in future, overseas experience is a highly regarded attribute on your CV.

Kudos to you

No doubt about it: working overseas can be challenging, confronting and stressful at times. It’s not always easy to be far from home, in unfamiliar territory and subject to different working conditions. But if you can cope with the pressure and deliver, you’ll prove to your employer – and yourself! – that you’re brave, smart and capable.

Doors will open

As we’ve already mentioned, companies value international experience when they’re hiring, so expat work gives you an edge in the job stakes when you go searching for your next role. Besides this, the new skills and perspectives you glean overseas are likely to open your mind to broader possibilities in work and life. You may find that, after flying across the world and stepping into the unknown, the sky’s the limit.

Engineers Anonymous – Part 1

Hi, my name is Simon and I am a recovering engineer. It has been 8 years since my last design and I am proud to say I haven’t fallen off the wagon, yet. Having graduated from engineering 22 years ago I spent a good portion of my career in the ‘doing’ roles of operational engineering and absolutely loved it. 

I look back on those engineering ‘doing’ roles with strong and fond memories of what I have learnt over the years technically, and how different parts of my career helped in developing the non-technical skills to eventually kick my addictive engineering habit. 

I often get asked about career pathways and what avenues are possible. So, I thought I would share a bit of my story from when I graduated to becoming a managing director and beyond, as the first question most people ask me is: Why did I choose engineering and in particular mining engineering? 

Great question and one I struggle to exactly put my finger on, other than to say, I was a bit of a geek, loved building things, enjoyed being outside, really really loved blowing things up and of course loved the big yellow trucks. 

In high-school I visited a mine that probably sealed the deal for me to become a mining engineer. 

I was fortunate enough to get vacation experience at Ranger Uranium Mine while I was in uni. There I worked with an awesome team of people who really cemented my love for mining. They also introduced me to what a high performing culture can do, with a small team exceling in a challenging environment. It was safe to say after this experience I was certainly hooked. 

I finished my degree ready to hit the mining world full of enthusiasm, energy and keen to learn all about mining. BAAM! Right into a brick wall of a major mining downturn. So, I did what most people did back then and wrote countless letters to mining companies and went door knocking in search of a job. After a couple of months of sheer persistence, 106 letters and several interviews I was fortunate enough to get 2 job offers. 

Landed my first job and joined an underground mining contractor who did one of the best things I could have hoped for in the early part of my career; sent me underground as an operator and on crew for 18 months. In a few months I learnt more about mining than I ever did in the 4 years of uni. I worked in close knit teams where trust was critical and often, what kept you from serious harm or worse; gained invaluable hands on experience about mining operations and people management; and developed a vocabulary that would have made Rodney Rude blush. Maybe, that last one wasn’t so great, but the collective experience formed an amazing foundation for my subsequent career. 

From there I jumped on the engineering wagon, which I will explain more about in my next post. 

Don’t forget to leave your comments and questions as I want to make this an interactive series of posts so feel free to fire away and I will aim to include my answers in subsequent posts. 

Feel free to send me an invite to connect at Simon Cohn

How a technical consultant can value-add on your site

Written by Alessandro Dotta – Underground Metals Lead and Principal Mining Engineer at MEC Mining

So, your operation is well-staffed with qualified, trained employees. Your people are pretty committed to a particular project, and everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction. Yet, despite this, you’re not making the advances you’d like to see; there’s progress but the rate is frustratingly slow or the results minimal. You may have considered engaging the services of a technical consultant then dismissed the idea because, well, your team already has plenty of expertise.

Sound familiar?

Well, experience shows that engaging an external consultant can deliver enormous benefits beyond the solving of your initial problem. Here’s how.

A new set of eyes

A consultant brings a new pair of eyes to your operation and a breadth of experience and knowledge from previous secondments which can help identify potential areas for growth or points of weaknesses. As a new arrival on site, the consultant can be objective and not weighed down by past practices or experiences. In this way, having a consultant seconded to your operation is like having your own specialist who can diagnose problems quickly and prescribe remedies.

