All posts by Daniel Gleeson

Second Cat 994K wheel loader arrives at Capstone’s Pinto Valley in latest innovation push

Capstone Mining has brought a second Caterpillar 994K wheel loader to its Pinto Valley operation in Arizona, USA, as it looks to reduce its emissions and improve its operating cost base at the copper mine.

Last year, the mine added to its fleet a Cat 994K loader, which, the company says, burns circa-30 less gallons of fuel per hour (1.9 litres/min) than its current shovels. “This reduced our CO2 emissions and operational cost savings on approximately 116,000 gallons of fuel in 2020,” Capstone said.

The second 994K, added last week, will, in partnership with the first wheel loader, displace around 10,000 shovel hours a year and save approximately 410,000 gallons of fuel and millions in maintenance costs, the company claimed.

Capstone concluded: “Pinto Valley is innovating and optimising for exciting times ahead.”

This is not the only area of innovation the company is currently pursuing at Pinto Valley, an operation it acquired from BHP back in in October 2013.

In its 2020 results, released last month, Capstone said the implementation of phase one of its PV3 Optimization project at Pinto Valley had delivered a 10% sustainable throughput improvement compared with 2019.

The PV3 Optimization project has been designed to achieve safer, more reliable and higher capacity operations without major investments in new comminution equipment. It is doing this by leveraging new inexpensive technologies.

Phase one work, which included improved blast fragmentation processes, installation of a new secondary crusher and screen decks as well as a new mill shell, was completed last year. This saw the mine achieve throughput of 57,168 t/d in the December quarter, 10% higher than the annual 2019 average of 51,137 t/d. December 2020 mill throughput achieved 60,717 t/d, which represents a new monthly record in the mine’s operating history.

Phase two of the PV3 Optimization project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, upon completion of upgrades to a conveyor, mill auto controls, cyclone packs and retrofits to the thickeners, it said.

During the month of December, the company conducted a pilot plant test of Eriez HydroFloat coarse particle technology at Pinto Valley, with Capstone saying the results had surpassed expectations of a 6% improvement target to overall copper recovery. In fact, the tests showed a 6-8% increase in overall copper recovery was achievable, which, when combined with expected higher throughput rates, could result in an additional 9-12 MIb/y (4,082-5,443 t/y) of copper production at the operation, it said.

“Additional benefits to the technology include allowing the operation increased throughput by operating at a coarser grind size, which is expected to lower power costs, improve water consumption and lead to improved stability in the tailings storage facility,” Capstone said in its 2020 results. “The estimated $70 million expansionary capital, which includes the installation of Eriez HydroFloat and related equipment, if approved by the board of directors, is expected to be spread over half two 2021 and early 2022, with start-up expected in Q2 (June quarter) 2022.”

Capstone said it expects to release an updated NI 43-101 technical report that encompasses the PV3 Optimization Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects and improvements in the second half of 2021.

At the same time, it is also looking into a PV4 study at Pinto Valley.

Capstone explained: “Feasibility work on scenarios to take advantage of approximately one billion tonnes of mineral resource not currently in the mineral reserve mine plan, which is at similar grade to the current mineral reserves, will be conducted for Pinto Valley.”

The PV4 study is expected to be released in late 2022 and will contemplate using existing mill infrastructure rather than building new facilities, with higher mining rates, higher cutoff grades to the mill and increased tonnage available for leaching.

Extensive column leach test work in collaboration with Jetti Resources LLC will take place over 2021. Jetti’s patented catalytic technology, designed to allow for the efficient and effective heap and stockpile leach extraction of copper, has been a success at Pinto Valley’s leaching operation, where it expects to recover up to 350 million pounds of cathode copper over the next two decades from historic and new mineralised waste piles.

“Capstone is a pioneer in the application of this leach technology and we intend to use it to enhance the economics of a future expansion at Pinto Valley,” it said.

