All posts by Daniel Gleeson

OZ Minerals Prominent Hill joins Aqura 5G Underground Initiative

Aqura says its 5G Underground Initiative in Australia is progressing to plan, with the company having recently added OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill mine to the project, joining representatives from one of Northern Star Resources’ operations in the project.

Aqura, recently acquired by Telstra Purple, was awarded a grant back in 2021 from the Australian Government under the 5G Innovation Initiative to augment the organisation’s own development work to address the challenge of delivering underground 5G LTE. This development work included technical architectures, commercial model development and installation of a live Private 5G LTE network in an operating mine.

The 5G Underground Initiative leverages learnings from a 2017 project where Aqura successfully delivered Private 4G LTE in an underground mine in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia.

Aqura says it has onboarded Northern Star and OZ Minerals by providing a detailed design for both of its chosen mines.

“Having two different mines involved in the project will greatly extend the diversity of the technology architectures developed to suit more mine operation types,” it noted.

Site visits to validate terrain and existing infrastructure are currently in progress. Equipment acquisition is also underway, with works expected to commence at both sites in August 2022, Aqura said.

Jervois gears up for Idaho Cobalt Operations commissioning

Jervois Global is progressing the build of the Idaho Cobalt Operations (ICO) in the US, with the mill set to be commissioned in September and full production slated for February 2023.

Once in production, ICO is billed as being the only primary cobalt mine in the US, able to supply a critical metal necessary for electric vehicles, energy generation and distribution, defence and other industries.

In its latest project update, Jervois said that it had come up with a revised construction budget of $107.5 million that had board approval. This was up from the previous $99.1 million outlined, reflecting a heighted inflationary environment in the US.

This adjusted final forecast capital expenditure and schedule will form the basis of a “Cost to Complete” test by independent engineer RPMGlobal, who has been engaged by the trustee acting for bondholders under the terms of Jervois’ $100 million Senior Secured Bonds. RPM engineers are scheduled to visit site in early July to undertake the final Cost to Complete test ahead of the planned second tranche bond drawdown of $50 million later that month.

Mine development, meanwhile, continues at circa-25 ft/d (7.6 m/d), the company noted. Planned increases to underground working faces, improved water management and road conditions, as well as additional personnel and mining equipment on site, are expected to increase mine development productivity, it said.

“Jervois and its mining contractor, Small Mine Development, remain confident in the revised mining production targets that underpin the capital cost update,” the company stated.

Jervois says it is achieving infill drilling rates over 200 ft/d as part of a 19,000 ft underground campaign to decrease hole space aiming to enhance orebody knowledge. The drilling is improving the robustness of the resource model to generate a production block model for mining, it added.

The SAG mill, ball mill and crusher are each in place, and work continues with facilities construction and equipment placement, Jervois noted, saying that an official opening ceremony was scheduled at site for October 7, 2022. The SAG mill, a 4.7-m diameter and 2.5-m-long 750 kW installation, is provided by Metso Outotec.

A 2020 bankable feasibility study, managed by a joint team of DRA Global and M3 Engineering, was based on extracting 2.5 Mt of ore at an average grade of 0.55% Co, 0.8% Cu and 0.64 g/t Au. The initial mine life within the study was seven years.

Novamera and OZ Minerals to take surgical mining concept forward with new MoU

Novamera Inc and OZ Minerals have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that, they say, provides a basis of common understanding to support the creation of a “collaborative innovation relationship” between the parties.

The two companies share a desire to unlock value in stranded mineral assets, transform the mining project lifecycle and enable the world’s raw material needs to be met responsibly, equitably and sustainably, they said. To that end, the partnership plans to engage in certain activities including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Participation by OZ Minerals in the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) Consortium of Mining Companies to trial Novamera’s near borehole imaging tool (NBIT) at various project sites later in 2022;
  • Assess the potential of deploying Novamera’s technology within OZ Minerals’ project portfolio;
  • Collaboratively evaluate potential project opportunities; and
  • Co-develop collateral to articulate the operational experience and value proposition associated with Novamera’s technology.

