All posts by Daniel Gleeson

Newmont turning to software for Peñasquito TSF planning

Newmont is looking to leverage planning software already used in the oil sands industry to create a safe, stable and well-planned tailings storage facility at its Peñasquito gold mine, in Mexico, according to Ross Hunsaker.

Hunsaker, the gold miner’s Tailings and Fresh Water Manager, is due to present ‘Newmont Goldcorp Peñasquito Mine – How Technology has Enhanced Tailings Planning’ at the 2020 SME MineXchange Annual Conference & Expo, in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, with a presentation abstract revealing more about his talk.

As he said in this abstract, the oil sands industry operates large, complex tailings storage facility (TSF), with these operators taking advantage of tools generated for mining and using them for planning and scheduling TSFs.

“Several different software packages are needed to handle this planning due to beach slope changes, mature fine tailings and water management,” he said. “Mining lags behind the oil sands industry when it comes to tools for tailings planning.”

At the Peñasquito mine, which produced 272,000 oz of gold in 2018, the TSF dam spans 11 km and, at completion, will be 150 m high. It has a centreline raise for three sides and a downstream raise for the fourth side, according to Hunsaker. It is being constructed using a mine fleet of Komatsu 930Es for a buttress, and a fleet of Cat 777 haul trucks for a sliver fill, with 20-ton (18 t) dump trucks for rock fill and cycloned sand, he added.

According to Hunsaker, the Peñasquito team is implementing planning software to integrate all construction activities into one plan, with scenario planning enhanced by software to optimise resources, activity duration and constraint identification.

Back in 2018, Goldcorp (which later merged with Newmont) achieved commercial production at Pyrite Leach project (PLP) at Peñasquito, a project that has seen tailings reprocessed for metal recovery.

The PLP plant processes the existing plant tails, feeding a sequential flotation and leach circuit with precious metals recovered through a Merrill Crowe process, producing doré as the final product. Tails from the new plant report to the existing TSF.

Hunsaker concluded in the abstract: “The overall software implementation is a work in progress with the overall goal of a safe, stable and well planned TSF.”

Kibali automation journey to be discussed at SME Conference

One of the most autonomous underground mines in the world, Barrick Gold’s Kibali operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recently hit another annual production record.

The mine soared past its 2019 production guidance of 750,000 oz of gold, with 814,027 oz being delivered. This topped the previous 2018 record of 807,251 oz.

At this year’s SME MineXchange Annual Conference & Expo, in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 26, Ismali Traore, Kibali Technical Services Manager, is to reveal more about how the operation has continued to surpass expectations and how safety has become front and centre at the mine, owned 45% by Barrick, 45% by AngloGold Ashanti and 10% by SOKIMO.

In his conference abstract, Traore said, in recent years, the mine has made significant progress by implementing a fully automated production level and material handling system (MHS) at the underground mine.

This sees up to three LHDs operated simultaneously from ore passes to the crusher and multiple LHDs from the stope to the finger raises. The entire automation system is remotely operated from a control room located on surface.

In a recent presentation, the Kibali partners said the system was designed to have autonomous Sandvik LH621 LHDs work in combination with a Sanvdik AutoMine loading system (ALS). The ALS Mission Control System is incorporated with features such as traffic management, auto-loading and tipping with real time tonne-kilometres/h, and a real-time bucket weighing system that is within 3% accuracy level for each bucket trammed to the coarse ore bins (COB) at the operation.

The MHS, meanwhile, uses data obtained from the ALS to interface with SCADA via an OPC interface, according to the partners. COB levels from the SCADA system are then interfaced with ALS to manage the loading of the bins.

All information is interfaced to achieve the nameplate capacity of the hoisting system – which WorleyParsons provided the operating philosophy for and Winder Controls (member of the SIEMAG TECBERG Group) provided the winder design for – while taking into consideration the availability of the ALS to equate the total MHS availability, they said.

In its objective of becoming one of the most efficient Tier One mines globally where safety is a focal point of the operation, a significant amount of time was spent on the traffic management and human interaction with the autonomous mining equipment, Traore said.

