All posts by Daniel Gleeson

ENAEX and Sasol sign explosives and rock fragmentation JV to service southern Africa

ENAEX, a subsidiary of the Sigdo Koppers Group, says it has reached an agreement with integrated energy and chemical company, Sasol, to become a strategic partner of its explosives and rock fragmentation division.

The agreement, signed this week after a negotiation process initiated last July, considers ENAEX to take part in the business as the controlling partner of this firm, it said. This would be formed by spinning off certain assets and associated activities within the current explosives value chain of the Base Chemicals business of Sasol South Africa.

The new joint venture company will include the associated business activities in both South Africa and the rest of the countries in Southern Africa, with the explosives division having over 1,000 employees, producing more than 350,000 t/y of explosives and generating around $250 million of revenue annually, ENAEX says.

Sasol was founded in 1950 and is today a participant in the explosives industry in South Africa, with a presence also in Namibia and Lesotho.

Juan Andrés Errázuriz, ENAEX CEO, said: “Having successfully completed the process to become a strategic partner of Sasol is a very relevant milestone for Enaex. By this, we have taken a big step in consolidating our company in international markets and expanding the value offer for our customers.”

Errázuriz said, because of its size, Africa was currently the third largest explosive market in the world, with significant growth potential.

“Towards its progress, we can contribute with the extensive knowledge, technology and innovation that we have been developing in the rock fragmentation industry for mining,” he said.

This joint venture is part of the strategic plan of ENAEX to continue strengthening its international presence in the most important mining regions of the world and is subject to any necessary approvals from public authorities, it said.

Glencore Tech draws McArthur River parallels at Ozernoye polymetallic project

Glencore Technology says it and Hatch are helping the Ozernoye project in Buryatia, Russia, come up with a process flowsheet suited to the complex composition of ore at the polymetallic asset.
The mining and processing operation would produce zinc and lead concentrates.

Ozernoye’s Grigory Koldunov said the company is currently preparing the area for the Ozernoye polymetallic mine and concentrator in the Yeravninsky region, 60 km away from the Sosnovo-Ozerskoye regional centre.

“We’ll start mining works and stripping waste by November. Expected stripping volume by the end of the year will exceed 350 000 m3 of waste,” Koldunov said. In November, the company will begin the construction of temporary roads and a tailings storage facility.

Glencore Technology’s Adam Price said the ore mineralogy at the site was remarkably similar to Glencore’s McArthur River zinc-lead-silver mine, which originally brought about the need to create the IsaMill ultrafine grinding technology (an example pictured) – an innovation that turns 25 this year.

“Ozernoye’s mineralogy is complex, and it’s going to need the right flowsheet to improve the recovery and concentrate quality and therefore ensure the economic viability of the project,” Price said. The fine-grained lead-zinc ore at the Australia operation made for an obvious benchmark, he said.

This year, Ozernoye has been embarking on mining, capital works and construction of infrastructure facilities. Major construction of the plant’s facilities is planned for 2020-2022 and the company plans to reach design capacity of 8 Mt/y in 2024.

In September, Glencore Technology worked with Hatch, AMC and Ozernoye to finish a geotechnical drilling program, test work and analysis. The camp was recommissioned and the company began clearing the site for construction. Capital mine development and drill and blast works have started to provide contractors with structural materials and to begin stripping, according to Glencore Technology.

“But the main challenge with the Ozernoye deposit is the complex composition of the ore,” Glencore Technology said. “The task of the current geotechnical and test work program is to design and develop the flowsheet.”

Glencore’s McArthur River Mine in northern Australia contains a complex ore that remained uneconomical until the IsaMill was created to produce a steep particle size distribution without needing internal screens or closed circuit cyclones, according to Glencore Technology. The horizontal plug-flow design prevented short circuiting and provided for a reliable and easy to operate technology.

The original 1994 IsaMills are still operating at McArthur River Mine, but the IsaMill technology has been refined to occupy a small footprint, very high availability and significant energy efficiency, Glencore Technology says.

Golden Predator, EnviroLeach hit on the right gold extraction and recovery formula

Golden Predator Mining says tests have successfully confirmed that EnviroLeach Technologies’ environmentally friendly technology can effectively extract and recover more than 95% of the gold from sulphide concentrates produced at the 3 Aces gold project, in the Yukon of Canada.

The concentrate is produced using Golden Predator’s Secondary Recovery Unit (SRU™).

With this environmentally friendly technology confirmed in successive tests both in the EnviroLeach facility and at the Golden Predator bulk sample processing plant (pictured), the companies have initiated a larger material test run to process up to 5 t of gold-bearing sulphide concentrates to be completed onsite at Golden Predator’s plant in the Yukon, they said.

