All posts by Daniel Gleeson

Epiroc advances face drilling automation with Boomer E10, E20 rigs

Epiroc says its new Boomer E10 and E20 mark another breakthrough for automated face drilling rigs, offering “outstanding” operator assistance features, optional battery-electric driveline for zero-emission tramming, and “great” flexibility and coverage.

Besides being compact enough for mine development, both drill rigs feature BUT 45-booms with telescopic feed beams. These powerful booms fit a wide range of applications and can tackle the requirements of heavy-duty construction work with ease, according to Epiroc.

“This is yet another automation breakthrough for face drilling where Epiroc leads the way to safer and more productive mining and construction operations,” Sami Niiranen, President at Epiroc Underground division, said.

With features like teleremote drilling, auto level and setup assist, the Boomer E10 and E20 strengthen productivity and safety for operators, according to the company.

Camilla Spångberg, Global Product Manager at Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “Thanks to teleremote drilling the operator can drill a full face from a control room. Naturally, this is a safer workplace. In addition, you can reach up to 25% increased productivity by drilling during shift changes and lunch breaks.”

Furthermore, both drill rigs provide operators with setup assist. Thanks to the carrier being equipped with an advanced scanner measuring the distance to the walls and face, positioning the rig perfectly in the mine or tunnel becomes an easy task for the operator, according to the company.

“In combination with digital drill plans, setup assist eliminates time-consuming repositioning,” Spångberg added. “It also ensures both productivity and great quality.”

In the comfortable and safe cabin, operators can enjoy low sound levels (<65 dbA) and less vibration, and a new panel interface for tramming. In addition, great visibility and multi-functional joysticks ensure that operators always keep their eyes on task, the company added.

Anglo American kicks off commercial ops at Quellaveco copper mine

Anglo American has announced the start of commercial copper operations at its Quellaveco project in Peru, following the successful testing of operations and final regulatory clearance.

Quellaveco is expected to produce 300,000 t/y of copper-equivalent volume on average over its first ten years.

The milestone follows unloading of first ore to the primary crusher in June and the production of first copper in July.

Duncan Wanblad, Chief Executive of Anglo American, said: “Our delivery of Quellaveco, a major new world-class copper mine, is testament to the incredible efforts of our workforce and our commitment to our stakeholders in Peru over many years. Quellaveco, alone, is expected to lift our total global output by 10% in copper-equivalent terms and take our total copper production close to 1 Mt/y. At a highly competitive operating cost, Quellaveco exemplifies the asset and return profile that is central to our portfolio quality and our ability to provide customers with a reliable and sustainable supply of future-enabling metals.”

Ruben Fernandes, CEO of Anglo American’s Base Metals business, added: “We designed Quellaveco as one of Anglo American’s and South America’s most technologically advanced mines, incorporating autonomous drilling and haulage fleets – a first in Peru – a remote operations centre, as well as a number of Anglo American’s digital and advanced processing technologies. Drawing its electricity supply entirely from renewables, Quellaveco is setting an example of a low emission mine producing a critical metal for decarbonising the global economy – copper. In Quellaveco, we can see FutureSmart Mining™ in action.”

Anglo American expects that Quellaveco will ramp up fully over the next 9-12 months. Following a thorough commissioning and testing period, and receipt of final regulatory clearance, production guidance for Quellaveco in 2022 is revised to 80,000-100,000 t of copper (previously 100,000-150,000 t) at a C1 unit cost of $1.50/lb, previously $1.35/Ib. Production guidance for Quellaveco in 2023 and 2024 is unchanged at 320,000-370,000 t of copper.

Sandvik adds Turku plant to battery-electric vehicle manufacturing plan

Sandvik is expanding its plant in Turku, Finland, to incorporate the manufacture of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) for underground mining, it says.

Alongside the expansion, which is set to be completed in the second half of 2023, the whole of the plant for load and haul equipment is set to be enhanced and modernised.

Sandvik’s Turku Business Park project represents a significant investment of over €10 million ($9.7 million), with the investment in response to increasing demand for load and haul equipment for underground mining, together with the industry’s growing trend towards electrification and digitalisation.