Private equity firms look to take over Aggreko

The boards of directors of Aggreko plc and Albion Acquisitions Ltd have reached agreement on the terms and conditions of a recommended all-cash acquisition from I Squared Capital and TDR Capital for the mobile power provider.

The £8.80/share offer values Aggreko at £2.32 billion ($3.2 billion).

Earlier this week, Aggreko announced an underlying profit before tax of £102 million for 2020, slightly ahead of its initial guidance of £80-100 million, and group revenue of £693 million for 2020, down from £823 million in 2019. The company stated that 7% of this revenue came from the mining sector.

Aggreko said its directors intended to recommend unanimously that Aggreko shareholders vote in favour of the proposed scheme at a court meeting and general meeting. The acquisition is expected to become effective in summer of 2021 (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Ken Hanna, the Chairman of Aggreko, said: “The Aggreko Board believes that the offer from I Squared Capital and TDR Capital represents an attractive price in cash that fairly recognises Aggreko’s future prospects. We believe that the business, its people and customers will continue to be well supported with I Squared Capital and TDR Capital as shareholders bringing their expertise in energy and rental markets to support our existing strategy.”

Adil Rahmathulla of I Squared Capital added: “Aggreko is a global market leader in delivering bespoke temporary power solutions to its customers and has clearly shown it has a strategy to complete its journey towards a net-zero emission business. The urgency to deliver on that transition has only increased in the post-COVID environment.

“Repositioning Aggreko fast enough to truly capitalise on these trends and rapidly shifting customer demand requires significant investment in clean technology and a step change in the pace of transformation. We are well positioned to accelerate Aggreko’s development at this critical juncture and secure a successful future for the company, underpinned by a long-term investment focus and the combined expertise of TDR Capital and I Squared Capital in the power infrastructure and equipment rental sectors.”

iRing opens public database on explosives use in mining

iRing Inc has introduced what it says is an extensive, searchable, comprehensive Knowledge Base that provides answers to questions concerning the use of commercial explosives in mining and construction applications including the physics of the detonation reaction and how this is used in mining for fragmentation.

The iRing Knowledge Base provides in-depth analysis and descriptions of the use of commercial explosives under many topics including types of explosive products, priming, temperature, and pressure effects along with applications and use of explosives in mining and construction. The material has been collected over years of experience in explosive manufacturing and mining by Christopher Preston, Consulting Engineer and VP Research and Development for iRing.

The knowledge concerning the use of explosives as well as case histories and other notes are taken from a broad range of sources including authors skilled in the art as well as personal experience, according to iRing. These works are acknowledged where appropriate and are presented to provide answers to the world use of explosives in mining and construction for everyone.

“Many times, it is just handy to have a place to look up information without doing a rigorous search,” iRing says. “Hopefully, some of the information provided here will be useful. We have tried to acknowledge content that came from outside our realm of experience and we have acknowledged those authors who have provided input in the explosives technology public domain who are used as credible references.”

The Knowledge Base provided by iRing Inc is an extensive collection of information covering the years 1971 to the present. Over that period, commercial explosive products have changed drastically moving from dynamites and canned explosives such as Ammonal and Nitramon to ANFO, water gels and emulsions.

“Much work was completed by Dupont De Nemours and other large commercial manufacturers introducing the water-gel and emulsion families into a stream of safer commercial explosives,” the company said. “These could be used in a host of mining operations – from surface blasting, open-cast mining, and quarrying as well as construction to underground mining operations. Next followed dynamite’s replacement – emulsion explosives, which can be produced in both small and large diameters of charge for large mining operations and construction. Large quantities of bulk explosives can be delivered to the blasthole using pump or auger trucks with loading rates of hundreds of kilograms per minute.

“Delivery records are not only maintained on the trucks but also in the cloud for strategic data handling to arrive at the lowest cost of production. Extensive use of electronics in mining has affected production levels and, in particular, safety. Mine communications have improved to such an extent that normal operational activities can be handled by iPhones and/or tablets for production reports and foreman’s logs.”

iRing concluded: “Perhaps one of the best technologies introduced during the initial years of this century was the production of electronic blasting detonators giving timing accuracies that allow precision blasting methodologies surpassing traditional practices when blasting close to damageable structures.”