Collaborative approach

The proximity of an onsite consultant enables a much closer collaborative working relationship with clients. Part of MEC’s approach is to listen closely to, and appreciate the skills of, your onsite experts. This kind of alliance is invaluable in making progress, so the consultant is not merely simply imposing a solution but enabling the team to take ownership of it.

Building relationships

A secondment allows the relationship to develop. When time is money, having a designated consultant who already knows and understands how your operation functions means that any future problems can be resolved speedily.

Sharing knowledge

And finally, training opportunities are enhanced for your team. With your own consultant, you have the capacity to develop the skillset of your employees, to build skills and knowledge which might not otherwise have been available to them.

It’s well worth considering. These observations about the wide-reaching benefits come from feedback from clients and on-the-ground discussions with employees who are appreciative of that ‘second sight’.

Call or message me to find out more about what I can offer your operation.

Working as a team and delivering value

When it comes to mining, the mindset has often been to move larger volumes of material as quickly as possible to reduce process unit rate. While material movement is obviously very important, it can drive the wrong behaviours if the wrong material is being moved to prioritise volume movement over production requirement. This is likely to destroy value for an operation by lowering overall production yield – the number one value driver. 

So, the challenge is making sure that there is a balance between planning and operational requirements. To do this, there needs to be an operational understanding of the downstream impacts of non-compliance to plan. There also needs to be a planning understanding of the operational production targets and key performance indicators (KPIs). If the operational KPI is purely volume driven, my recommendation would be to review the KPI and refer it back to the value chain of the operation. By understanding and delivering what a process is meant to achieve, the most benefit will be seen by the operation. This way, value isn’t being destroyed by aimlessly chasing down a false performance metric. 

What can the Mine Planning team do to assist Operations? 

  • Ensure plans are available in a timely manner and produced in consultation with operations. 

Operations are more likely to follow the plan when they have input into the intricacies and understand the desired result – this will also generally result in a better plan. 

  • Ensure there are short and long dump options as well as a backup plan for when things don’t go as expected

There is nothing worse than not having a plan. The chaos of trying to stay productive on night shift or over a weekend can often cause a lot of rework in the future. 

  • Make the material movement priorities clear. 

Knowing where trucks should be allocated if a loading unit becomes unavailable is a must. It also gives guidance to the maintenance department around which loading unit. Remember, the key value driver is production yield, moving the right material at the right time! 

  • Get the trucking allocation right. 
  • Understand truck matching for loading units. 
  • Forecast accurate dig rates (allowing for excavation configuration, hard dig, water, trucking allocation). 
  • Understand haulage lengths and cycle times, and allow for circuit saturation. 
  • Understand the overall trucking capacity for the loading units. 
  • Incorporate planned maintenance availability. 

If the trucking allocation works well, there is trust and faith in the planning process as this is invaluable in building the relationship and removing any divide. 

  • Listen! 

Operational people spend the majority of their day in the field driving past the same “annoying pile of dirt” which would significantly shorten up their haul but can’t be moved because there is a circuit too close. They are masters of moving material and making things productive. Take the time to listen – they are professionals and have been doing this for a long time. 

What can the Operations team do to assist Mine Planning? 

  • Follow the plan! 

Going “off plan” will often result in significant path changes and re-work for the Mine Planning team and take up time that could otherwise be used to look at the bigger problems that lie ahead. Re-pathing and re-work cause a lot of frustration for both the operational and planning teams. No one likes a last-minute change or having to go back and fix something that was previously completed. 

  • Give feedback 

People make mistakes and things do get overlooked. When something is visibly not right or the plan doesn’t align with conditions in the field, don’t sit back and wait for it to fail. Get straight onto it! 

  • Look for opportunities and issues 

Mine planners don’t know it all – they don’t get as much time in the field as they would like to. If you find something that could benefit or hinder the operation, bring it up! They might not have considered it or known about it. It’s satisfying seeing something you suggest get taken on board and executed – even if you aren’t always recognised for it! 

How mining companies should approach the talent pool deficit

The last mining downturn left us with a shortage of mining engineers, and the effects of this are far-reaching. Not only does the industry need to continue to focus on encouraging young people back, but graduate engineers who are at the beginning of their careers are facing a different trajectory of learning while they’re on the job. 