This testing follows an earlier agreement between the two companies to use EnviroLeach’s proprietary cyanide-free hydrometallurgical technology to extract gold from gravity concentrate produced at 3 Aces.

As part of this testing, a sample of gold-bearing sulphide concentrate recovered in 2018 was shipped from Golden Predator’s plant to the EnviroLeach facility in Surrey, British Columbia, in August of 2019.

Some 55.9 kg of the material was processed using EnviroLeach solution and 96.5% of contained gold was leached in six hours; and gold in solution was extracted by electrowinning and poured into a 91.3 g bar.

A sample of gold-bearing sulphide concentrate recovered in 2019 was also sent to and processed by EnviroLeach at the facility, with 30.4 kg of the material processed using EnviroLeach solution with 96.7% gold recovery in 29 hours; and gold in solution extracted by electrowinning in four hours and poured into a 77.8 g bar.

Following completion of test work in the EnviroLeach facility in Surrey, on-site testing was initiated to leach material at the plant during the week of September 23, 2019. This saw 121 kg of gold-bearing sulphide concentrates produced during 2019 processed in 21 hours with a 96.2% gold recovery; and electrowinning completed in 14 hours, with 255 g of gold recovered from the electrowinning cell and poured into a bar.

Janet Lee-Sheriff, Chief Executive Officer of Golden Predator, said: “Working with EnviroLeach provides us a unique opportunity to lead the way for safe and responsible new cyanide-free extraction methods in processing gold bearing concentrates which has immediate value on our 3 Aces project as well opening up other commercial opportunities.”

The Golden Predator-EnviroLeach working relationship has enabled the companies to successfully demonstrate the first “in the field” recovery of gold from gold-bearing sulphide concentrates, using EnviroLeach’s environmentally friendly formula and Golden Predator’s SRU processing equipment, according to the companies.

WestStar ‘accelerates’ towards increased revenues with Alltype Engineering purchase

WestStar Industrial says it has executed a share sale agreement to acquire 100% of Alltype Engineering Pty Ltd, effectively diversifying and expanding its capability to provide end-to-end project solutions.

The company has agreed to pay around A$5.9 million ($4.04 million) upfront, along with a deferred consideration subject to Alltype achieving its 2020 financial year targets, WestStar said.

Alltype will provide WestStar an integrated offering through workshop fabrication, site installation, construction and maintenance services to a broad range of industries, in both the private and public sectors, it said.

Established in 1985 and with a current workforce of around 120 personnel, Alltype is a leading provider of workshop fabrication, site installation, construction and maintenance services to the oil & gas, water, power generation, infrastructure, mining, resources, utility, petrochemical and defence industries, in both the private and public sectors across Australia.

Its customers include BHP and Rio Tinto, among others, and it has a 7,000 m² fully-equipped workshop for steel fabrication.

WestStar Group CEO, Robert Spadanuda, said the acquisition broadens WestStar’s horizons and will “significantly accelerate” it towards increased revenues and earnings.

“With the addition of Alltype, continued growth in SIMPEC and continued execution of our growth strategy, we look forward to continuing to build a strong, diversified, engineering company,” he said.

Suncor to move towards cloud-based computing with Microsoft Azure

Suncor has announced a multi-year strategic alliance with Microsoft Canada as a part of the company’s effort to further accelerate its digital transformation journey.

The oil sands miner has selected Microsoft as its “strategic cloud provider”, tapping into the full range of Microsoft’s cloud solutions to empower a connected and collaborative workforce, upgrade data centres, and increase analytics capabilities, it said.

Suncor will also collaborate with Microsoft on innovation projects, drawing on expertise and opportunities from both organisations.

Mark Little, Suncor President and CEO, said: “We’re excited to be partnering with Microsoft because they’re a global leader in the digital technology space, and they will bring value and insights into global innovation best practices.

“This is an example of how we are driving to improve our business in ways that were not possible before – to make our people safer, increase reliability and productivity, reduce costs and improve sustainability.”

In this multi-year strategic alliance, Suncor will take advantage of Microsoft’s full range of cloud solutions and will move towards cloud-based computing with Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud platform. The move to Azure is expected to enable the rapid deployment of new technologies to improve safety and productivity through artificial intelligence, machine learning, enhanced automation, and industrial internet of things and visualisation, according to Suncor.

“Although we are an industry leader in many respects, we still have much to learn in the digital space, which is why we’re working with a number of organisations including Microsoft to challenge us,” Little said. “Similar to how we partner with and learn from innovators across our physical value chain, we’re choosing to partner with the experts in digital innovation.”