TOMRA boosts sensor-based ore sorting process with key updates

TOMRA Sorting Mining has introduced the TOMRA ACT user interface together with a new image processing pipeline and additional process data for TOMRA Insight, all of which will, the company says, enable improvements in the overall sorting process for greater productivity and profitability.

The new TOMRA ACT graphical user interface (UI) brings a fundamental change in the way customers interact with their machines, making it easy to control the work flow in their sorting process with simple, intuitive touch gestures and actions on the screen, according to the company.

The UI provides sorting information and real-time process data at a glance through easy-to-understand graphics. With this clear information, the operator can better monitor the sorting process and make fast adjustments at any time, the company claims. The quick feedback on machine performance and throughput enables them to optimise the process, maximising productivity and efficiency.

Ines Hartwig, TOMRA Product Manager

Ines Hartwig, TOMRA Product Manager, explained: “Throughout the development process of TOMRA ACT, we conducted many in-depth discussions with our customers to ensure we provided them with an interface that would improve the performance of their sorters, benefitting their business. We have been testing it with customers and the feedback has been very positive; in particular about the ease of use, even remotely, which facilitates controlling the process and adjusting settings.

“With the new interface, customers interact with their sorters in a much more intuitive way and they have better guidance on how to improve the overall handling of the sorters. As a result, they will be able to improve the productivity of their sorting plant and the profitability of their mining operation.”

TOMRA is introducing the new UI on all its current X-ray Transmission (XRT) sorters and is planning to extend it to other machines in its offering at a later stage. Upgrade packages to retrofit previous models of its XRT sorters will also become available.

The new Image Processing Pipeline, meanwhile, analyses the data sent by the sorter’s sensors and cameras. This solution provides TOMRA with even more flexibility to adjust and customise the image calculations according to the application and the customer’s specific requirements to achieve the best possible sorting results.

The enhanced image processing solution also collects detailed process data, such as information on particle size distribution of the feed, belt occupancy for insights on feed tonnages, or data relating to the health of the sorter. All these statistics are fed to TOMRA Insight, the cloud-based data platform, adding to the process information it has already received. TOMRA said: “This enables customers to improve the overall sorting process further, taking fast action when changes occur in upstream equipment or in the material’s composition. They are able to better monitor and control their processes, the feed material and the sorted fractions, improving their profitability.”

The new enhanced Image Processing Pipeline, and additional data fed to TOMRA Insight, have already been introduced on TOMRA XRT sorters and will in the future be extended to other products.

Aggreko to energise mine power space with investment proposition

Mobile power provider Aggreko says it is making the transition from being a pure power provider to a long-term mining project investor that is helping miners navigate the energy transition.

Aggreko has built an almost 60-year-long reputation for powering many sectors around the globe. It has also supplied power and underground cooling to the mining sector for more than 35 years and has evolved into life-of-mine contracts and renewables.

In its latest report – which details its future energy transition – Aggreko cites mining as a major growth sector. Aggreko Australia Pacific Managing Director, George Whyte, stated that Aggreko’s global team’s unique offering is with build-own-operate investments across all continents.

As well as continuing to invest upward of £250 million ($347 million) annually in technology and innovation, the company says it is ready to further boost its investments in the natural resources industry.

Whyte said: “Investor partnerships can support the rapid changes in technology and emissions compliance that our mining customers are facing. Investing millions of dollars in capital for a mine’s power plant is a risk for any company, and, as a partner, Aggreko takes on this risk instead of the mining company. It is a smart way for miners to do business in the post-COVID and renewables era.”

Aggreko’s Global Head of Mining, Rod Saffy, said miners struggling to get funding for capital expenditure projects were looking to outsource, and there was a trend toward creating partnerships with providers.