The agreement follows Novamera being named as one of seven companies in OZ Minerals’ ‘Scalable and Adaptable’ mining cohort to work together to explore flexible mine design, in September. The challenge was run as a partnership between OZ Minerals’ Think & Act Differently Incubator, Canada-based Inspire Resources and Unearthed.

Dustin Angelo, President and CEO of Novamera, said: “Since last September, we have been working with the Think & Act Differently team on the Scalable & Adaptable Mining Challenge. Over that period of time, we realised we share common goals and ideas on the direction of the mining industry and where to unlock value. The MoU will allow us to focus our efforts collectively and begin to leverage our individual core competencies to create a tremendous amount of value for each of our companies.”

Katie Hulmes, General Manager Transformation at OZ Minerals, added: “The Novamera technology can enable surgical mining. This approach has the potential to operate with less waste, water, energy and a smaller footprint. We look forward to working with Novamera as part of the CMIC Consortium and various internal projects.”

Novamera, through surgical mining, has set out to adapt a combination of drilling and imaging techniques already proven in the oil & gas industry for the narrow-vein mining sector, providing the technical and economical means to mine steeply dipping narrow-vein orebodies with the reduced footprint disturbance modern mining operations require.

Last year it carried out a proof of concept trial of the technology at the Signal Gold-owned Romeo and Juliet deposit in Newfoundland, Canada, which was designed to test the entire surgical mining system and process, which is made up of three steps. This includes drilling a pilot hole with a standard NQ-sized diamond core rig and sending imaging tools down through the core barrel on wireline; bringing in a large-diameter drill to drill to depth following the trajectory provided by the imaging tool and extracting the cuttings; and backfilling the holes thereafter.

Angelo told IM recently that the company had assembled a consortium of companies looking to co-fund a field trial of the company’s minimum viable product version of the NBIT (the version used at Romeo and Juliet, pictured), which is the key enabling technology within surgical mining, through CMIC.

MLG Oz extends service ties with Evolution Mining at Mungari operations

MLG Oz Ltd is set to extend its relationship with Evolution Mining Limited after being selected as its preferred service provider to service its Mungari operation, located in the Goldfields region of Western Australia.

The award of the new contract for the provision of haulage and integrated site services issued under Evolution’s wholly owned subsidiary, Evolution Mining (Mungari) Pty Limited, is for an initial contract term of two years, with a provision for a further one-year extension at Evolution’s discretion. The contract, MLG says, leverages its large Kalgoorlie-based resourcing pool and off-road haulage assets.

The Mungari district, now under the single ownership of Evolution, has a significant mineral endowment with a large portfolio of resources delivering long term feed options to the company’s centrally located Mungari processing infrastructure. Mungari produced 115,829 oz of gold at an average all-in sustaining cost of A$1,453/oz ($1,003/oz) in the financial year ending June 30, 2021.

MLG founder and Managing Director, Murray Leahy, said: “We commenced our first contract with Evolution less than a year ago and we are delighted to be awarded this opportunity to enhance our long-term relationship. This contract marks a significant milestone in our pursuit to provide superior integrated services to our customers.”

The new contract will see annualised revenue with Evolution effectively double to some A$15-$18 million, MLG said. The company’s scope of works builds on the recent integration of the Kundana operations into Evolution’s Mungari portfolio, with MLG engaged to service the combined sites bulk haulage and road maintenance requirements under a single service provider arrangement.

Haver & Boecker launches next-gen Niagara T-Class vibrating screen

Haver & Boecker Niagara has announced the next-generation Niagara T-Class vibrating screen, which, the company says, retains the technical benefits the original concentric technology is known for while improving screening uptime and performance with new features.

The T-Class provides producers with a cost-effective, maintenance-friendly solution to process a wide range of materials within the aggregates, mining, industrial minerals, recycling industries and more, it said.

The T-Class deck frame is now primarily lockbolted rather than welded to provide optimum strength, reliability and safety. Lockbolts are proven to be more effective than welding in the demanding, load-bearing, high-vibration operation of a vibrating screen to ensure the machine’s structural integrity, the company said. The robustness of the machine also permits cross beams to be positioned and lockbolted every four feet (1.2 m) instead of every two feet, allowing for better clearance and easier maintenance.