The company said: “Collaborating on innovation will include Microsoft resources embedded at the core of innovation teams, working together to explore a wide range of business capabilities. Additionally, value will come from accessing the Microsoft innovation ecosystem and real-world lessons from a curated community of global peers.”

Kevin Peesker, President of Microsoft Canada, said Suncor was embarking on a journey to transform the energy industry, and his company could help Suncor achieve its goals.

“They are creating new business value for their customers, empowering and upskilling their workforce, and innovating for a sustainable future,” he said. “The world’s leading companies run on our cloud, and we look forward to helping Suncor accelerate their digital transformation with Azure, Dynamics 365, Surface and Microsoft 365.”

Through this strategic alliance with Microsoft, Suncor expects to better improve the employee and customer experiences across its business, from front line workers in industrial settings, to gas station attendants at Petro-Canada gas and EV stations, to office workers across Suncor, it said. Digital technologies will be a means to draw superior insights from data and will open new ways to drive improved economic, social and environmental performance.

Suncor’s oil sands mining projects, located in the Athabasca region of Canada, are projected to produce a reliable, long-term energy supply while leveraging technology to minimise environmental and social impacts of resource development, it says. Located near Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, the assets include the Millennium and North Steepbank sites as well as the Suncor-operated Fort Hills mine. Suncor also has a 58.74% interest in the Syncrude joint venture and a 100% interest in the Voyageur South mining lease. Suncor holds a 36.75% interest in a joint venture partnership with Total to develop the Joslyn oil sands mining project.

BMA to automate haulage operations at Goonyella Riverside coal mine

BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) says it will implement autonomous haulage at its Goonyella Riverside coal mine, in central Queensland, next year.

BMA Asset President, James Palmer, said haul trucks would be retrofitted with autonomous vehicle technology, allowing the completion of an extensive study and engagement with the workforce, community and all levels of government.

“Autonomous haulage will help us improve safety and productivity performance, and it is our people who will be at the centre of making this change a success,” he said.

“While the first autonomous vehicles will not operate at the site until 2020, and full roll-out will take around two years, we want to give people in our workforce and the community as much notice as possible of this change,” Palmer said.

The introduction of autonomous haulage at Goonyella Riverside will involve the staged conversion to an autonomous fleet of up to 86 Komatsu trucks over the next two years. It will build on the mine’s strong production record by increasing truck hours and delivering more consistent cycle times, according to BMA. Haulage automation is also expected to improve safety by reducing risk exposure and decreasing significant events.

There will be no forced employee redundancies at Goonyella Riverside as a result of this decision with respect to autonomous haulage, according to BMA. With recent recruitment of new permanent positions in BHP Operations Services and creation of new roles through autonomous haulage, overall permanent job numbers across BMA operations will increase, the company said.

Palmer said BMA’s long term commitment to the region is underpinned by a responsibility to provide training opportunities for local workers to ensure they have access to the skills and capabilities to succeed in the future of mining.

To help prepare for Goonyella Riverside’s autonomous future, it is estimated over 40,000 hours of training will be delivered, ranging from general awareness to extensive training for those operating equipment, interacting with the autonomous haul trucks, or taking on new roles.

As BMA’s first site to implement autonomous haulage, Palmer said BMA had been talking to its workforce and the local community about the potential for increased automation of mining operations for several months leading up to today’s announcement.

“We understand that automation represents a significant change. It also offers a unique opportunity for people to gain new, highly valued skills,” he said.

No further decisions have been made to implement autonomous haulage at any other site in BMA’s Queensland Coal division, with the company saying any future decisions to implement autonomous haulage will be made on a site-by-site basis.

The first autonomous trucks are expected to be operational in the first half of 2020.

Minas-Rio could feel the effects of coarse particle flotation tech, Anglo says

The coarse particle flotation technology being explored as part of Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™ platform is gaining traction after the company announced it was to carry out a prefeasibility study on applying it at the Minas-Rio iron ore mine, in Brazil.

The announcement, made during a “Bulks Seminar & Site Visit” in Brisbane, Australia, comes shortly after DRA Global confirmed it had been awarded a feasibility study contract to build a coarse particle recovery plant at Anglo’s Quellaveco copper project, currently in construction in the Moquegua region of Peru.

During the seminar, Anglo said the application of coarse particle flotation technology could see 20% of feed rejected as silica sand, improving the product quality and consistency at Minas-Rio. It also said it could potentially provide a circa-$500 million net present value uplift at the operation, on top of a 15% water saving and 20-30% mill energy reduction.