The objective is to increase the capacity of Sandvik’s Turku plant and improve production efficiency. Improvements will be made to all aspects of the plant’s operations, including logistics, warehousing, production and assembly areas and quality control, Sandvik said.

The OEM will acquire an additional 7,000 sq.m of production and storage space by modifying space previously occupied by Tunturi, a manufacturer of bicycles and fitness equipment. The project will provide additional capacity for the production of BEV loaders and trucks, and includes investment in new welding robots and assembly lines.

Matti Seppälä, Project Manager at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “The upgraded production environment and reorganisation of operations will improve productivity, lead times and worker safety. Warehouse and recycling improvements will enhance the sustainability of our operations.”

Three completely new machine assembly lines will be built, two of which will be designated for the manufacture of BEVs – a first for the Turku plant, which has manufactured mining loaders and trucks since the early 1980s and employs around 700 people today.

The modifications that form part of the Turku Business Park project will enable flexible manufacturing of both conventional diesel and battery-electric mining equipment. The company’s plant in Camarillo, California, is currently the company’s main battery system hub for BEVs.

Mats Eriksson, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions’ Load and Haul division, added: “BEVs enable the electrification of mines, which increases productivity and improves working conditions, reducing emissions, heat and noise, although there will still remain a need for conventional diesel equipment for some time to come.”

To strengthen its development of mining BEVs, Sandvik recently acquired Akkurate, which specialises in battery technology, particularly remote battery diagnostic and prognostic platforms. Akkurate has now been integrated into Sandvik’s Load and Haul division, accelerating its expansion into battery-electric mining equipment and enhancing the current product offering.

Byrnecut and Sandvik collaborate on new MAKO ground engaging tool

Sandvik, with the help of Australia-based mining contractor, Byrnecut, has developed a new and improved Ground Engaging Tool (GET) that, the OEM says, reduces downtime and cost-per-tonne mined.

Over a four-year period, Byrnecut has been instrumental in the development of this new system, MAKO™.

In underground mining, wear and tear is unavoidable, and nowhere is it sharper than for the buckets and the shrouds fitted to loaders.

In the most abrasive conditions, the shrouds can wear out in just a few hundred hours of work. Replacing them – especially when they are welded on – can take multiple shifts: valuable hours where the machine is out of action and productivity dented.

To speed up this process, in 2001, Sandvik introduced its Shark™ range of Blue Pointer™ ground engaging tools (GET) – becoming the first retensionable shroud system for the underground market. Blue Pointer can be summarised as shrouds using mechanical fixings that are significantly faster to replace, Sandvik says.

Even though Sandvik says the system was the market leader in underground mining, it still looked to improve upon the Blue Pointer.

With that in mind, in 2018, Sandvik set about developing a replacement, MAKO, collaborating with internationally renowned specialist mining contractor, Byrnecut.

MAKO continues the shark theme – with a Mako being a shortfin predator – and brings with it several advantages: an innovative patented locking mechanism, hammerless removal system, cast corners improvement (patented) and additional wear indicator, to mention a few.

By far the biggest improvement in terms of reducing downtime and cost-per-tonne mined can be found in the MAKO corner shrouds. Normally, corners – which have a much harder life – tend to wear out and need changing at the mid-life point, compared with the rest of the shrouds. In extreme conditions an additional two ‘half corners’ can be needed for every set of normal shrouds. But thanks to improved material and design, with MAKO there is no need for part-life replacement corners, according to Sandvik.

These improvements have been put to the test in the field, with Byrnecut instrumental in putting prototypes through their paces. The contractor trialled the concept at one of its most abrasive sites – the Capricorn copper mine near Mount Isa in Queensland, Australia.

“Sandvik came along with a team of engineers and said: ‘Right, are you willing to help us develop MAKO?”, Gary Boswell, Byrnecut’s Chief Maintenance Supervisor at the mine, said. “So, we got on board and had a good working relationship with Sandvik. Right from the start we were looking for the same outcome – to lower total-cost-of-ownership and achieve a 1:1 [corner:shroud] ratio, so that we only changed corners when we changed all the other shrouds.”