This is something Barrick President and Chief Executive, Mark Bristow, picked up on last month, saying the mine is continuing its technological advance with the introduction of truck and drill training simulators and the integration of systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation demand control.

Traore is to expand on the important safety protocols implemented to mitigate the risk of collision between this equipment and humans within the automated system during his presentation.

AFEX Fire Suppression Systems awarded ISO 9001 certification

AFEX Fire Suppression Systems has been awarded ISO 9001:2015 certification for its Quality Management System (QMS) by NSF International Strategic Relations, it said.

The ISO 9000 family is the world’s most best-known quality management standard, according to AFEX. “ISO 9001:2015 is built on various quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement,” the company explained. “Using ISO 9001:2015 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services.”

AFEX calls itself a leader in heavy equipment fire protection, supplying suppression and protection systems to mines across the globe.

The award, which occurred on January 31, followed a rigorous process and a collaborative effort throughout the entire AFEX organisation, the company said. “It reaffirms our commitment to quality and exemplifies our focus on continuous improvement.”

Scott Matthews, Quality Manager at AFEX, said: “We’ve always had a commitment to quality, so our certification to ISO 9001 further demonstrates AFEX’s company values; do it right. Do it safe. Do it better.”

Barminco to start contract mining at Savannah next month

Less than a month after being named preferred contractor for the Savannah nickel-copper-cobalt project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Perenti’s Barminco has formally been awarded a contract to start work on the Panoramic Resources-owned asset.

Under the circa-A$200 million ($132 million) contract, Barminco will undertake mine development, production, and haulage over a three-year term at the project, with around 170 people expected to be employed.

Barminco says it has been in discussions with Panoramic over recent weeks to develop a mobilisation plan and contract mining of the first stoped ore was expected to commence in early March 2020.

Perenti Managing Director, Mark Norwell, said: “We are pleased to have been formally awarded the contract and look forward to working closely with Panoramic to deliver on this project.”

Caterpillar improves fill speed and weight of dragline buckets

Cat® has released a new double clip back bucket for draglines that, it says, features an innovative design that increases fill speed and reduces bucket weight for faster cycle times and greater payload.

The patented design also eliminates the highmaintenance spreader bar from the rigging system, it said.

The wide mouth, aggressive lip angle, and low front height reduce drag power required to fill the bucket, according to the company, while the design minimises the required fill distance for improved productivity and reduced bucket wear.

Cat said: “The unique shape of the rear wall enables the bucket to fill without upper rear corner voids, and it increases material density in the bucket for optimum payloads on every pass. It also clearly shows the operator when the bucket is full and should exit the cut.”

Eliminating the hoist rigging spreader bar has additional benefits, such as reduced wear and tear on the top rails and trunnions, Cat said. Meanwhile, fewer system components result in less inventory management and reduced maintenance cost. The rigging system design also gives the operator better control of the bucket and reduces the opportunity for an inexperienced operator to damage it, the company said.

“The unique trunnion design and location on the clipped portion of the bucket protects the lower hoist link from wear and provides quick dumping of the payload,” Cat said, adding that the design includes a cast-in deflector to protect and increase the life of the trunnion.

“The new Cat bucket is available for a wide range of dragline sizes and applications, no matter what the brand of machine,” Cat said. “Using data-driven analysis, Caterpillar designs each bucket for the specific dragline and application.”

The design process uses all significant parameters, including ground density, wear package, rigging package and bucket weight to optimise performance within the dragline’s rated suspended load, Cat explained. Reduced dead weight of the double clip back bucket, as compared with conventional designs, ranges from 2-10% depending on the application, it added.

Cat dragline buckets also include wear packages based on the mine’s material abrasiveness and digging conditions. The Cat dragline bucket lip nose casting supports the Cat CapSureadapter and tooth system. The system delivers long wear life and hammerless installation of teeth for enhanced safety and faster removal and replacement.

New research collective to examine grinding mill process

Bradken, as part of a research collective, is to work on a project aimed at delivering a digital step-change in grinding mill design and performance.

The company, which specialises in equipment wear parts and services, made the announcement following the award of an Australian Government grant of A$545,000 ($362,264) for the project, which will focus on comminution and developing super-accurate simulations of the grinding mill process, it said.