The new design allows producers to upgrade their vibrating screen with Haver & Boecker Niagara’s new Drop Guard system, further minimising maintenance. The innovative liners provide 100% cross beam protection, both reducing wear and extending the life of the vibrating screen, according to the company. The system simply drops over the cross beam with no adhesive or tools required, making installation quick and easy, it says.

Additionally, Haver & Boecker Niagara redesigned the flat deck frames of the new T-Class vibrating screen for simplified maintenance. The pin & anchor deck frame is adaptable to virtually any pin-style modular screen media. It features polyurethane anchors that are easy to replace and prevent premature wear on the deck frame. Additionally, the open design of the modular deck prevents material build-up on the bar rails. The cap & slide deck frame, meanwhile, is adaptable to virtually any groove style modular screen media and features full rail protection.

The T-Class can also be manufactured for side-tensioned or bottom deck end-tensioned screen media. Each new side-tensioned machine comes with Haver & Boecker Niagara’s signature Ty-Rail™ quick-tensioning system, which cuts screen change-out times in half, the company claims.

Duncan High, the product manager behind Haver & Boecker Niagara’s new T-Class design, said: “The new, more robust T-Class was designed specifically to offer more strength in the middle of the machine, where it’s needed most. Each update was engineered with ease of maintenance in mind, to keep downtime low while providing cost efficiency.”

All Haver & Boecker Niagara vibrating screens undergo extensive testing, inspection and Pulse Vibration Analysis prior to shipping to ensure correct balance and smooth operation, the company concluded.

Imperial Oil looks to E3 and lithium extraction options for new life at Leduc field

Imperial Oil Limited has announced a collaboration agreement with E3 Lithium to advance a lithium-extraction pilot in Alberta, Canada, exploring the redevelopment of an historic oil field into a potential new leading source of lithium for Canada’s growing critical minerals industry.

The pilot will support E3 Lithium’s Clearwater project, which will draw lithium from under the Leduc oil field, Imperial’s historic discovery that first launched major oil and gas development in Western Canada. E3 Lithium’s proprietary technology is designed to extract the critical mineral from the lithium-rich brine, with potential for commercial development of battery-grade products.

“This exciting collaboration brings together Imperial’s long-standing commitment to research and technology to help test and scale E3’s lithium-recovery technology,” Jason Iwanika, Director of Commercial Business Development at Imperial, said. “We continue to advance the innovation and technologies needed to support the energy transition, working in collaboration with governments and industry to progress new opportunities from existing assets and sector expertise.”

Chris Doornbos, CEO of E3 Lithium, said: “E3 Lithium and Imperial share an interest in the diversification of the Alberta economy, local job creation and sustainability. Leduc No.1, Imperial’s first well into this reservoir, was one of Imperial’s most prolific oil discoveries in Alberta and transformed the provincial and Canadian economies, much like lithium has the potential to do. Having Imperial now working with E3 Lithium in exploring the redevelopment of Leduc into a world-class source of lithium is an exciting new chapter in Alberta and Canada’s story.”

The pilot project includes drilling Alberta’s first lithium evaluation wells, planned to be completed by the end of the September quarter of this year. Work will also focus on scaling up E3 Lithium’s proprietary technology, which brings the brine liquid to the surface where the lithium is removed and concentrated. This liquid is immediately returned underground as part of a closed-loop system.

E3 Lithium’s preliminary economic assessment at Clearwater estimates the first phase of development could produce approximately 20,000 t/y of lithium hydroxide from 7 Mt of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) inferred mineral resources.

Under the agreement, E3 Lithium will continue to operate the Clearwater project and retain its IP, with technical and development support from Imperial in areas such as water and reservoir management. The agreement also includes access for E3 Lithium to freehold lands in the area, which are operated by Imperial.

E3’s DLE ion-exchange technology uses a proprietary sorbent designed to be highly selective towards lithium ions. It quickly and efficiently reduces large volumes of low-grade brine into a high-grade lithium concentrate in one step, simultaneously removing nearly all impurities, E3 says. This produces a very clean product for the development of high-purity lithium compounds used in Li-ion batteries.