The coarse particle flotation technology is expected to play a key role in the company’s aim to ultimately eliminate tailings dams, according to Anglo American Technical Director, Tony O’Neill.

It should allow the company to coarsen grind size while maintaining recoveries – thereby reducing the energy required to grind ore, as well as reducing water intensity by more than 20%. When combined with dry-disposal technology, the company is targeting a reduction in water intensity of more than 50%.

The company previously said it was set for trials of the technology at its Amplats operations in 2020.

The flowsheet at Minas-Rio currently includes crushing, screening, milling, desliming, grinding and flotation, with 38% Fe grade ore upgraded to a 67% Fe pellet feed product.

Western Australia approves remote and autonomous operations training course

The first formal qualifications in remote and autonomous operations has been approved by regulators in Western Australia, Rio Tinto says.

This means current and future workers in the resources industry will be able to gain accreditation in remote operations for the first time. This follows a collaboration between Rio, the Western Australia Government and South Metropolitan TAFE.

A Certificate IV in Autonomous Control and Remote Operations has now been approved by the Training Accreditation Council, in Western Australia, providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to work at facilities such as Rio Tinto’s Remote Operations Centre in Perth (pictured), Rio said.

“The course is the highest-level accreditation approved to date in a partnership struck between Rio Tinto, the Western Australia Government and South Metropolitan TAFE in 2017,” the miner said. “It follows accreditation earlier this year of a Certificate II in Autonomous Workplace Operations and a micro-credential course for trade-qualified, apprentices and technicians.

About 30 Rio Tinto employees will take part in the initial pilot of the Certificate IV course, which will be delivered by South Metropolitan TAFE in 2020. The course work combines work integrated learning, giving participants the opportunity to apply the new learning and knowledge to work related scenarios in the Control Centre. Pending successful completion of the pilot, the first Certificate IV course may start in 2021.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Chris Salisbury, said: “The key to any technology is our people and that’s why training and development is so important. These qualifications will provide employees, both current and future, with the skills and training needed to thrive in our evolving industry.

“These courses give Western Australian workers the opportunity to gain modern, portable qualifications, with skills that can be used right across the resources industry.”

Rio Tinto has committed A$2 million ($1.37 million) to the development of these qualifications, according to Salisbury.

The formal qualifications “come at a critical time for the industry as we look to ensure vocational education and training programs keep pace with the rapid changes brought about by technology and innovation”, he added.

Chair of the WA Resource Industry Collaboration, Jim Walker, said: “Western Australia continues to lead the world in the development and deployment of autonomous technologies in our resources sector, with these developments creating the need for new skills and pathways from education to employment.

“The accreditation of Australia’s first nationally recognised courses in automation is significant in that it will help ensure local workers are equipped with the skills necessary for these jobs, now and into the future.”

The Resource Industry Collaboration was launched by Western Australia’s Education and Training Minister, Sue Ellery, in 2018 and includes Rio Tinto, South Metropolitan TAFE, BHP, Roy Hill, Fortescue Metals Group, Santos, Komatsu, South32, Yara, Department of Training and Workforce Development, Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science & Innovation, University of Western Australia, Scitech and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy.

Snow Lake, DRA and Steinert investigate ore sorting at lithium project

Snow Lake Resources is the latest company to eye up ore sorting to reduce costs and increase productivity, with the exploration company asking DRA Global to come up with an effective strategy for its Thompson Brothers lithium project, in Manitoba, Canada.

Brent Hilscher of DRA will be in charge of this ore sorting project, examining the best laser or X-ray method to help separate out waste material from the spodumene pegmatite at Thompson Brothers, thereby increasing the overall grade of the final product at a low cost per tonne.

Snow Lake has collected 120 scoping samples from the company’s drill core library as part of this test work, with these samples to be sent to Steinert in Kentucky, USA, for analysis.

The company also created four bench test “bulk samples” from the existing core library, which will be used as trial material at Steinert on a full-scale ore-sorting machine once DRA Global concludes the appropriate algorithm for sorting, it said.

As part of the ore-sorting strategy, the company says it will need a higher degree of understanding of the mineral assemblage of the spodumene pegmatites at its project.

The company has, so far, collected nine core samples from the company’s core library and left them with the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) in Saskatoon, Canada. These samples will go through QEM-SCAN petrography analysis at SRC, providing DRA with a report on the mineral assemblage of the pegmatite.

From the nine samples, the company will select three samples for microprobe analysis of the various mineral phase.