The Capricorn mine has five Sandvik loaders (LH621s) fitted with 10.7 cu.m buckets. Boswell expects to get 7,500 hours out of a bucket and, because of the aggressive nature of the rock, replaces the GET every 500-550 hours, on average. That is roughly 14 sets of MAKO per bucket life. So, making them last longer and easier to change in one go can make a significant difference to downtime and cost over that lifetime.

MAKO has not achieved its durability performance by simply adding more metal; it’s put metal where it matters. The overall MAKO system also has a very favourable weight/performance ratio, according to Sandvik.

The first MAKO GET was fitted at Byrnecut’s Capricorn site in January 2019. Despite the remote location, the buckets were monitored by Sandvik experts on a weekly basis. It soon became clear that the new range was especially durable – lasting, on average, 12% longer than the best of the rest, as well as avoiding the need for half-life corner shrouds, according to the OEM.

The first MAKO GET was fitted at Byrnecut’s Capricorn site in January 2019

“The first prototype we thought was okay, but there is still room for improvement,” Michael McCormick, the Shark Loadmaster who was hands-on with the development of MAKO, said. “The feedback we got from Gary [Boswell] and the team at Capricorn really helped us understand the issues they were having. When something cropped up, we could quickly develop a short-term ‘hotfix’, before developing a longer-term solution. For instance, we found an opportunity to improve the locking system and had to adapt the pin assembly to ensure the push-off feature was truly hammerless.

“As is natural, we had some performance issues with earlier prototypes, and it took us a couple of goes to get it right. But the ability to work in real time with Gary’s team was the key to enabling us to respond rapidly with quick fixes and validating their effectiveness.”

Boswell concluded: “Safety is paramount, and we did not want our guys hammering or using oxyacetylene to get the shrouds off. But Sandvik fixed that with the push-off feature that can handle worn-out GETs; even those with lifting lugs eroded through use. The issue of transporting heavy shrouds has also been resolved by a new lifting device, which is very effective.”

Sandvik added: “When, like Byrnecut at the Capricorn mine, you are using several hundred [GET] sets each year, the MAKO’s collective benefits add up to significant productivity, cost, time and safety enhancements. The cleve design of MAKO, perfected in the field, helps keep buckets meet their availability and productivity targets.”

Copper Mountain increases scope of trolley assist haulage project

Copper Mountain’s 2021 ESG Report has highlighted the progress the company has made on its “net-zero journey”, with its ongoing trolley assist project in British Columbia, Canada, one of the key drivers towards hitting its major 2035 goal.

The company operates its namesake mine in BC, which has recently increased throughput to 45,000 t/d as part of this net-zero journey.

Earlier this year, the company commissioned its trolley assist project with the help of Komatsu, SMS, ABB, BC Hydro and CleanBC. This project, the first of its kind in North America and a key plank of Copper Mountain’s goal of achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2035, was designed to support four full-sized, trolley-capable 830E-5 Komatsu trucks at a time with hauling ore up a 1-km section of ramp in the operation’s main pit to its primary crusher.

Since commissioning the project, the company has amended its plan to convert seven trucks to trolley assist operation, now saying a total of 11 trolley-capable Komatsu trucks will be available to use trolley assist in the pit.

Each truck is expected to reduce diesel use by approximately 400 litres per hour, the company says, which equates to approximately 1 t of CO2 emissions.

“The trolley assist system will reduce annual carbon emissions by 30% compared to 2019 levels,” Copper Mountain says. “This is based on calculated savings of 6,000 t CO2e/y for the initial seven trucks as calculated for the trial, which, when scaled to the full fleet of 28 trucks, would produce a savings of 24,000 t CO2e/y, or approximately 30% compared to 2019 levels.”

With additional trolley sections planned over the next five-to-seven years, Copper Mountain says it could see a reduction of carbon emissions of up to 50% compared with 2019 levels.

The fact the Copper Mountain Mine is connected to the BC electricity grid, which has one of the lowest carbon intensities in the world due to being powered by clean and reliable hydroelectric power, makes the trolley assist project even more ‘sustainable’.

The company says it has been working with BC Hydro to upgrade the power supply infrastructure to the Copper Mountain Mine to provide more power for trolley assist and future power demands as it decarbonises and explores additional ways to electrify its operation.

