All posts by Daniel Gleeson

Agnico Eagle and Kirkland Lake Gold merger to create ‘Canadian mining champion’

Agnico Eagle Mines and Kirkland Lake Gold have entered into an agreement to combine in a merger of equals, with the combined company to continue under the name Agnico Eagle Mines Limited.

The merger will establish the new Agnico Eagle as the gold industry’s highest-quality senior producer, with the lowest unit costs, highest margins, most favourable risk profile and industry-leading best practices in key areas of environmental, social and governance (ESG), the companies said.

Upon closing of the merger, the company is expected to have $2.3 billion of available liquidity, a mineral reserve base of 48 Moz of gold, (969 Mt at 1.53 g/t Au) – which has doubled over the last 10 years, and an extensive pipeline of development and exploration projects to drive sustainable, low-risk growth, they added. Expected production of the two companies for 2021 is approximately 3.4 Moz.

“The merger will create a best-in-class gold mining company operating in one of the world’s leading gold regions, the Abitibi-Greenstone Belt of north-eastern Ontario and north-western Quebec, with superior financial and operating metrics,” Agnico and Kirkland Lake said. “Consolidation within the Abitibi will also provide the new Agnico Eagle with significant value creation opportunities through synergies and other business improvement initiatives. Additionally, the company is established uniquely as the only gold producer in Nunavut and well positioned internationally with profitable and prospective assets in Australia, Finland and Mexico.”

The combined entity is also set to be a leader in energy performance and GHG emissions intensity, with a commitment to be Net Zero by 2050 or earlier, they said.

Under the merger agreement, which the Board of Directors of both companies have unanimously approved, the new Agnico Eagle will be led by a combined board and management team including Sean Boyd (Executive Chair), Tony Makuch (CEO), Ammar Al-Joundi (President), Jeffrey Parr (Vice-Chair of the Board) and Jamie Sokalsky (Lead Director).

The transaction is expected to close in December 2021 or in the March quarter of 2022.

Pursuant to the agreement, Kirkland Lake Gold shareholders will receive 0.7935 of an Agnico Eagle common share for each Kirkland Lake Gold common share held, implying a combined market capitalisation of approximately $24 billion. Upon closing, existing Agnico Eagle and Kirkland Lake Gold shareholders will own approximately 54% and 46% of the combined company, respectively.

Sean Boyd, Agnico Eagle’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “This merger starts a new chapter in Agnico Eagle’s 64-year history and creates the leading low risk global gold company with growing production, low costs and strong ESG leadership. The transaction creates a company with a strong platform of people, assets and financial resources to continue to build and operate a long-term sustainable and self-funding business.

“Kirkland Lake is an excellent cultural fit with Agnico Eagle, and we look forward to working together to further grow our business through exploration, mine development and optimisation of our high-quality asset base. Over time, we believe that the gold industry will continue to evolve and consolidate and with this transaction we are well positioned take advantage of high-quality opportunities and be a true Canadian mining champion.”

Tony Makuch, President and CEO of Kirkland Lake Gold, added: “We are very pleased and excited to be entering into a combination with Agnico Eagle. It is a unique ‘strength-on-strength’ transaction that combines the two global gold producers with the best track records for increasing per share value. The deal creates an industry leader with a dominant position in the Canadian market that is deserving of a premium valuation and is poised to generate superior long-term shareholder value going forward. The transaction represents a true merger of equals, with the business of both companies to benefit from the significant financial strength of the merged company, the extensive pipeline of development and exploration projects to drive future growth, and the potential to realize significant operational and strategic synergies along the Abitibi-Kirkland Lake corridor. It is the right deal for our company and its shareholders, our people, the communities where we operate, and all of our key stakeholder groups.”

Boliden invests $160 million in leaching plant, underground repository at Rönnskär

Boliden has opened a new leaching plant and underground repository at its Rönnskär operations in Sweden as it looks to extract additional metal from residual materials at the smelter and store any remaining waste in a sustainable way.