Snow Lake said: “These studies will give the company an understanding of the mineral chemistry of the feldspar phases. This will help support the X-ray sorting works, as there may be a chemical element that the X-ray sorter can focus on to eliminate the feldspars from the spodumene pegmatite feed.”

As part of a bulk sample program for 2020, the company will also provide samples to SRC to conduct acid–base accounting testing to help assess the acid-producing and acid-neutralising potential of rocks prior to large-scale excavations at the project.

Snow Lake is expecting to publish a maiden indicated resource on the Thompson Brothers project in the near term, given that the company, its consultants and external laboratories have all the data in hand for the study.

Scania pictures the future of mine site haulage with AXL

In September, Scania joined Komatsu in announcing it had come up with a cabless automated haulage concept for mines and construction sites that, it said, was a significant step towards smart transport systems of the future.

Having the Scania modular system at the heart of the design, the first live demo of Scania AXL took place at TRATON GROUP’s Innovation Day on October 2, at Scania’s demo centre in Södertälje, Sweden.

Following this, IM spoke with Karin Hallstan, Head of Corporate Communications and PR at Scania, to find out a little more about the concept machine.

IM: Why have you decided to launch the AXL now? Why do you think the mining and construction markets are ready for such an innovation?

KH: Autonomous transport solutions, in different levels of technological sophistication, are already well established within the mining industry. Scania already has autonomous trucks in a customer operation (Rio Tinto at the Dampier salt operation in Western Australia).

Also, mines are like closed industrial areas and have trained professionals in command of operations meaning they are well suited for automation. Autonomous vehicles can also make mining operations safer for people employed within the sector.

The reveal of Scania AXL as a concept had to do with Scania having a good opportunity to showcase this in relation to other news we also have planned.

IM: The success of autonomous equipment on mine sites – in terms of boosting productivity, lowering costs, increasing utilisation, etc – has often been predicated on having robust network communications to relay information from the equipment. How will Scania ensure all its customers leverage the technology to its fullest without insisting on 4G/5G/LTE, etc networks.

KH: A certain communications infrastructure will need to be in place to ensure the onboard communications equipment work. Which type and with which capacity may vary.

IM: What payload is the initial concept vehicle? What range of payloads do you expect to cater for in the mining/construction sector?

KH: Scania AXL is based on a 8×4 donor vehicle with a 410 hp diesel engine (G410B8x4NA) running on biofuel HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil). However, since it is based on Scania’s modular approach, it can be equipped with any engine and wheel configuration available in the Scania modular system. The Scania AXL can load up to 40 tons using existing heavy-duty components.

IM: Based on this, what type of mining operations are you aiming to sell into (coal, iron ore, copper, etc)?

KH: It is important to note that this is a concept which we are building and piloting to primarily learn from in terms of the autonomous capabilities and removing the cab from a truck, rather than something with a set plan to commercialise. We believe that we will start in open-pit mines in this learning process. That said, Scania AXL is specifically constructed with a low tipper truck body that is suitable for underground tunnels with as little as 2.8 m headroom. Above ground, the truck body could be bigger.

IM: You mentioned that this is the first time the company has built a truck that has many new components and technologies – can you expand on what these are and what results you expect to achieve by incorporating them in the AXL design?

KH: The fact that there is no safety driver as backup has led to several innovations with regards to system integration and safety related processes and technical solutions. For example, the original electronic braking system has a ‘safe mode’ that hands control back to the (manual) driver which, in this case, doesn’t exist. Situations like these must be handled with redundancy.

IM: How does the automation system you have developed for the AXL differ to other solutions on the market? 

KH: We will comment on our own solutions, not necessarily on others’. What we can say about the automation system for Scania AXL is that the vehicle creates its own picture of its environment and performs its task based on its own view of whether the path/road is drivable and what the assignment is. It is not a solution for automated guidance by GPS-signals or where vehicles follow a loop in the ground.

IM: LiDAR appears to be a big part of the company’s design for the AXL. Has this LiDAR technology been transferred from another vehicle in the Scania range? Or, is it from another sector?

KH: Most of the sensors (radar, LiDAR, antennas and cameras) are, in essence, early prototypes at this stage and are not available in the existing Scania range.

IM: Where and when do you expect to trial the AXL first? What do you anticipate this trial involving (testing out the full capabilities, trialing the self-driving, loading the machine, etc)?

KH: We have trialled it in our own test facilities. If, and when, we work with a customer in a location outside our test environment, we will disclose this broadly publicly.

IM: When could the AXL be available commercially and, going back to a previous question, what payload class is this likely to be in?

KH: This is a concept and a pilot, so we are not commenting on commercial availability.