Here’s what we, as mining companies, need to remember as we face this challenge. 

The skills shortage has affected how engineers learn on the job. 

In the past, mining engineers had the benefit of learning gradually once they began working. Typically, in the early part of their careers, their focus would have been on learning how to do the immediate task at hand. Beyond that, it would have taken time – including time in the field rather than behind a computer screen – to understand the various processes and how they interact with each other. 

This broader understanding of the whole system includes getting to grips with the production process and schedule, identifying gaps as well as excess, and knowing what adds value and where compromises can be made. 

Unfortunately, this generation of mining engineers isn’t likely to have the same gradual and organic broadening of knowledge as their older counterparts. Because of dwindling graduation rates during the last downturn and the resulting gap in talent, there will no doubt be opportunities for rapid advancement and relocation for this generation. But, with a shortage of people to do the work, will they have the time in their day to leave their design work to experience the operational side of things in the same way that previous generations have? Probably not. 

Without this broader understanding, problems can arise. As a technically minded person starting out in the mining industry, it’s common to become immersed in the intricate details related to your respective design outcome. While this is inevitable, there is a risk of tunnel vision – focusing only on the aspects of the process that are important to your outcome, rather than on the overarching priority for the operation. Likewise, too much focus on short-term priorities can lead to a long-term bottleneck being overlooked, or other processes falling over, which puts the business at significant financial risk. 

Mining companies need to be proactive. 

The supply of mining engineering graduates remains in deficit. Even the most recent enrolments will not become a part of the mining engineering supply for at least another four years. Added to that, many students are deterred by the cyclical nature of the mining industry and are now opting for dual majors in business, commerce, economics and finance. So, some of these enrolments will now take five years to graduate and may never actually enter the mining industry. 

This talent pool shrinkage poses a real challenge to our industry, and mining companies need to take the long view when responding to it. We need to learn from our mistakes and maintain industry operating discipline. 

This means that, rather than ceasing sponsorships, vacation work experience and graduate employment programs – and thereby further crippling university enrolments – we need to support students and graduates. Even through downturns, the opportunity is there for engineering graduates to continue to be employed and be directly involved in the operational side very early in their careers, so that they can truly understand their trade. 

By at least guaranteeing their employment in an operational setting, we have the power to improve enrolment numbers and attract talented engineers who would otherwise be deterred by poor job prospects and security in our cycling mining industry.

MEC Mining are committed to each new contract: big or small

MEC works with a broad spectrum of companies, from the mid-range and fledglings to some of the mining industry’s biggest names.

This latter group are often staffed with their own experts, equipped with knowledge and experience but they still call on us to help them troubleshoot and problem-solve. This productive collaborative approach is very rewarding – for both parties.

One of the big operators engaged MEC last year, to run an options study on a copper and gold project in Western Australia. The three-month contract included reviewing their block model and running pit optimisation models for multiple scenarios.

Over a three month period, MEC reviewed the client’s current assumptions for applicability, such as Economic Assumptions (exchange and discount rates, ore prices and project CAPEX), Metallurgical and Ore Processing Assumptions, Load & Haul costs, Drill & Blast costs, Grade Control costs and Dilution losses.

24 Pit Shell scenarios were then generated and compared, changing operational constraints like ramp placement and different equipment combinations. One of the scenarios run was a comparison against the client’s parameters, while the other scenarios were options to improve the project’s profitability showing how an ‘outside’ perspective can often broaden options.

It’s always rewarding to work with clients whose knowledge helps us to expand our own, but, regardless of size, we are proud to approach each new contract with the same level of commitment.

Alessandro Dotta

New Appointee Bolsters MEC Mining’s Underground Metals Capability

In keeping with their positive and proactive approach to serving their clients’ needs, MEC Mining recently appointed Alessandro Dotta as the company’s Principal Underground Mining Engineer.

MEC General Manager Christofer Catania, welcomed Dotta’s arrival, particularly at this time, seeing his appointment as a welcome addition to the future planning taking place at the company. Catania explains, “While MEC adapted easily to the recent crisis, we are ready to hit the ground running as everyone returns to normality.” Catania views Dotta’s appointment as an opportunity for the company to emerge stronger in the Underground Metals field. “With Alessandro on board, we will be in an excellent position to offer expertise and support to our clients with underground metals operations and projects.”