Bradken Global Research and Development Manager, Reece Attwood, said the potentially game-changing project would give global mining and resources operators the ability to precisely target grinding efficiency, mill liner service life, power consumption and carbon emissions, to optimise their operations.

“The constant evolution of the global raw material market and the changing needs of our customers’ demands that Bradken innovates so we can deliver solutions that offer improved productivity, but on a whole new level,” Attwood said.

“This exciting project aims to accelerate improvements in mill design through development of an enhanced digital twin while, combining a number of technologies such as IoT instrumentation, enhanced simulation techniques and deep learning.”

The project will be hosted by the University of Newcastle through its flagship research institute, the Newcastle Institute for Energy and resources (NIER) in collaboration with the University of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), as well as international involvement from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Attwood said Bradken and the University of Newcastle had a long history of partnerships.

“Working with organisations like the University of Newcastle brings a bigger mix of ideas from a wider range of backgrounds all focused on the same significant challenge,” he said. “This collaboration will help generate the innovation our industry and our customers need to take the next step forward.”

Chief Investigator on the project, Professor Craig Wheeler, from the University of Newcastle, said the cross-disciplinary team will merge expertise from solids processing and artificial intelligence to develop new computational algorithms.

“Our work will enhance the design and maintenance of key industrial equipment, predict wear and optimise the design of key components to improve the life of machinery to process minerals,” Professor Wheeler said.

Leading the project for Bradken is Senior Research Scientist – Process Control, Dr Wei Chen, who, according to Bradken, has extensive experience in both industry research and applied numerical modelling.

Dr Chen said: “Partnering with a group of leading research experts from Australia and abroad, gives us access to world class thinking in IoT, deep learning and numerical modelling.

“Together we’ll go through a rigorous experimental and numerical research program that we expect will deliver considerable benefits for our customers around the world.

“Involving our customers in the research process through site trials will keep us together at the forefront of mineral processing technology.”

Work on the project is planned to get underway in March.

Perenti’s surface division awarded with A$155.5 million of new contracts

Perenti reports its Surface Mining Industry Sector Group (ISG) has been awarded A$155.5 million ($103 million) in new and extended contracts.

The new work, extensions, and expansion of scope is across 10 projects, with highlights including:

  • A three-year contract (with options to extend) for production drilling services with Boggabri Coal Operations (a part of Idemitsu Australia Resources Group) at its Boggabri coal mine in New South Wales, Australia;
  • A three-year contract extension with a major iron ore producer for reverse circulation (RC) and grade control drilling at its Western Australian operations;
  • A 12-month contract extension with Consolidated Minerals to support current mining operations and regional expansion projects (which has mining operations in Australia and Ghana);
  • Expansion of services for a major mining contractor in Queensland, which will double the contract value across the current three-year contract duration;
  • A 12-month extension to existing works at Gold Fields’ St Ives and Granny Smith gold projects, in Western Australia, which involves land and lake rigs for air core, RC and diamond drilling; and
  • An equipment hire agreement with E&P at Gold Fields’ Damang gold mine in Ghana.

Perenti Group Managing Director, Mark Norwell, said: “We have been targeting a strong pipeline of surface and underground work and I am pleased we continue to convert these opportunities into secured contracts across a range of different projects in both Australia and Africa.

“These latest awards add to $165 million in surface work we announced in December 2019 and the A$200 million contract we recently announced for our Underground ISG.”

Torex’s Stanford looks forward to big year with advancement of Muckahi Mining system

It was a year of milestones for Torex Gold in 2019, with the Mexico-focused gold miner posting record operational and safety performance, alongside record EBITDA and free cash flow.

The company produced 454,800 oz of gold in 2019 and is guiding for 420,000-480,000 ounces in 2020.

From a technology perspective, the company also made significant progress on advancing its Muckahi Mining System, an alternative to established underground mining processes that, Torex says, can create a more continuous mining process able to accelerate return on investment.

The benefits of the technology include an up to 30% reduction in underground mining capital expenditure, an up to 80% reduction in time between investment and revenue, up to 30% reduction in mining operating expenses and an up to 95% reduction in underground greenhouse gas emissions, Torex says.

