Solving the puzzle
Demanding production targets and complex conditions mean Agnico Eagle’s underground operations manager Fernando Viezcas faces a long list of daily challenges at the Pinos Altos gold mine in northern Mexico. With high-performance rock tools and three support engineers permanently on site, Sandvik helps provide peace of mind.
What is your role at Pinos Altos?
Today I am responsible for the underground operation at Pinos Altos, including the coordination of production, development and construction based on safety standards. But my career with Agnico Eagle started back in 2007.
I worked as a member of the initial planning team, and once production was underway, I became a supervisor, then a mine captain, then a superintendent. The opportunities I’ve had at Agnico have been fantastic and I’m very grateful for their ongoing trust in me.
What are your biggest challenges?
Without doubt, this is the most challenging year of my career to date. That’s because the production target is 40 percent higher than the year before. It’s a challenge we are all determined to meet while not compromising safety for the workers.
To achieve our goals, we have had to invest in more equipment and more human resources, but also more infrastructure. As we expand the underground operation, we need more ventilation, more space for the backfill operation, everything we do has been raised. It’s one big logistical jigsaw puzzle.
How does the location impact service?
Pinos Altos is located in Chihuahua state almost 3,000 metres above sea level. The rock here is very hard and very fractured, which puts a strain on the rock tools in an environment where we need constant performance.
The closest international airport is five hours’ drive away, so we aim to have everything we need – supplies, people, spare parts – as close as possible to the mine to ensure we don’t face interruption.
How does Sandvik help you meet those challenges?
For a long time now we have received consistent support from Sandvik, so I’ve not needed to spend any time looking for an alternative. All our underground drills right now are supplied by Sandvik because they are reliable and flexible enough to deal with our tough conditions.
Fernando Alonso Viezcas Luevano
Occupation: Underground operations manager
Born: Chihuahua, Mexico
Lives now: Camargo, Chihuahua, Mexico
Family: Married. Three children, all boys
Hobbies: Walking in the countryside of Chihuahua
How do you assess your relationship with Sandvik?
We have full technical support available from three Sandvik technicians who are based here at the mine 365 days a year. This is an essential element of our agreement. What makes the difference is that they are a part of the team. They maintain and support the Sandvik equipment, but in addition offer proactive advice and help our own technicians to develop their skills