As part of the agreement, Imperial has agreed to invest C$6.35 million ($4.90) into E3 at a pre-paid price of C$1.86/warrant and the issuance of 3,413,979 warrants.

Bosch Rexroth opens up BODAS software use, lays groundwork for off-highway automation

Bosch Rexroth says it is opening up its mobile electronics software, BODAS, to all manufacturers and partners as part of a move to help OEMs speed up the launch of new machines and functions.

The company plans to offer manufacturers of off-highway machines free access to the entire standard portfolio of BODAS software for controlling mobile machines, with the company set to highlight this at the upcoming Bauma 2022 event in Munich, Germany, in October. Via the digital myBODAS platform, OEMs can download validated software packages for a range of applications, free of charge, in order to test them and adapt them to suit their own requirements.

Proven modules within the platform minimise the time, investment risks and costs involved, with the service only billed via a payment model based on credits if the software is used during series production. This makes it easy to use, flexible and transparent, Bosch Rexroth says.

“Whether it be hydraulic control, automation, connectivity or electrification – software plays a central role in the highly dynamic off-highway market,” the company says. “In order to achieve success with their mobile machines, OEMs must reduce the development time in a cost-effective manner while reducing functional and financial risks.”

Following registration and confirmation of the terms and conditions of use, the individual modules in the BODAS application software (AS), such as the eDA for the drivetrain, are then available. The modules are developed in accordance with current standards and already meet functional safety requirements, the company says. As a result, Bosch Rexroth helps manufacturers of any size to cope with increasing complexity in vehicle development, to compensate for a lack of know-how or resources and to update or expand their offering more quickly, it added.

“This way, the OEMs’ software developers can concentrate on selected customer values and speed up the launch of new functions and machines,” the company said. “They can also scale their own offering more quickly with software modules validated for Rexroth hardware.”

The open ecosystem of BODAS is being expanded all the time with standardised, extensively documented modules. myBODAS, thus, offers a toolkit for various control tasks involving mobile machines which is always up to date, the company explains. The growing need for automation solutions and the rapidly increasing number of assistance functions such as payload estimation, position sensing or surround sensing also make the system an attractive proposition.

Related to this, the company will present an integrated portfolio for the needs-based automation of off-highway machines, such as excavators, wheel loaders and telehandlers, at Bauma 2022.

The assistance functions cover advanced sensor systems and intuitive operating devices, including driver assistance functions for more efficient working and even virtual walls and emergency braking assistants for greater work safety. Ready-to-use software modules help to reduce the integration time into existing and future vehicle architectures and speed up their market launch, the company says. And, as a hardware platform for higher automation levels, Bosch Rexroth will announce a microprocessor-based, ROS2-compatible robotic control unit.

The automation portfolio presented at Bauma 2022 will be based on the BODAS platform for hardware, software and telematics.

The current range of assistance functions for productive and safe working processes includes easier levelling, load capacity measurement during handling operations, electronic vibration damping and various motion control systems for wheel loaders and telehandlers. Virtual walls and virtual rotary limiting systems protect the immediate surroundings by preventing the machine from accidentally leaving the safe working area. A number of functions can be adapted for other sectors, for example for tractor front loaders.

A ground-breaking HMI concept provides an intuitive user experience, the company says. This is based on ergonomic Sense+ joysticks with multi-dimensional optical and haptic feedback as well as high-resolution, high-contrast and glove-operable BODAS displays with easy-to-record visualisations for the relevant assistance functions.

The BODAS ecosystem also includes telematic modules for remote updates over the air, software remote maintenance and interfaces for transferring the wide range of operating data generated by the automation functions to ERP systems and their digital processes.

The new sensor systems for ultrasound, radar and inertial measuring systems form the basis for numerous other automation functions by recognising objects in the surroundings and recording the position of the kinematic systems with respect to each other via acceleration. There are plans to add extra functions and sensors such as LiDAR on a step-by-step basis, the company says.

For object recognition and terrain mapping, Bosch Rexroth is working with Bosch to develop a ROS2-compatible perception stack. On this basis, Bosch Rexroth plans to offer complete function packages in the future – from sensor integration and object recognition to machine intervention.