Alongside the trolley assist project, Copper Mountain says it is working with partners to reduce emissions from diesel-powered haul trucks.

In 2021, it established a partnership with Cummins, Komatsu and SMS to test the use of a renewable diesel in haul trucks, and it continues to advance other partnerships to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Outside of trucks, Copper Mountain said it has targets to electrify its shovels in 2023 and drills in 2024.

Also in 2021, Copper Mountain collaborated with the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation and IBM to build a digital carbon emissions certification system called Mines Digital Trust. Using blockchain technology to attach ESG disclosures to metal production, this program enabled transparency along the supply chain and allowed third parties to track responsible producers through the Open Climate Network, led by the OpenEarth Foundation and the UN Global Innovation, the company said.

OZ Minerals’ West Musgrave copper-nickel plan receives board approval

The OZ Minerals Board has greenlit the build of the West Musgrave copper-nickel project in Western Australia, paving the way for the development of a remote asset using dry grinding technology, autonomous haulage and a significant volume of renewable power.

West Musgrave is set to become OZ Minerals’ fourth operating asset when it starts producing concentrate in the second half of 2025, in the process becoming the company’s cleanest and greenest mine with plans to reach net zero Scope 1 emissions by 2038.

The feasibility study the board signed off on details a 13.5 Mt/y operation with average production of circa-28,000 t/y of nickel and circa-35,000 t/y of copper over a 24-year operating life. Coming with a A$1.7 billion ($1.1 billion) direct initial capital expenditure bill, West Musgrave could provide cash flow generation of circa-A$1.9 billion during the first five years of production based on OZ Minerals’ projections.

One of the interesting additions to the process flowsheet – which has been mentioned in previous economic studies – is the use of LOESCHE’s Vertical Roller Mill (VRM) technology.

Two VRMs will operate in parallel after the primary and secondary crushing circuit at West Musgrave, with OZ Minerals noting benefits in reducing power consumption by around 20%, supporting higher flotation recovery and the operational flexibility to be ramped up and down. The latter is particularly important given OZ Minerals plans to make West Musgrave one of the largest fully off-grid, hybrid renewable powered mines in the world with an initial circa-80% renewable penetration rate, powered off wind and solar energy with a battery energy storage system in tow.

Dr Thomas Loesche, Managing Shareholder and owner of LOESCHE, said: “As a mining engineer with a degree in mineral processing, it has always been a vision of mine to develop dry-comminution technologies that enable better sorting efficiencies, reduced power and consumables. We are very pleased to be involved in such an important project. OZ Minerals is breaking new ground and proving that sustainability does not stand in the way of project development, but rather makes such projects possible.”

The application of the VRM technology has been peer reviewed for the project by independent experts and has been de-risked through pilot test work campaigns, OZ Minerals added.

Further upstream of the VRMs, OZ Minerals has stated plans to operate the mining fleet remotely from day one at West Musgrave, with the acquisition of an autonomous haulage system-enabled fleet on a leasing basis in the feasibility study outline.

OZ Minerals did not include details of the size of truck involved in the latest study, but the prefeasibility study originally released in 2020 highlighted the use of up to 25 220-t payload haul trucks.

There is also potential for these haul trucks to be electric in the future, with OZ Minerals saying its pathway is aligned with the potential transition to an electric haulage fleet at the first engine change out.

While OZ Minerals says it has the capacity to fully fund West Musgrave with a new A$1.2 billion syndicated facility supported by key relationship banks awaiting final binding agreements, it said potential strategic partnership in the project via a minority interest was being explored.

The next steps for the project involves award of contracts with major partners – it has already signed up GR Engineering to build the process plant; increasing the capacity of its camp to around 250 beds by early 2023; mobilisation of equipment to commence earthworks; finalise the power purchasing agreement and Living Hub – the latter of which has 350 permanent ensuite rooms; and increasing its owner team resources in line with the plan, including operational-readiness personnel.

BEUMER Group prepares to showcase complete material transport solution offering at Bauma

BEUMER Group is gearing up to present an even wider product portfolio to attendees of Bauma 2022, in Munich, on October 24-30, following the acquisition of the FAM Group.

Since May of this year, the full-service provider has been offering its entire product spectrum, ranging from bulk material handling, and processing plants to conveyor technology. This sees customers provided with complete material transport solutions from a single source, the company says.