“Partnerships provide more value beyond de-risking project finances,” Saffy said. “There are technology and emissions risks, so by partnering with us, for example, we aren’t just supplying equipment and labour, we share in decision making and project milestones, we invest and update technology on-site and navigate social and environmental impacts together.”
Saffy said companies looking to build power stations for the first time particularly benefited from supportive partnerships with Aggreko.

“Power stations are our core business, and they have become much more complex on mine sites than they have been in the past,” he said. “It is challenging to get funding to build power stations, and miners are needing support to integrate renewables into their plans immediately or in the future, or needing solutions designed from scratch.

“Partnering with us is a sustainable and beneficial business solution. Miners are wanting hybrid power stations that might utilise a mix of energy sources such as diesel, gas, solar or battery, for example. They also want that power to be scaled up or down and upgraded as their needs change and new technology comes online.”

Saffy said mines throughout the world were becoming less dependent on mass-scale thermal plants to deliver baseload power through national grids.

“With the cost of renewable power generation falling, there is also growth in localised microgrids, which means less dependence or complete independence from the grid,” he said. “Miners in Australia, Africa and South America, where there is less infrastructure in remote locations, are finding it particularly helpful to partner with us from the start of a major project.”

One such example is the Gold Fields Salares Norte Mine in northern Chile where Aggreko has become a major investor, and partner for the mining project for at least 10 years. The mine is located 190 km from the nearest town and is 4,500 m above sea level, and Aggreko is creating an off-grid hybrid power solution, comprising of diesel and solar for the harsh environmental conditions. Aggreko estimates the mine will experience $7.4 million in cost energy savings across the 10 years.

Saffy said the benefits for Aggreko in partnering and investing with miners from the beginning of their project to the end of the life of mine was beneficial for both parties.

“As a partner, Aggreko de-risks the threat of future innovation and technology for miners,” he said. “Our build, own, operate and maintain model frees up working capital without increasing the debt ratio for mining projects. Modular equipment also gives miners the ability to leverage innovation at low risk and not be concerned about having the latest equipment.

“We benefit too, by showcasing our expertise and innovations throughout a project’s lifecycle and support mining companies to reduce emissions and increase their operational efficiencies.”

Late last year, Aggreko committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Minemax opens up access to mine scheduling software

Minemax has released a new version of its integrated strategic mine planning and scheduling software, Scheduler, that brings advanced scheduling into its cost-effective Lite edition.

Minemax Scheduler 7.0.4 will allow Minemax Scheduler Lite users to model various strategic decisions, previously exclusive to Minemax Scheduler Professional users, according to the company.

“With this added capability, Lite users will be able to model more complex mine planning environments,” it said. Examples of this include modelling multiple processing plants, deciding optimal material paths to various alternative destinations, and determining optimal cutoff grades.

“In all instances, Minemax Scheduler’s scheduling engine analyses these decisions together with the extraction sequence, haulage, stockpiling and blending to generate a plan that honours all constraints,” Minemax said. “This gives mine planners a very powerful tool that evaluates numerous scenarios for their strategic mine plan, all within one single optimisation run.”

Minemax CEO, Joe Kraft, said: “We are very excited about this new development in Minemax Scheduler. With this version, we are making the premier strategic schedule optimisation software more accessible to a range of budgets. This product is a must-have for any mining business seeking to achieve maximum value from their mine strategy.”

In addition, Minemax Scheduler 7.0.4 includes functionality and efficiency enhancements in pit/dump group definition, 3D visualisation and reporting, the company said.

“With respect to performance, the previous CPU core limit has been removed from Minemax Scheduler’s optimisation engine, which can now utilise more CPU cores than before,” it added. “This may result in faster solve times for projects, allowing planners to achieve more in less time.”

FLSmidth expands Central Asia presence with new Service Supercenter

FLSmidth has opened a new Service Supercenter in Karagandy, Kazakhstan, which, it says, will help meet high demand for service and technical support in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

The 5,200 m² space will focus on the efficient delivery of mining equipment, component maintenance and facilitate rapid on-site service and 24/7 local support, according to FLSmidth.