Dotta is equally keen. “Working for a company like MEC with a progressive outlook is a gift. Despite the devastating hit of the recent pandemic, mines have been able to stay operational. Still, there are many clients out there looking for support and we’ll be here, ready to help problem-solve as they adapt in a changing landscape.”

Dotta joins MEC with an arsenal of qualifications and plenty of experience having worked on underground metals operations widely in Australia and overseas, most recently as Principal Mining Engineer with GEMS, Australia where he delivered strong results in a wide array of challenging situations.

Not only does Dotta come armed with a raft of experience across commodities, mining methods and software, his expertise in Cross-Functional Team integrations and Optimum Safety Compliance solidify his effectiveness. Among his areas of expertise, Dotta cites Underground Technical Services, Technical Studies, Mining Methods Review and Optimisation, Systems Implementation and Training as his repertoire. Whilst Dotta undoubtedly boasts an outstanding resume, he believes it is his adaptability and ability to communicate that is key to finding successful outcomes for his customers. He explains, “Each operation is unique and successful strategies emerge to solve problems once the crucial collaboration between us begins.” With fluency in three languages, Dotta is well placed to engage fully in those collaborations.

General Manager Catania feels Dotta’s ethos is just one of the reasons, he will make a great addition to the company. “Alessandro’s work ethic and practice strongly reflect the way we work at MEC. His experience and problem-solving approach mean that he will complement our already diverse and strong team.”


Movie Night, Mining and the Abilene Paradox

‘Movie Night, Mining and the Abilene Paradox’, a seemingly unusual title to address a frequent household and workplace problem that can be crippling to organisations and individuals.  

  • “We should watch Home Alone again this Christmas.” I really don’t want to see it again but it is tradition so everyone else will want to…
  •  “We need to increase production by 10% this month.” I won’t say anything because they are management but surely everyone can see that we can’t reduce capital and operating costs whilst increasing production with no strike length…
  • “Let’s take a family trip to Abilene?”…

Figure 1: Abilene Paradox from The Daily Omnivore, 2011

Abilene Paradox

The concept of the Abilene Paradox was developed by Professor Jerry Harvey in 1974 to explain the dysfunction that can be caused by an inability to manage agreement (Harvey, 1974, p. 66). An anecdote is the basis for the name of the paradox, in which Harvey elaborates on an incident that occurs between author, wife and in-laws.

 On an extremely hot afternoon the father-in-law postures a trip to a restaurant in the nearby town of Abilene. The author details his unspoken discontent with the idea but after his wife states that it, “sounds like a great idea”, the author also gives his approval. The author’s mother-in-law doesn’t offer any objections and thus the group takes the 4 hour trip to Abilene.  Through internal dialogue, the author details a horrible experience; however, to be sociable and break the silence upon returning home, the author pronounces, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” This question leads to the realisation that the mother-in-law didn’t enjoy the trip and never wanted to go on the trip, but felt pressured by the other group members to go. The author and wife then highlight their bewilderment, as they also didn’t want to go but didn’t want to, ‘rock the boat’.  Finally, the father-in-law declares that he would have much rather of stayed in town and only offered the idea because he thought everyone was bored. After these revelations, the author questions why, when no one actually wanted to go, they had made a trip to Abilene and basically achieved the opposite of what each individual wanted to do (Harvey, 1974, pp. 63-66).

Harvey follows this anecdote with a more detailed explanation of the paradox, in relation to organisations and how they frequently undertake activities in contradiction to what they are hoping to achieve and therefore nullify the original objectives. (1974, p.66) Essentially highlighting that the inability to manage agreement is a major source of organisation dysfunction.                               