For many years, residual materials from smelting processes containing copper, zinc and lead, among other elements, have been stored temporarily at the Rönnskär site.

These residual materials, together with future residues from production, will from this point pass through the newly built leaching plant where further metal extraction will take place. The remaining material will then be transported straight down to the underground repository, which is located about 350 m below the site.

This will see Rönnskär become the only copper smelter in the world with a long-term, sustainable on-site storage solution, according to Boliden.

Investments in the two facilities have amounted to SEK 1.4 billion ($160 million), Boliden says.

Daniel Peltonen, President Boliden Smelters, says: “Our aim is to extract as much metal as possible from our raw materials while ensuring the best achievable environmental and climate performance. The investments we have now made represent a new chapter in Rönnskär’s history in both of these areas.”

Rönnskär produced 226,000 t of copper, along with 33,000 of zinc clinker, 28,000 t of lead, 506,000 t of sulphuric acid, 524,000 kg of silver and 14,000 kg of gold last year, according to Boliden.

Oyu Tolgoi adopts Cohda Wireless V2X vehicle positioning solution

Cohda Wireless is applying its vehicle positioning solution at the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia aiming to drive safety and productivity in an initiative that could pave the way for, it says, a new industry standard.

Cohda Wireless is headquartered in Australia and has offices in Europe, the US and China. Its V2X (Vehicle-To-Everything) technology connects vehicles with each other and with roadside infrastructure to create a cooperative and intelligent transport environment, the company says.

Now, its V2X-Locate technology is being deployed at the Rio Tinto-managed copper and gold mine in Mongolia to provide “unheralded vehicle and personnel location accuracy”, Cohda says.

This solution was initially developed to solve the vehicle positioning accuracy challenges inherent in the urban canyons of cities where large buildings, underground car parks and tunnels interfere with GNSS signals. Using DSRC (dedicated short-range communication) signals, Cohda’s signal processing and positioning algorithms provide accurate vehicle position irrespective of GNSS availability and/or quality and is therefore suited to mining environments.

As Russell Kennett, Manager Underground Technology at Oyu Tolgoi explains, Cohda’s technology has now been adapted to serve a mining environment for the first time.

“Cohda’s V2X-Locate allows all equipped mobile fleet, fixed plant and personnel to be reliably tracked in real time to sub-metre accuracy in a GNSS-denied environment, to prevent incidents and assist in emergency evacuations and to enable traffic management and schedule optimisation,” he said.

Cohda Wireless CEO, Dr Paul Gray, said the widespread adoption of connected, intelligent transport solutions in the mining sector will greatly reduce the risk of injury or death and will also drive productivity gains.

“The system can integrate and manage location data from multiple sensor types with sub-metre accuracy throughout the mine site and is a significant improvement on using a combination of disparate collision avoidance systems across the mining environment, as is usually the case,” he says.

“When you have hundreds of vehicles and personnel operating in close proximity underground, a metre matters! And, whilst the prevention of injury and death is always the top priority, we also know that the ability to visualise, optimise and monitor vehicles brings significant operational benefits and efficiencies.”

A Cohda V2X-Locate system is in place and ready to go live at Oyu Tolgoi. Over 200 mining vehicles of all types are being fitted with Cohda’s XBU-V specially adapted On-Board units, which connect vehicles to each other and to XBU-I Road-Side Units that are installed in mine tunnels. Over 2,000 personnel will use V2X-Locate compatible cap lamps so that the collective system can use time-of-flight analysis of wireless signals to resolve spatial locations, the company explained.

Mining vehicles are fitted with a human machine interface that will notify operators of potential collisions. The system supports EMESRT Level 7 (Alert) and partial Level 8 (Advise) controls with full Level 8 controls and Level 9 (Intervention) controls on the Cohda product roadmap, it said.

Kennett believes this deployment could be instrumental in adopting an industry peer-to-peer communications and location standard.