It includes a 2,500 m² warehouse and a 1,200 m² workshop, as well as a customer service office, customer training centre and other support facilities. The Supercenter holds a range of inventory and a strategic range of lab equipment and spare and wear parts.

The centre has a primary emphasis on supplying solutions that extend an asset’s lifecycle, such as: repairs and rebuilds; equipment and component upgrades; parts and consumables strategic stocking programs; technical assistance; and customised service packages.

“The centre ensures customers receive the knowhow to optimise their operations, as well as support when it comes to inspections, process audits and technical issues,” the company says.

Mikko Keto, Mining President at FLSmidth, explained: “The main concept of the Supercenter is to get closer to our mining and cement customers across Kazakhstan and Central Asia and support them with the best solutions, fast access to spare and wear parts, and, of course, local knowhow and expertise. This move supports FLSmidth’s ever-growing focus on customer service and aftermarket.”

Sergey Gorbunov, Managing Director for Kazakhstan and Central Asia, added: “Our large regional installed base will be well served by this new Supercenter. It will allow us to work side by side with customers to better understand and solve their challenges – and to deliver sustainable productivity solutions to their operations.

“Customers can expect world-class on-site service, indoor repairs and refurbishment, exchange programs, lab testing, training and excellent spare part support. The Supercenter ensures 24/7 local support for on-site services such as installation, commissioning, maintenance support, shutdowns and turnkey solutions.”

Automation, electrification, alternative haulage weighed for GSR’s Wassa UG expansion

A preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the potential expansion of Golden Star Resources’ Wassa gold mine in Ghana has flagged the potential for applying alternative underground haulage methods, and autonomous and battery-electric equipment at the operation.

The PEA provides an assessment of the development of the Southern Extension of Wassa and the increase in mining rates to fully use available process plant capacity. While the study itself represents a conservative plan that excludes exploration opportunities from the scope and adopts the current mining practices and equipment, the “opportunities” section of the technical report outlines some more innovative approaches to expanding mining rates and filling the plant capacity.

Wassa, which Golden Star owns 90% of, produced 168,000 oz of gold in 2020 using the sub-level longhole open stoping method.

The PEA is focused on the development of the large inferred mineral resource (just over 7 Moz) which comprises the Southern Extension zone. Around 50% of the total resource was included in the PEA inventory, which showed off a life of mine of 11 years, with total gold production of 3.5 Moz. Average annual gold production of 294,000 oz represented an approximate 75% increase on the current production rate.

The mine plan considers a production rate targeting the processing capacity, at or close to 2.7 Mt/y run-of-mine material, after a five-year ramp-up period. The plant has previously operated at these rates with feed from both Wassa and the Bogoso-Prestea operation (since sold).

Mining would be by underground trackless decline access (1:7 gradient), with access from duplicate access ramps and independent ventilation infrastructure on each side of the deposit to support the increased mining rate and provide efficient access across the mineralised footprint (circa-850 m along circa-300 m across strike). Truck haulage will utilise the dual access ramps.

The mining method proposed for the expansion is bottom-up long hole open stoping with 25 m level spacing and nominal stope sizes of 25 m length x 30 m width x 25-100 m height with cemented paste backfill. Stopes will be mined in a primary-secondary sequence down to around 1,000 m depth, transitioning to pillarless retreat below that point to account for increasing in-situ stress, which will need to be further investigated in future work.

The PEA assumes average recovery of 94.8%, which is supported by current plant performance and metallurgical test work on a small number of samples that suggest processing performance for the Southern Extension feed will be similar to material currently treated. This will be evaluated in the next phase of work.

Capital expenditure is expected to total around $790 million over the life of the PEA mine plan. Of this total, 29% is growth capital and 71% is sustaining capital. The PEA mining method relies on paste fill, with Golden Star confirming the paste fill plant was constructed in 2020 and commissioning is expected to be finalised this quarter. Capital has been allowed for an expansion of the paste fill system in the PEA mine plan.

