Portable winch and data logger for collecting borehole data

Geotechnical Engineers at First Quantum Panama using the portable MXB winch and Scout data logger

Mount Sopris Instruments geophysicist Lia Martinez recently visited our customer First Quantum Copper Panama, also known as Cobre Panama, for a training. First Quantum Panama is one of the largest copper deposits being developed worldwide within the past decade. The geotechnical greenfield group had recently purchased a set of Optical and Acoustic Televiewers.

The First Quantum website gives a great overview of the mine site and reserves as they ramp up their production:

Cobre Panama is our newest operation, located in Colon Province, 120km west of Panama City.


With 3.1 billion tonnes of proven and probable reserves, Cobre Panama is the only major greenfields copper project as well as one of the largest new copper mines opened globally in the past decade. Located in Colon Province, 120km west of Panama City, our production complex includes two open pits, a processing plant, two 150 megawatt power stations and a port.

Commercial production started in 2019 and at full current capacity, the plant will process 85Mtpa of ore to produce more than 320,000 tonnes of copper per year along with gold, silver and molybdenum.

Cobre Panama will employ about 3,500 people, primarily Panamanians, and utilize state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure to extract copper with world-class efficiency.

Following the acquisition of Inmet Mining in 2013, First Quantum assumed an 80 per cent equity interest in Minera Panamá, S.A. (“MPSA”), the Panamanian company that holds the Cobre Panama concession.

In November 2017, First Quantum increased its ownership interest in MPSA to 90 per cent.

Mining and Processing

Cobre Panama comprises a series of copper porphyry deposits The main deposits are Balboa, Botija, Colina and Valle Grande. There are also a number of smaller mineralised zones; the most significant being Brazo and Botija Abajo. The operation has a 34-year mine life.

Mining is open-pit, using a fleet of ultraclass electric shovels and ultraclass haul trucks.


Cobre Panama’s eighth and final mill came on line in mid-December 2019. Production ramp-up and reliability can now progress through the first half of 2020 according to plan, and throughput rates are expected to reach steady state consistency by the second half of 2020.

For 2020, contained copper production is estimated between 285,000 and 310,000 tonnes and gold production between 120,000 and 130,000 ounces.

View of First Quantum Panama mine site for well logging

View of field logging site, recently drilled

The training was planned to last a total of 3 days and it commenced in the weeks following the quick borehole logging equipment delivery. It included the following subjects:

  • Review of equipment configuration, field logging using LoggerSuite software
  • Tool troubleshooting and maintenance
  • Data processing using WellCAD software including the Image & Structure Interpretation (ISI) module for fracture and structure picking.

View of borehole logging field logging at Minera Panama

First Quantum purchased the following equipment from Mount Sopris Instruments/ALT:

Televiewer probes at mine site Panama

Optical and Acoustic televiewer cases onsite in Panama

Once onsite, the first day went mostly as planned to review the equipment, become comfortable configuring it for field use, and learning how to do onsite troubleshooting with a multimeter. The tropical climate is such that while onsite, it would rain on and off the entire day, requiring umbrellas, canopies, and rain gear. The MXB winch had also accidentally been ordered with 230VAC electrical power, but luckily it was an easy switch within the winch motor control box to change the power input to 120VAC.

Inserting optical televiewer into borehole with stickup at mining siteOptical televiewer data in real time on LoggerSuite

The entire second day of training was spent onsite logging the televiewers. At first, it seemed like there was an obstruction or collapse in the borehole at about 20 m depth, but they were able to push past the obstruction and continue. At this time, First Quantum decided to make a future purchase of a Dummy probe, QL40-AWT (8 kg-17.6 lbs) which can be used independently to test the borehole before using a televiewer (an avoid damaging the more expensive televiewer probe) or inline with the televiewers to add weight for inclined boreholes.

They logged to a total depth of 313 meters (1027 ft) in an NQ borehole without magnetic interference. While the results of the OBI Optical televiewer were impressive in the areas above water level, the clarity of the image decreased significantly below water level, where the acoustic image data became more useful.

Field team over borehole tripod, cleaning wireline

Geotech Field team over borehole tripod, helping to clean wireline

The last day of training consisted of a full day of Image & Structure Interpretation training within the WellCAD software. The day began with an overview of WellCAD Basic including log editing, template and header creation, importing and exporting different data types, and filtering/interpolation of well and mud log data types.

From there, they quickly moved onto taking an image data set from raw field data through the filtering and analysis processes to output a completed professional report including the necessary structural and lithological picks. The process varies for optical and acoustic televiewers. But the steps are much faster and more human error-proof using the ISI Workspace in contrast to the Image module available in older versions of WellCAD 4.4 and before.

Difficult location for borehole logging- First Quantum Panama

Route to Exploration Boreholes, First Quantum Panama

After the training was completed, the First Quantum Geotechnical group felt much more secure. They are ready to begin logging their boreholes as the development of this world-class copper mine site continues. Mount Sopris will continue to be in contact with them for any ongoing technical support they may have in the coming months and years to ensure they are successful.

View of First Quantum Panama trucks

Onsite at the Cobre Panama mine while in development


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