The new control platform is currently being developed, with prototypes for pilot projects available from the middle of 2023.

Thiess to return to Central Kalimantan with new mining, rehab and port management contract

Thiess says it has been awarded a life-of-mine contract to provide mining, rehabilitation and port management services by PT Kapuas Tunggal Persada and PT Tempirai Inti Energi in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Thiess will operate the adjacent Kapuas Tunggal Persada (KTP) and Global Bara Mandiri (GBM) mines and will deliver turnkey operations, including mine design and planning, drill and blast, overburden removal, load and haul, asset maintenance and management, haul road maintenance, water management, rehabilitation and port operations, it said.

Commencing from July 2022, with revenue of A$1.7 billion ($1.2 billion) over eight years, this contract marks Thiess’ return to Central Kalimantan.

Thiess Executive Chair & CEO, Michael Wright, said: “We’re excited to work with our new client who shares the same passion for sustainable mining practices and outcomes as we do.

“This new contract is an opportunity to continue our record of delivering excellence for our clients in Indonesia, with a clear focus on safe, responsible production and industry leading rehabilitation.”

Thiess Executive General Manager Asia, Cluny Randell, added: “This contract is recognition of our team’s ability to deliver long-term performance and productivity gains for clients.

“We look forward to working together with our client and the local communities to deliver long-term social, environmental and economic value.”

A day earlier, Thiess confirmed that its mining services contract at Peak Downs Mine in Queensland, Australia, had been extended for another five years by BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA).

Located southeast of Moranbah, Peak Downs is an open-pit mine producing high-quality steelmaking coal and is one of Australia’s largest mines by recoverable coal reserves.

Under the contract, Thiess will continue to operate and maintain mining equipment to move additional overburden at the mine and support BMA’s production requirements over the next five years. Starting from July 2022, revenue to Thiess is worth over A$700 million.

Wirtgen premieres new ‘all-rounder’ surface miner for open-pit operations

With the new 280 SM(i) surface miner, Wirtgen says it has developed another efficient and practice-oriented solution for the extraction of primary resources, with innovative technologies that enable high machine utilisation rates and maximum productivity.

The 280 SM(i) is a high-performance surface miner designed for the reliable and selective extraction of primary resources by direct loading, sidecasting or cut-to-ground, Wirtgen says. Raw materials are extracted and crushed in-situ in purest quality in a single operation – without drilling and blasting, and with minimal environmental impact.

The 280 SM(i) is driven by four steerable and height-adjustable crawler units. The machine is highly manoeuvrable and can be quickly turned at the end of a cut, according to the company. The LEVEL PRO ACTIVE automatic levelling system maintains the specified cutting depth with consistently high precision and without further aids.

The 280 SM(i) is an “all-rounder” for all rock hardnesses and applications, Wirtgen says. The 2,750 mm cutting drum unit, with a cutting depth of up to 650 mm, is precisely adaptable to each specific application and achieves outstanding cutting performance with minimal pick wear, it added.

The Wirtgen 280 SM(i) is a high-performance surface miner for reliable, selective extraction of primary resources by direct loading, sidecasting or cut-to-ground, Wirtgen says

Wear-resistant toolholder systems ensure optimal pick utilisation and minimal downtime.

While the soft-rock cutting drum unit is designed especially for high material flows in soft rocks, the hard-rock cutting drum unit ensures maximum durability and long life in hard-rock applications.

In the extraction of primary resources by open-pit mining, the key priority is always a combination of highest possible productivity, maximum purity of the material mined and the reduction of impact on people and the environment to a minimum, Wirtgen says.

“Aside from performance, the productivity of mining equipment depends primarily on constant operational readiness and optimum machine use,” the company says. “Only a reliable and maintenance-friendly machine assures high utilisation rates.”

The innovative operator’s cabin contributes to the operator’s ability to exploit the full potential of the machine and maximise productivity. The 280 SM(i) surface miner is, therefore, the tool of choice for cost-efficient mining processes in the 120-t class.