“This project allows us to benefit from a highly tested, future-proofed, automotive-level safety technology that has proven reliability, scalability and robustness,” he says. “This potentially opens the door for the introduction of mine-wide peer-to-peer V2X networks that OEMs and vendors can integrate into their products to ensure interoperability regardless of the setting.”

Metso Outotec appoints Cyriac Tor as slurry pump distributor

Metso Outotec has appointed Cyriac Tor Ltd as a distributor of its pumps in the UK, with the agreement covering slurry pumps, spare parts, seals and hoses, commissioning, service contracts and technical support to all industry sectors in England, Scotland and Wales.

The contract came into effect this month and will run alongside all existing distribution agreements.

“We are very pleased to announce the partnership with Cyriac Tor,” Saso Kitanoski, President, Europe in Metso Outotec, says. “This partnership allows us to extend our presence in multiple industry sectors within this key market. With Cyriac Tor’s local presence and extensive knowledge, we will be able to expand the level of support we give to customers as well as increase our presence in industrial processes.”

Cyriac Tor Ltd Managing Director, Ben Oliver, added: “Cyriac Tor Limited is very happy to work alongside Metso Outotec, with an enlarged territory, looking forward to increasing our customer base and supplying a top class service.”

Greg Dixon, European Pump Sales Director at Metso Outotec, said the company was looking for a partner to help it better serve process industry customers requiring market-leading slurry pumping solutions.

“By holding both equipment and local inventories with an increased service capability, we will be able to offer our customers a world-class, responsive service,” he said.

Wood to investigate ISR potential of Phoenix uranium deposit in Wheeler River JV FS

Denison Mines Corp says it has selected engineering firm Wood PLC to lead and author a feasibility study for the in-situ recovery (ISR) mining operation proposed for the Phoenix uranium deposit in the Athabasca Basin of Canada, part of the Wheeler River Joint Venture (WRJV) project.

The completion of the study is, Denison says, a critical step in the progression of the project and is intended to advance de-risking efforts to the point where the company and the WRJV will be able to make a definitive development decision.

Denison has an effective 95% ownership interest in Wheeler River (90% directly, and 5% indirectly through a 50% ownership in JCU), which has combined indicated mineral resources of 132.1 MIb of U3O8 (1.8 Mt at an average grade of 3.3% U3O8), plus combined inferred mineral resources of 3 MIb of U3O8 (82,000 t at an average grade of 1.7% U3O8).

Key objectives of the study are expected to include:

  • Environmental stewardship: extensive planning and technical work undertaken as part of the ongoing Environmental Assessment (EA), including applicable feedback from consultation efforts with various interested parties, is expected to be incorporated into the feasibility study project designs to support Denison’s aspiration of achieving a superior standard of environmental stewardship that meets and exceeds the anticipated environmental expectations of regulators and aligns with the interests of local Indigenous communities;
  • Updated estimate of mineral resources: mineral resources for Phoenix were last estimated in 2018. Since then, additional drilling has been completed in and around the Phoenix deposit as part of various ISR field tests, including drill hole GWR-045 (22% eU3O8 over 8.6 m), and exploration drilling. The updated mineral resource estimate will form the basis for mine planning in the study;
  • Mine design optimisation: feasibility study mine design is expected to reflect the decision to adopt a freeze wall configuration for containment of the ISR well field, as well as the results from multiple field test programs and extensive hydrogeological modelling exercises, which have provided various opportunities to optimise other elements of the project – including well pattern designs, permeability enhancement strategies, and both construction and production schedules;
  • Processing plant optimization: feasibility study process plant design is expected to reflect the decision to increase the ISR mining uranium head-grade to 15 g/L, as well as the results from extensive metallurgical laboratory studies designed to optimize the mineral processing aspects of the project; and
  • Class 3 capital cost estimate: the feasibility study is also intended to provide the level of engineering design necessary to support a Class 3 capital cost estimate (AACE international standard with an accuracy of -15% /+25%), which is expected to provide a basis to confirm the economic potential of the project highlighted in the prefeasibility study completed in 2018.

