All posts by Paul Moore

Minova increases ground support influence with Bulteck bolt on

Minova has announced it has completed the acquisition of Bulteck Mining Systems, a leader in the design and manufacture of steel ground support products.

The acquisition of Bulteck it says not only strengthens Minova’s presence in the European market, but also supports its segment growth plans globally. “The addition of Bulteck’s brand and products into our portfolio, enables our teams to offer a wider range of innovative ground support solutions for our customers in the underground hard rock and infrastructure sectors.”

Bulteck is the first acquisition Minova has made since the business was acquired by the AURELIUS Group in 2022. Minova is actively evaluating several similar add-on opportunities globally, in support of its ongoing expansion into the hard rock mining and infrastructure segments.

Minova’s President and CEO Ryan Kerr said: “We are extremely pleased to welcome the Bulteck team into Minova. This strategic acquisition is a natural fit for Minova, supporting our ambitious segment growth and product portfolio expansion plans.”

Bulteck’s Managing Director Luis Castano said: “The Bulteck team are very excited to be joining the Minova Group of companies increasing our access to Minova’s global infrastructure and customer base that will enable Bulteck to grow within such an important group. The acquisition of Bulteck by Minova is the correct decision for our business.”

Bulteck, founded in 2014, is headquartered in Gijon, Spain, and manufactures expandable friction bolts, friction bolts and steel arches for the underground hard rock and infrastructure markets.

Equinox Gold on reducing diesel combustion & increasing energy efficiency

In its just released Climate Action Report 2022, Equinox Gold gives a good overview of a broad approach to addressing Scope 1 emissions from a mid-tier miner. The gold miner has one project in Ontario (Greenstone, 60%), two mines in California (Mesquite and Castle Mountain), one mine in Mexico (Los Filos) and four mines in Brazil (Aurizona, Santa Luz, Fazenda and RDM).

Collectively the company produced about 532,000 oz in 2022 but in the long term is aiming to become a 1 Moz/y miner. The Greenstone mine is currently under construction with production targeted for the first half of 2024. The Equinox is also planning expansion projects at its Castle Mountain, Aurizona and Los Filos mines.

In the report Greg Smith, President, CEO and Director states: “At our growth projects we are considering green power alternatives, such as solar and wind, will use energy efficient fleets and are reviewing options to use biodiesel and renewable diesel. At our operating mines, we used baseline data collected during 2021 to identify GHG reduction opportunities and have prioritised initiatives that should allow Equinox Gold to achieve our 25% by 2030 reduction target.”

Maryse Bélanger, Director and Chair of the Environment, Social and Governance Committee, adds: “We have already implemented a number of initiatives to reduce GHG emissions and improve our energy efficiency. Upgrading the truck fleet in 2021 at Mesquite reduced emissions by 35% at the mine and we intend to upgrade the fleet at Los Filos to achieve similar reductions. In Brazil we negotiated green power contracts at three of our mines that are expected to reduce our total emissions by 7% in 2024, corresponding to 4% by 2030 against our business-as-usual forecast, while also resulting in more than $70 million in savings over the contract terms. Responsible mining makes good business sense, and we will continue to look for opportunities to benefit all stakeholders with new environment, social and governance initiatives.”

As an example, ENEL’s 206 MW Cumaru wind farm is able to generate more than 966 GWh per year, avoiding the emission of approximately 544,000 t of CO2 annually. Equinox Gold has arranged for exclusive off-take of 23 MW for a 10-year period to supply clean power to Santa Luz and Fazenda starting on January 1, 2023.

But what strategies is it looking at to achieve the balance of its 2025 targets? Climate related metrics show that nearly all of the company’s emissions (over 98%) come from diesel combustion onsite in mobile equipment and from electricity generation, either onsite or offsite, for fixed equipment. “Focusing the company’s GHG emissions reduction strategies on these areas will have the most impact towards achieving Equinox Gold’s GHG emissions reduction target.”

Following preliminary scoping calculations, potential initiatives were prioritised based on cost, benefits and ease of implementation. First off, reduction efforts for diesel combustion result in an approximately 15% reduction in consolidated GHG emissions.

Equinox Gold says fleet management programs and diesel tracking will be implemented in operations that are not currently using this technology. Dispatch personnel will use the tools available in the fleet management software to track the operation efficiency in real time and continuously improve material handling processes. “Equipment efficiency will be monitored in real time and investigations will be performed and corrective action taken when efficiency falls below the expected range. Dispatch personnel will also monitor data to determine when efficiency improvements have been realised with the objective of continuously improving the company’s material handling operations.

Fleet modernisation is also playing a part at Los Filos and Greenstone. The current shovel and truck fleet at Los Filos is planned to be replaced with larger, more fuel-efficient models to reduce the carbon intensity of the load/haul operation. At Greenstone, eight Caterpillar 793F trucks have been delivered to site. The remaining 23 trucks for the planned fleet will instead be the more fuel-efficient Caterpillar 793-8 model, with no incremental cost increase. These initiatives are similar to the fleet modernisation at Mesquite, which resulted in a 35% reduction in haul truck emissions. “At Los Filos, a similar level of emissions reduction is anticipated while at Greenstone we anticipate a 5% reduction in haul truck emissions.”

The use of electric drills and shovels is being evaluated for the Castle Mountain Phase 2 operation. Electric drills and shovels are grid connected instead of diesel powered and would result in a significant GHG emissions reduction benefit, since grid power at Castle Mountain is supplied by a mix of low-carbon sources including solar. The GHG emissions reduction benefit could be further increased if a power purchase agreement is used to supply zero carbon electricity for the site.

