Monitoring Vibrations at the Revival of Viscaria Copper Mine

The Viscaria copper mine, just outside Kiruna in northern Sweden is getting a second chance at life. The consulting engineers, Vibroakustik, is responsible for setting up sensors to monitor vibrations in the area. Before the project enters its next phase, Vibroakustik is mapping vibration levels at several locations in the area.

The copper mine in Viscaria ceased operations in 1996-1997 due to a decreasing copper price. 20 years later, Copperstone Resources has begun work on restarting the mine as there are still large copper deposits in the area. The mine is expected to be back in operation in 2025. Copperstone Resources has applied for permission to mine copper by the ton instead of over time, which means there is currently no end time for the project. Vibroakustik has been selected to carry out vibration monitoring in the area before, during, and after the mine opens. Measurement consultant John Sundman, from Vibroakustik, is responsible for measuring and mapping vibration levels.

John Sundman, Vibroakustik

– We currently have nine INFRA C20 vibration monitors from Sigicom deployed in the area. We mainly measure on wind turbines, but there’s also monitors on a dam near the mine, under a railway bridge, and at the Mattarahkka Northern Light hotel, states John Sundman.

The INFRA C20 is a wireless vibration monitor that measures vibrations in a vertical direction according to Sweden’s and other Nordic countries’ requirements and standards. The monitor is a compact device with a built-in data logger that delivers measurement data directly to INFRA Net, Sigicom’s web-based project management tool. Thanks to the ease of use, rugged design, and long battery life that extends up to seven months, Vibroakustisk has an inventory consisting of more than 260 INFRA C20s.

In the fall of 2022, John Sundman, and his colleagues from Vibroakustik, the company’s founder Tony Larsson and measuring consultant Erik Skott, were on their way up the country to climb Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise. On the way up the country, they stopped at the measuring points and changed the batteries on the vibration meters. The measurements had then been running since April.

There are long distances in the north, so long battery life is a huge advantage. Kiruna is almost 400 kilometers from Luleå, where Vibroakustik is based. Going there just to change the batteries would be an all-day project, says John Sundman.

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Before the mining operations can start, a great deal of preparatory work is required and new infrastructure must be built. Some things are already in place because of the mine’s previous activity, but a lot of work is needed to repair, and bring the existing infrastructure in line with modern requirements. Vibroakustik began the first measurements in 2022 to produce the baseline and map out the current vibration levels. These baseline levels are critically important to determine the impact the work may have on the environment.

– We are currently carrying out measurements to be able to fulfill the requirements that are placed on us. The environmental permit that Copperstone has applied for includes producing a zero value for vibrations, says John Sundman.

Continued, autonomous monitoring work will be performed to ensure no target values are exceeded. For Vibroakustik, their work will intensify as construction activities in the mining area begin. When piling, excavating, compacting, and blasting, it is necessary to measure vibrations to ensure that nearby buildings and other structures do not suffer any damage.

In the future, there may also be a need for noise meters, air shock wave meters, and triaxial vibration meters. Those instruments are mainly used in underground facilities, and Copperstone has applied to operate underground mines and open pits.

– It’s fun to be a part of the mining industry. It plays a significant role in how social development looks right now in northern Sweden. It’s a big change and means a lot to those living up there, says John Sundman.

The Viscaria mine is one of several projects that will bring thousands of new jobs Kiruna and nearby areas, leading to the challenge of attracting people to move and settle in northern Sweden.

One of the largest copper mines in Northern Europe
100 000 tons of copper are produced yearly in Sweden. The largest copper-producing mine in Northern Europe is the Aitik mine in Sweden, which produces 90,000 tons of copper per year. With its expected annual output of 30,000 tons of copper, Viscaria will become the second-largest producer in Sweden and have a significant role in the European market.

Sweden, with its strict environmental requirements and outstanding research, is a world leader in sustainably produced metal. To resume operations at the Viscaria mine, Copperstone Resources made the most expensive environmental permit application in modern times.

The demand for locally and responsibly produced copper is expected to increase in line with continued electrification the society. Within the industry, major investments are underway for battery production and fossil-free metals – factors that favor Viscaria’s role in the market.

Two of the INFRA C20 vibration meters used in this project

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