The 2018 prefeasibility study considered the potential economic merit of developing the Phoenix deposit as an ISR operation and the Gryphon deposit as a conventional underground mining operation. Taken together, the project was estimated to have mine production of 109.4 Mib of U3O8 over a 14-year mine life.

David Cates, Denison’s President & CEO, said: “The ISR de-risking activities we’ve completed since the publication of the prefeasibility study for Wheeler River in 2018 have been designed to support the completion of a future feasibility study, and the results to date have further confirmed the technical viability of the project – leading to the decision to advance the project and initiate the formal feasibility study process.

“During this de-risking phase, we have been able to verify orebody permeability and the leachability of high-grade uranium in conditions representative of an ISR mining setting. We’ve also engineered an improved containment design using a more conventional ground freezing approach. Based on the results of field programs and metallurgical lab testing completed over the last three years, we are confident that the project is ready to advance into a full feasibility study. Taken together with the selection of globally recognised engineering firm Wood, the decision to launch the formal feasibility study process for Phoenix represents another important step towards achieving our objective of bringing low-cost ISR mining to the high-grade uranium deposits of the Athabasca Basin.”

Primero bags Finniss lithium process plant EPC contract

Core Lithium has awarded Primero Group with the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the Finniss lithium process plant in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Primero’s award status has been updated from the initial preferred status awarded in 2019 and continues the long-standing relationship in the development of the project with the Core Lithium team and follows on from the successful delivery of Core’s definitive feasibility study and subsequent study updates, NRW Holdings, the parent company of Primero, says.

The project will commence immediately and is fully funded with site works planned to commence in March 2022 with commissioning of the facility due to commence in October 2022, according to NRW.

Primero’s work on the Finniss dense media separation (DMS) plant will entail project management; engineering and detailed design; equipment and materials procurement; DMS plant construction; quality assurance and construction verification, and ore commissioning on receipt of first ore, according to Core.

Primero Managing Director, Cameron Henry, says: “The Primero brand is synonymous with the processing and operation of battery metals and future energy and the Core Lithium project is another example of the quality of our processing knowledge in these industries. The working relationship with the Core team has been a four-year journey and we look forward to delivering on this contract and continuing the relationship with Core.”

NRW CEO, Jules Pemberton, added: “The NRW Holdings business continues to diversify its business streams into the future metals and energy space with another great award to the Primero Group team in the electric vehicle space with Core Lithium.”

The August definitive feasibility study on Finniss outlined a Stage 1 mine life of eight years with average production of 173,000 t/y at 5.8% Li2O.

MTS, Ericsson deploy Russia’s first commercial 5G-ready private network at Polymetal’s Nezhda

Mobile TeleSystems PJSC, a leading provider of media and digital services, has completed the construction and launch of operations of what it says is Russia’s first commercial 5G-ready Private network at Polymetal International plc’s Nezhdaninskoye gold deposit in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

The planned installation of the network, built on the Ericsson Dedicated Networks solution, was announced last year.

Within the project, MTS deployed a wireless network for Yuzhno-Verkhoyansk Mining Company JSC, affiliated with Polymetal. The network supports integrated mining dispatching systems, positioning, remote and automated control of various equipment, including excavators, drilling rigs, measuring devices, monitoring systems for remote equipment and video monitoring.

Within the project a full range of turnkey works and services has been implemented, including site inspection, network architecture design, supply and installation of radio base stations, network core and auxiliary equipment, network testing and commercial launch, MTS says. At the first stage, the network built on Ericsson solutions will operate in the LTE standard with the possibility of smooth and fast upgrade to 5G, according to the company.

The network is built on Ericsson Dedicated Networks solution, which complies with the 3GPP standards and includes a full-fledged carrier-grade network core. It supports 4G and 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) simultaneously and allows dual-mode core capability to support 5G New Radio Standalone (5G NR SA). An enterprise can use all the carrier grade packet network functions for its own mission-critical applications, MTS says.