The BEUMER Group has been firmly anchored in the bulk solids handling technology market for decades, with the acquisition of the FAM Group significantly strengthening the system provider’s position in the minerals and mining markets. The FAM Group has its headquarters in Magdeburg, Germany, and is an internationally active, medium-sized group and manufacturer of systems for open-cast mining, stockyards, mineral processing, ports, conveying and loading.

The BEUMER Group offers machines along the entire transport chain for bulk goods, with solutions including the extraction, conveying, loading, storage and processing of various raw materials, for  various industries.

BEUMER Group says it combines many years of serial production know-how with customised manufacturing experience, offering high-quality engineering and extensive services.

“The BEUMER Group delivers turnkey complexes for the extraction, transport and processing of raw materials, thanks to its wide range of large-scale equipment and individual machines for open-cast mining, such as bucket wheel excavators, belt wagons and conveyor systems,” the company said. “Mine operators can transport various bulk materials with BEUMER’s pipe and overland conveyors, even over long distances and above terrain which is often rough and impassable. Steep gradients and tight curve radii enable individual routes to be adapted to the topography and the task at hand. The BEUMER Group can customise the systems to match the conveying task and topography exactly. The system provider relies on modern planning and layout tools to support plant operators early in the project and design the ideal conveying solution together with the customer.”

The product portfolio includes extensive storage space technology, loading systems and various crushing & screening plants, including impact, hammer, single & double-roll crushers, plus many more crushers and mills.

Caterpillar surpasses 5 billion tonnes of material autonomously hauled

Roughly nine months after reaching the 4-billion-tonne (4.4-billion-ton) autonomously hauled milestone, trucks equipped with Cat® MineStar™ Command for hauling have now moved over 5 billion tonnes (5.5 billion tons), the OEM says.

Cat autonomous trucks are on pace to eclipse previous record totals of materials hauled in a calendar year, projected to be more than 1.4 billion tonnes (1.57 billion tons) in 2022.

Currently, more than 550 mining trucks are equipped with Command for hauling, operating across three continents. Over the last nine years, trucks equipped with Command for hauling have journeyed nearly the average distance between the Earth and Mars with zero loss-time injuries, according to the mining OEM.

Denise Johnson, Group President of Caterpillar Resource Industries, said: “In 2013, we placed our first fleets of autonomous trucks in Western Australia at FMG Solomon and BHP Jimblebar. Since that time, trucks using Command for hauling have safely travelled nearly 200 million km, more than twice the experience in autonomous operations of any automobile manufacturer. Caterpillar has grown the number of autonomous trucks in operation by 40% in the past two years.

“We believe that automation is one of many keys to implement technology that unlocks the value miners need when it comes to the energy transition toward more sustainable operations.”

One of the company’s recent contract wins on the automation front relates to BHP’s majority-owned Escondida mine, in Chile.

Marc Cameron, Vice President of Caterpillar Resource Industries, said of this agreement: “The new Cat 798 AC electric drive trucks replacing BHP’s entire haul truck fleet at the Escondida mine will feature technologies that advance the site’s key initiatives, including autonomy and decarbonisation. The agreement allows Escondida…to accelerate the implementation of its autonomy plans by transitioning the fleet with autonomous haulage system (AHS) technology.”

Caterpillar has enabled 13 customers at 23 different locations to succeed with full site autonomous haulage solutions. Starting with iron ore at Solomon (Fortescue Metals Group) and Jimblebar (BHP), its solutions now manage oil sands, copper, gold, coal, lithium and phosphate. Spanning the 190- to 370-t class sizes, the Cat 789D, 793D, 793F, 797F, and electric drive 794 AC and 798 AC mining trucks are capable of fully autonomous operation. Retrofit kits allow miners to expand Command for hauling to existing Cat mining trucks.

Since 2019, Caterpillar says it has won eight of nine greenfield autonomy sites on offer.