President & CEO, Fred Stanford, said: “On the Muckahi front, we successfully demonstrated the viability of the most innovative aspects of the mining system in 2019. We are now excavating our second 30° down ramp and are continuously improving the technique.”

The company is currently testing out the technology at the El Limón Deep zone (ELD) at its El Limón Guajes mining complex (ELG), in southwest Mexico.

Incorporating 30° ramps into mine designs will be a “game changer” for the industry, according to Stanford.

“Moving beyond tunneling to ore production, we demonstrated we could achieve ‘conveyable fragmentation’ when blasting a long hole open stope. The team then demonstrated they could completely ‘muck out’ the long hole open stope with a low cost electric slusher,” he said.

With the major innovations demonstrated as viable in 2019, 2020 will focus on optimising the processes tested in 2019, and initiating testing of the various conveyor applications in the Muckahi Mining System, Stanford said.

“A conveyor for the 30°-ramp has been designed, manufactured, and is currently in transit to the mine,” he said, adding that it will be installed in the ELD deposit in the June quarter.

“We all look forward to getting the conveyor installed and demonstrating the potential,” he said.

Caterpillar to help Newmont’s Boddington gold mine go autonomous

Newmont’s Boddington operation, in Australia, is to become the world’s first open-pit gold mine with an autonomous haul truck fleet after the miner’s Board of Directors unanimously approved investment in an Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) from Caterpillar.

The move, which will enhance safety and productivity and is expected to be fully operational in 2021, will also see the Boddington mine life extended, according to Newmont.

Tom Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Not only does Boddington continue to deliver strong performance, our investment in autonomous haul trucks will generate an internal rate of return greater than 35% with a more controlled and efficient haulage operation.

“We are also uniquely positioned in the gold sector to support effective implementation and operation of the fleet thanks to the technical capabilities and previous experience of leaders in our business. Simply put, Boddington will be a safer, more productive world-class gold mine in a top-tier jurisdiction.”

Total net investment in Boddington’s AHS will be $150 million, with efficiencies expected to extend the mine’s life by at least two years, Newmont said. The project will involve adding some new AHS-enabled Caterpillar 793Fs to the haulage fleet and retrofitting some existing 793Fs with AHS capabilities, a Newmont spokesperson confirmed. The company said it also saw additional upside potential from the replication of the AHS at other Newmont operations.

The company said: “Boddington’s autonomous Caterpillar haul trucks will feature rigorous safety controls that reduce employee exposure to potential vehicle interactions. No injuries have been recorded from AHS operations since their introduction into the mining industry.”

Newmont said it is also executing a “robust people strategy” at Boddington, providing opportunities for reskilling and redeployment of haul truck drivers to other roles supporting the AHS.

Boddington is Western Australia’s largest gold producer, delivering 709,000 oz of gold and 77 MIb (34,927 t) of copper in 2018. The mine directly employs around 2,000 people and is located 135 km southeast of Perth in Western Australia.

Macmahon’s GBF wins contract extension at Silver Lake’s Mount Monger ops

Macmahon Holdings’ acquisition of underground contracting business, GBF Group, is already paying off, with GBF receiving a conditional letter of intent from Silver Lake Resources for further work at the Mount Monger gold operations in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

GBF has been operating at Mount Monger since 2014 and currently provides mining services to the Daisy Complex, Cock-eyed Bob and Maxwells mines, which form part of this operation, expected to produce 120,000-130,000 oz of gold-equivalent in Silver Lake’s 2020 financial year.

Under the new letter of intent, GBF’s tenure at these sites will be extended for three years from March 1, 2020, and GBF will also develop Silver Lake’s new Santa mine, due to commence next month.

GBF estimates the value of the new work with Silver Lake will add around A$200 million ($134 million) to its order book. The two companies will now negotiate the formal mining services agreement, with finalisation expected in March, Macmahon said.

Macmahon CEO and MD, Michael Finnegan, said: “The new work is an important milestone in our strategy to further expand in the underground market, and demonstrates the value in our GBF acquisition. We are looking forward to working closely with Silver Lake on this project and building on our relationship with this key client.”