Georgy Dzhabiev, Director, Digital Solutions, MTS, says: “We are grateful to our partner Polymetal for cooperation that resulted in the creation of the first commercial Private LTE network in Russia for remote monitoring and managing critical processes in difficult geographic and weather conditions. I am sure that the competence and experience of MTS in the implementation of unique network and IT solutions, digitalisation and automation of production processes will help our customers to increase their business efficiency and improve the working conditions.”

Alexander Laguta, Head of Information Technology and Communications department, Yakutsk branch of Polymetal, says: “The system is already showing its effectiveness and is ready to move to next stage of introducing innovative technologies in production. The Private 5G-ready network will significantly increase the speed of transferring large amounts of data and reduce the cost of maintaining the technological network. One of the first projects on the basis of this network will be launch of dispatching systems, remote control of drilling rigs and video monitoring.”

Alexander Romanov, Head of Private Networks, Ericsson Russia, says: “The Private Network is the backbone of critical communications infrastructure and the Industrial Internet of Things, not only in mining, but also in other industries with a high demand for seamless coverage, performance, security and reliability while supporting mission-critical business processes in a new digital reality.”

At the next stages of the project, the implementation of a dispatch radio communication system based on MC-PTT (Mission Critical Push-to-Talk) over LTE network is planned, along with integration with the internal telephone network of the enterprise.

Enter Engineering, thyssenkrupp to tackle Tebinbulak iron ore deposit in Uzbekistan

Enter Engineering and thyssenkrupp AG have signed an Agreement of Intent that could see the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) contractor take the exclusive role as construction partner in building an integrated mining metallurgical complex at the Tebinbulak iron ore deposit in Uzbekistan.

The pact, worth €50 million ($58 million), comes on top of a signed agreement for the start of preparatory work on the project, including a contract for the supply of equipment, its design, supervision during installation and commissioning at the facility.

The high pressure grinding roll (HPGR) technology will be used to help process up to 60 Mt/y of iron ore, according to the EPC firm.

The implementation period for Enter Engineering’s construction role is two years with the plant launch anticipated for September 2023.

Bakhtiyor Fazylov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Enter Engineering, said: “We are delighted to partner with a leading global company such as thyssenkrupp. Applying German standards, we will create a high-quality raw material base for the domestic metallurgical industry. This project also embodies all the goals Enter Engineering strives for: protecting Uzbekistan’s national interests in the international market, supporting the interests of domestic consumers and creating jobs.”

Reza Poorvash, CEO thyssenkrupp Mining Technologies Europe and Asia, said: “To date, more than 140 units of HPGR equipment have been sold in the mining industry. In the CIS countries, thyssenkrupp takes a leading position among mining companies that use this technology, in practice confirming the high quality and reliability of the German brand.”

Roman Karl, Managing Director thyssenkrupp Mining Technologies CIS, added: “We are delighted to partner with such a well-known company in Uzbekistan as Enter Engineering, who have a long track record of successful execution in major engineering construction projects.

“The project will use one of the most energy efficient and innovative technologies to significantly reduce energy consumption. HPGR has been used since 1985 in the cement industry, and since 1986 in the mining industry for use in the grinding process to ensure a high level of product fineness. Full integration of this technology within Industry 4.0 is also important.”

The Tebinbulak complex is significant for Uzbekistan because of its multiplier effect. As well as creating new jobs in remote areas, it will help develop domestic iron ore to provide the country’s existing metallurgical complexes with raw materials. It will also support development of infrastructure, creation of service enterprises and an increase in trade between countries.

Tebinbulak is located in the Karauzyak district of Karakalpakstan, in the north-west part of Uzbekistan. The field covers 5.2 sq.km and comes with a predicted mine life of 27 years.

Cooperation between Enter Engineering and thyssenkrupp is supported at a high inter-governmental level, with the agreement signing ceremony attended by Alisher Sultanov, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Energy.

CR and KBSS collaborate on conveyor system deployments in the Pilbara

CR has announced a new partnership with KBSS to bring CR’s custom-made conveyor systems to the Pilbara of Western Australia.