Sean McGinnis, Vice President and General Manager for Cat Mining, said: “In 2023, we will expand Command for hauling to the 139-t truck class at ioneer Ltd’s Rhyolite Ridge lithium-boron mine. This is the first greenfield project in North America to use an AHS. We are now seeing a shift toward autonomy requested on new Cat trucks. Whereas large mines with fleet sizes of more than 70 trucks were the early adopters of the technology, we are seeing economic viability for autonomy at smaller mines with a fleet of less than 15 trucks.”

Caterpillar says it continuously monitors the industry for opportunities to broaden the use of automation to help drive safety and efficiency.

Beyond expansion of Command for hauling to the Cat 785 for ioneer, Caterpillar sees potential for Cat autonomy in quarry and aggregates. Additionally, Caterpillar’s AHS technology has been deployed on the Cat 789D autonomous water truck (AWT) operating at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in Australia, the world’s first AWT, for automated watering of haul roads.

Rio Tinto and Shougang Group collaborating on low-carbon steelmaking solutions

Rio Tinto and Shougang Group, one of the world’s top 10 steel producers, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote research, design and implementation of low-carbon solutions for the steel value chain.

The MoU’s focus areas include low-carbon sintering technology, blast furnace (BF) and basic oxygen furnace (BOF) optimisation, and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU).

This partnership with Shougang underlines Rio Tinto’s strategic commitment to partner with customers on steel decarbonisation pathways and to invest in technologies that could deliver reductions in steelmaking carbon intensity, it said.

Initial efforts will be focused on, but not limited to, BF slag heat recovery, BOF slag utilisation, CCU and low-carbon sintering technology.

The MoU builds on the nearly 30-year relationship between Rio Tinto and Shougang as trade and technical partners. The two companies will work together, leveraging their respective strengths in research and development, technologies, processes, equipment, logistics and industry coordination to support their shared objectives of limiting the impacts of global climate change and reducing carbon emissions, Rio said.

Rio Tinto Chief Commercial Officer, Alf Barrios (pictured), said: “Steel is a vital material for economic growth and low-carbon infrastructure. At Rio Tinto, we want to play a strong role as an industry partner to support the decarbonisation of steel. We are delighted to be able to extend our partnership with Shougang to jointly work towards our shared vision of a ‘greener’ steel value chain.”

Wang Jianwei, Vice President of Shougang Group, added: “Green and low-carbon transition and upgrading is the only way for high-quality and sustainable development of the steel industry. The cooperation between Shougang Group and Rio Tinto Group to develop low-carbon generic technologies for the steel sector and explore decarbonisation solutions is a positive move for both sides to cooperate and promote low-carbon technology innovation.”

WSP snaps up John Wood Group’s Environment & Infrastructure business

WSP Global Inc has completed its previously announced acquisition of the Environment & Infrastructure business (E&I) of John Wood Group plc, providing WSP Global with further opportunities to grow in the environmental and water sectors.

E&I provides engineering, remediation consulting, environmental permitting, inspection, monitoring and environmental management services to government, industrial, infrastructure, oil and gas, power, water, and mining clients. Its 6,000 professionals are based in some 100 offices in over 10 countries, mainly in the US, Canada and the UK, with a secondary presence in Latin America and Europe.

“We are pleased to welcome E&I’s 6,000 professionals into the WSP family and are excited to create a strong market leader from two respected organisations with bold ambitions,” Alexandre L’Heureux, WSP’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said. “Joining forces will allow us to offer our clients expanded world-class multidisciplinary services while bringing new solutions and enhanced value. This transaction will also enable us to further seize opportunities in the fast-growing environmental and water sectors.

“Aligned with our Global Strategic Action Plan, this acquisition, along with our other recently announced transactions, will contribute to the achievement of our strategic ambitions while expanding our geographical range and adding expertise in key sectors. This will create even greater momentum as we future-proof our cities and our environment.”

Joe Sczurko, Executive President of E&I Consulting, said: “We are excited to join a world-leading consulting firm, where our combined expertise will add value for our clients through strengthened service capability, global reach and deep portfolio of technical experts. Together with WSP, we will be a unique advisor and provider for clients across all sectors and services, and the aspirations of our people for a more sustainable future have room to grow. We are now an industry leader at a time when environmental and infrastructure needs are a global priority.”

The aggregate cash consideration payable in connection with the acquisition is approximately $1.8 billion, subject to adjustments.