Based on a $1,300/oz gold price, the expansion project is expected to generate a post-tax net present value (5% discount) of $452.2 million.

So far, so conventional…

The company said it planned to complete option and trade-off studies to optimise the project plan ahead of a feasibility study on the expansion, due in early 2023.

Just some of the innovations being considered in these trade-off studies include the use of automation, electrification and alternative haulage.

In terms of increasing machine productivity through technology, the study listed off the potential use of semi- or fully-autonomous vehicles to increase shift operating time and remove operators from hazardous areas. It said the highest likelihood applications were in production drilling and drawpoint loading.

Golden Star confirmed current projects included in its in-development technology roadmap were the introduction of tele-remote loading and digitalisation of production data.

In terms of haulage infrastructure opportunities, Golden Star said it was considering the replacement of truck haulage with an infrastructure system like shaft hoisting, conveyor, or Rail-Veyor. The capital demand for such options would be offset by a large reduction in operating costs with automated systems, reduced diesel consumption and reduced ventilation demand, it noted.

These haulage options were being studied to design different systems, estimate capital and operating costs, then complete a trade-off analysis, the company said.

The current mine design assumes loaders digging from open passes to load trucks, but Golden Star said feeder systems could be installed to automate loading, increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs.

And, of course, the company said it was considering options for clean energy technology applications, particularly battery-electric trucks. As part of this, it was assessing available systems and developing fleet selection criteria. This will have knock-on benefits to the mine’s ventilation requirements.

First of two Cat 6040 shovels head to Centamin’s Sukari gold mine

Mantrac Egypt says it has completed the assembly, commissioning and handover of a Caterpillar 6040 BH hydraulic shovel to Centamin’s Sukari gold mine in the country.

This is the first of two new excavators heading to the operation.

The Cat dealer said: “With gross power over 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) and approximately 40 t bucket payload, more volume of material will be moved and at lower cost per tonne.”

Back in December, Centamin said it would soon be adding new Cat 6040 hydraulic face shovels to its existing fleet at Sukari. This is part of a plan to position Sukari to reliably produce 450,000-500,000 oz/y of gold at all-in sustaining costs below $900/oz sold from 2024. This has also seen Centamin take on Capital Ltd as open-pit waste mining contractor.

These new shovels are included in the company’s financial year 2021-2023 capital expenditure plans. Also included is a 36 MW solar plant, an explosives contract and the addition of lightweight truck trays.

IronMerge SIMPEC joint venture to work on Pilgangoora lithium operation

SIMPEC and IronMerge have secured their first contract under a newly incorporated joint venture, with the IronMerge SIMPEC JV to work on Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora lithium operation in Western Australia.

WestStar Industrial Ltd’s SIMPEC formed its first Aboriginal Business joint venture, IronMerge SIMPEC JV, with IronMerge Pty Ltd just last month.

The Stage 1 A$15 million ($11.7 million) improvement works contract at Pilgangoora involves a series of works to improve operating time and throughput as part of continuous improvement to operational performance of Pilgangoora’s Stage 1, 2 Mt/y processing facility.

SIMPEC has been contracted to perform all vertical installation works including earth works, civils, fabrication, structural, mechanical, piping, tanks, electrical and instrumentation works for the project. All works will be conducted with joint venture partner IronMerge.

The Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project has a current resource of 222.5 Mt and existing JORC compliant reserves of 104.6 Mt.

SIMPEC Managing Director, Mark Dimasi (pictured on the right), said: “This newly awarded contract is a tribute to not only our SIMPEC delivery team but also Ian Taylor (Chairman of IronMerge, pictured in the middle next to Ken Brinsden, MD and CEO of Pilbara Minerals, on the left) and his IronMerge team. This is a very proud moment for all of us and I sincerely look forward to seeing this JV relationship growing and developing in the construction and mining sector. A big thank you to the Pilbara Minerals team for backing us throughout this tender phase.”