KBSS is now CR’s Pilbara-based partner for mining conveyor systems, a company fully ISO accredited to Quality Management Systems, with, CR says, a reputation for delivering safe, reliable and cost-effective outcomes.

As part of the partnership, CR will be providing engineering and technical support, including on-site support, while KBSS will be looking after installation and maintenance services.

CR Business Development Manager, Paul Shankley, said: “When CR was searching for partners to bring our mining conveyor systems to the Pilbara, KBSS was the obvious pick. We both continually strive for Zero Harm whilst taking pride in bringing high-quality solutions to the global mining industry. CR are excited to collaborate with KBSS.”

CR’s mining conveyor systems are designed to maximise performance, minimise maintenance requirements and reduce total cost of ownership. Its range of conveyor components and accessories includes belt cleaning systems; belt stabilising kits; conveyor pulley lagging; conveyor skirting systems; and conveyor belt trackers.

The company said: “Our conveyor systems are designed for mines. They decrease lost product, reduce carry back, and minimise dust and spillage.”

Inmarsat research notes COVID-19-inspired uptick in mining’s use of IoT

New research by Inmarsat, a leader in global mobile satellite communications, reveals a rapid increase in the maturity level of industrial Internet of Things (IoT) adoption across the mining sector since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Respondents from the sector reported that COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of IoT to their businesses, with many accelerating IoT deployments in response to the pandemic.

According to the research, adoption has seen huge progress from 2020 to 2021. Some 82% of mining respondents have now fully deployed at least one IoT project, with 37% having achieved this in the 12-month period from the June quarter of 2020. Of the remaining 18% of mining respondents that have not yet adopted IoT in any form, all of them are either currently trialling it, or plan to deploy or trial at least one IoT project in the next two years, according to the research.

A further 81% of mining respondents indicated they have or they intend to accelerate the adoption of IoT in response to challenges related to COVID-19. This figure includes 40% who have already accelerated IoT adoption to respond to COVID-19, versus 21% who will accelerate over the next 12 months and 20% who will accelerate beyond the next 12 months.

The 40 per cent that have already accelerated IoT adoption are less likely to state that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their ability to operate, demonstrating a link between IoT and business continuity during the pandemic. Additionally, nearly half (47%) of respondents in the sector indicated that business and operational challenges related to COVID-19 have underlined the importance of IoT.

Commenting on this acceleration of IoT in the mining sector, Nicholas Prevost, Director of Mining Innovation at Inmarsat, said: “While the mining sector has, historically, lagged behind other industries in its adoption of radical ideas and new technologies, our latest research reveals that the sector has made considerable progress in terms of IoT adoption and development over the last few years and is very upbeat about its potential. The COVID-19 crisis has only served to accelerate the rate of IoT adoption in many mining businesses and we are now seeing evidence that those companies that are increasing the speed of adoption of IoT and associated technologies are gaining an advantage, through their ability to keep operations going autonomously and with greater insight.”

Mike Carter, President of Inmarsat Enterprise, added: “The rapid increase in IoT deployments over the last few years highlights the considerable progress global industry has made to overcome some of the world’s most challenging forces. It is particularly interesting, though logical, that COVID-19 has further catalysed businesses to increase their reliance on Industry 4.0 technologies, and particularly the industrial Internet of Things, in order to maintain business continuity. Those businesses implementing IoT technologies ahead of their competition and across their value chains are those who stand to win in the long-term.

“While our findings point to IoT driving significant uplifts in efficiency, sustainability and safety across global supply chains, there are areas where organisations can make improvements to draw the optimum benefits from the technology. Connectivity, data management, skills shortages, security threats and investment levels remain challenges as the world’s production and supply chains become increasingly digitalised and intertwined.

“Inmarsat’s global ELERA network is inspiring new possibilities and enabling organisations from all sectors to access IoT anywhere. Ideally suited to the rapidly evolving world of IoT, our industry-leading narrowband network provides global reach, extraordinary resilience, and the fastest speeds, along with the smallest, low cost terminals in their class.”