The high-performance, hydraulically height-adjustable, rear discharge conveyor with a movable counterweight can be slewed to the right and left by 90° and enables the loading of mining trucks with payloads of up to 100 t. What’s more, the operator can continuously vary the speed of the belt independent of the engine speed to reduce belt wear dependent on the material volume and the piece-size of the mined material.

The 280 SM(i) surface miner’s air-conditioned and sound-proofed operator’s cabin is swivel-mounted on the front chassis column and provides a productive working environment with a low risk of fatigue, the company says

Entirely new standards are set by the dust-sealed and air-conditioned positive-pressure cabin on the new surface miner with fresh air filtration, which effectively prevents the ingress of dust into the operator’s workplace, Wirtgen says. Mounted on the front left chassis column, the operator’s cabin with all-round glazing is decoupled from the machine body and can be rotated by 90° in both directions. Up to six cameras can also be installed to provide even better all-round vision. Various automatic functions also contribute to the operator’s comfort, reduce the risk of fatigue, assist the operator in the achievement of high productivity rates and make the overall process more efficient, the company says.

“These days, the reduction of carbon emissions, noise, dust and vibration while maintaining consistently high extraction rates and productivity is more important than ever before,” the company says. “With the new surface miner, Wirtgen offers innovative technologies that minimise impact on the environment and conserve valuable natural resources.”

Thanks to the reduction of carbon emissions by low specific fuel consumption, an efficient water management system and effective solutions for the minimisation of dust pollution, the 280 SM(i) shows that ecological and economic considerations are actually compatible and closely interconnected, Wirtgen concluded.

Concor to construct new pollution control dam at Venetia Underground Project

Leading South Africa-based, black-owned contractor Concor is engaging on a 17-month project to construct a new pollution control dam at De Beers’ Venetia diamond mine, South Africa’s largest diamond producer.

The well-advanced Venetia Underground Project (VUP) will extend the mine’s life span to at least 2045, and the new dam – Pollution Control Dam 3 (PCD3) – is the main containment facility in its Storm Water Management Project (SWMP). The SWMP is a key part of the mine expansion, ensuring compliance with the Government Notice R704 on the protection of water resources, preventing the possibility of flooding and ensuring the safety of people working in the new underground mine.

Concor Operations Executive, Christo Schoeman, explains that PCD3 will cover some 27 ha to the west of the mine and will be constructed to a maximum height of 13 m. This will equip the facility to hold over 1 million cu.m of water. The water will emanate from upstream catchments including runoff from the adjacent coarse residue deposit and fine residue deposit, as well as potential overflow from the other upstream water containment facility. It will also contain water that has been pumped out the of mine’s open-cast pits and the VUP underground workings.

“Zero harm to our employees and the environment whilst executing our projects remains our principle objective,” Schoeman says. “In order to prioritise these endeavours and ensure that construction work does not impinge on the mining operation itself, among the first tasks required will be to secure the works by installing a new security fence, and upgrading the existing access road to our temporary site facilities which will ensure optimised access to our site and help streamline our workflow.”

As part of the bulk earthworks operations, the topsoil over the dam area will be stockpiled during the excavation operations, to be used later for slope protection and to ensure the regrowth of flora once construction is completed.

“In line with environmental requirements and legislation, the excavated structure will be lined with am HDPE geomembrane to prevent any seepage into the groundwater system,” he says. “A specialised service provider will supply and install the lining.”

Concor’s scope of work includes the construction of a pump station and dam spillways, as well as the installation of a 2.5 km return water pipeline to the mine’s processing plant. This will allow significant volumes of water to be efficiently recycled and re-used in processing, it says.

Schoeman highlights that the project contains a strong local procurement, employment and skills development component. He notes that Concor has always been committed to local enterprise and skills development initiatives in the areas where it undertakes projects.

“We are working closely with our client to source general workers and suppliers locally, who we will, where necessary, upskill with training, supervision and mentoring,” he says. “Certain aspects of the project can be subcontracted to these local enterprises, following the systematic process of identification and engagement.”

Concor supervises the work of subcontractors closely as part of its enterprise development commitments, he notes. Combined with dedicated mentoring, this ensures not only a quality outcome in each deliverable, but also higher levels of sustainability amongst subcontractors once the project is complete.