You may be asking how can one spot the Abilene complex running rampant in their organisation? Do you turn up to the same meeting every week, run through the same Agenda, develop no innovative ideas and feel that nothing has been accomplished? Do you often leave this meeting with a monotonous internal dialogue running through your head suggesting that everyone else in your team is insane? Alternatively, the literal studies suggest that the six key symptoms to look out for include (Harvey, 1974, pp. 66-67):

  1. Individuals in the organisation agree privately as to the nature of the situation/problem.
  2. Individuals in the organisation agree privately as to the required steps to cope with the situation/problem.
  3. Individuals fail to communicate their desires/beliefs to one another within the organisation. They convey the opposite desire/belief and lead one another into misperceiving the shared reality.
  4. The misperceived reality causes the organisation to make a shared decision to take actions contradictive to what they are trying to achieve. The results of the actions are therefore counterproductive to the organisation’s objectives.
  5. The counterproductive actions result in frustration, anger, irritation and dissatisfaction in the members of the organisation and confrontational subgroups within the organisation are formed.
  6. Lastly, if the individuals do not deal with this inability to manage agreement, then the cycle repeats itself with greater potency.


The treatment actions for the paradox are in relation to the underlying psychological themes that exist in organisations and their internal bureaucracies, including: Action Anxiety, Negative Fantasies, Real Risk, Separation Anxiety, and the Psychological Reversal of Risk and Certainty. Understanding the logic that forms the basis of an intrinsically illogical concept allows coping/treatment mechanisms to be established (Harvey, 1974, p. 70).

As the paradox is caused by group collusion, Harvey established that the key treatment action requires an individual to confront the issue in a group setting (1974, p. 78). Every person deals with confrontation in a different way. A solution to the paradoxical problem after the initial confrontation generally occurs quickly, however, convincing an individual to confront the issue can be time-consuming. If walking into a meeting and giving everyone a piece of your mind doesn’t exactly get you motor going, there is always the option of the ‘Genuine Inquirer’. “Who, what, when, where and how”. The Genuine Inquirer uses authenticity and understanding to empower and guide the team to a group conversation and a deeper awareness of the issues being examined.


Harvey, Novicevic, Buckley and Halbesleven suggest that it is an especially difficult process to alter an organisation’s culture, however, if the Abilene Paradox is in existence then it must be systematically challenged (2004, p. 221). This issue is having a severe effect on so many facets of our lives and needs to be a topic that individuals are educated about. Organisations can only benefit from employees becoming aware of the symptoms and treatment actions for the paradox. The phrase, ‘herd behaviour’, can be used to describe the Abilene paradox, as individuals make decisions that ignore their own preferences because of unwritten rules and traditions (McAvoy, J. & Butler, T. 2007, p. 556). However, if the herd is unable to manage agreement on the best course of action then organisations and individuals will suffer.

Are you going to watch Home Alone again this year and sit through more meetings with unspecific agendas and unrealistic outcomes? Try something different and ‘agree’ that a new direction is required.

Written by MEC Mining‘s Senior Mining Engineer & Team Leader Luke Rosengren

1.0        REFERENCES

Harvey, J. B. (1974). The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement. Organizational Dynamics, 3(1), 63-80. Retrieved from

Harvey, M., Novicevic, M., Buckley, R. and Halbesleven, J. (2004).  The Abilene Paradox After Thirty Years: A Global Perspective. Organizational Dynamics, 33(2), 215-226. Retrieved from

McAvoy, J. and Butler, T. (2007). The impact of the Abilene Paradox on double-loop learning in an agile team. Information and Software Technology. 49, 552–563. Retrieved from

The Daily Omnivore. (2011). The Abilene Paradox [Image]. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

Languages at MEC Mining

As a global mining consultancy, the MEC Mining team encompasses incredible cultural diversity as many of our employees and their families have direct links to over twenty different countries across the globe. As we are based in Australia, with offices in Brisbane and Perth, our common language is English. With such great cultural diversity, many of our consultants are bilingual (to different degrees), with exposure to 23 different languages.

As we work with clients from across the globe, having employees with extra language skills helps us to convey solutions when often there isn’t a direct translation. This means that we can specialise in mine planning, onsite management and technical services solutions for the international mining industry. And of course, it makes for an interesting working environment, with many different cultural perspectives and experiences!

Written by James Cooney, Principal Advisor and Manager of MEC Advisory