Then there is more use of conveying. “When Castle Mountain Phase 1 operations commenced, ore was hauled by truck from the pit rim to the heap leach pad. In 2022, ore was instead crushed and conveyed from near the pit rim to the heap leach pad. Although the 2021 feasibility study for Castle Mountain Phase 2 assumed ore would be hauled by truck from the pit rim to the heap leach pad, the company is studying crushing and conveying of ore for Phase 2 operations, which would reduce GHG emissions. Further emissions reduction could be realised by also conveying waste from the pit rim to the dumps.”

And low emission diesel. California is a low-cost jurisdiction in North America for renewable diesel and biodiesel due to a combination of state and federal low carbon fuel incentives. “Equinox Gold plans to procure renewable diesel in the future at our California operations, where supply is currently available, and will look to increase the use of biodiesel or renewable diesel at our other operations when supply becomes available. Brazil already benefits from a government legislated ~10% biodiesel blend in its diesel, resulting in a 10% GHG emissions reduction from all diesel combustion. As this legislation is already in effect, however, and not within Equinox Gold’s control, it is not included as a GHG emissions reduction initiative.”

Additionally, Equinox Gold says it may invest in truck retrofits to use dual-fuel diesel and liquid natural gas (LNG) powered trucks at Los Filos whereby diesel is displaced by LNG, which has less GHG emissions per unit of energy.

Moving on from diesel combustion reduction efforts, reducing electricity generation emissions is expected to result in an approximately 10% reduction in consolidated GHG emissions. As an example, Mesquite has optimised its heap leach pumping systems by minimising solution inventory and reducing heap leach application rates, installing booster pumps directly in line instead of from a storage tank, re-routing/amalgamating piping where possible, eliminating redundant pumps and ensuring pumps are right sized for efficiency based on their required flow characteristics. Equinox Gold intends to also optimise the heap leach pumping systems at Los Filos and Castle Mountain.

For comminution, Equinox Gold evaluated the various grinding options for Greenstone and chose to proceed with HPGR rather than the industry standard SAG mill (semi-autogenous grinding) option. “HPGRs are increasingly being used in the industry and have been shown to provide significant energy efficiency benefits where ore characteristics allow for this technology.”

Energy management programs will be implemented at all operations. KPIs will be developed and tracked by the mine site teams and Equinox Gold will support the development of energy management skills and awareness for the mine site workforce.

Procuring low emissions electricity wherever possible is key to Equinox Gold’s GHG emissions reduction plans. Equinox Gold has signed two power purchase agreements to supply zero emissions electricity for 80% of the electrical requirements at three of its Brazil operations. “The 10-year contract to use wind power at Santa Luz and Fazenda commenced on January 1, 2023 and is expected to result in nearly $42 million in savings over the contract life. Aurizona has signed a contract to use solar power commencing in 2024 with the expectation of saving $30 million over the 11-year contract. Equinox Gold is also investigating options to purchase lower emissions power for our Castle Mountain operation and we are working with a local First Nations group to purchase solar power to supply a portion of Greenstone’s electricity needs.”

Los Filos is located in a region with high solar potential, making solar electricity an attractive option from both a cost reduction and a GHG emissions reduction perspective. Equinox Gold “is evaluating options to build a solar power project or purchase solar power from a provider, recognising that there are current regulatory hurdles in the jurisdiction that will need to be addressed.”

5B’s modular solar tech part of Zenith’s power solution for WA lithium mine

Clean technology innovation company 5B has been appointed as the solar technology provider for a 16 MWp solar system that will form part of a 95 MW hybrid power station that Zenith Energy is constructing on a build, own, operate basis for Liontown Resources’ Kathleen Valley Lithium Project in Western Australia. It is expected to become the largest off-grid renewable energy hybrid power station in Australia.

5B was an integral part of the Zenith Energy bid and was awarded the contract based on the rapid rollout and safety advantages of its system. Zenith Energy’s Managing Director and CEO Hamish Moffat said: “5B has demonstrated that it has the potential to get the Kathleen Valley site to full solar PV generation capacity three months ahead of conventional single access tracker solutions with the potential to save more than 60% of the man hours required on site. This is creating a faster pathway to market for solar PV renewable energy generation assets.”

5B’s Deputy CEO Nicole Kuepper-Russell said: “It is great to see a green field mining operation incorporating renewable energy from the outset. We are incredibly fortunate to have Zenith Energy as an integration partner who is leveraging the prefabrication and rapid deployment of our solar technology to help mining companies and heavy industry transition to clean energy.”

Zenith Energy will begin deploying the 342 5B Maverick array systems in June 2023. When complete, the solar farm will occupy a land area equivalent to 17 NRL football fields [one NRL field is about 68 m by 100 m] and generate enough to power 4,000 homes. B MaverickTM is an Australian-designed ground mount solar solution designed to be safer, more cost effective and faster to deploy for offgrid, commercial and industrial, and large-scale solar power generation, compared to traditional single axis solar trackers or comparable solar racking solutions. Robust and redeployable, each 5B Maverick array consists of up to 90 solar panels, mounted on specially designed racks, and optimised for the workhorse 540-550W module class of the utility scale solar industry. 5B Maverick is described as “a fully prefabricated, plug & play solar farm in a box.”

Kathleen Valley Lithium Project is a Tier-1 battery metals asset located 680 km north-east of Perth in Western Australia. First product is planned for mid-2024 and, on start-up, the project will operate on 60% renewable power supply generated through wind and solar coupled to a battery storage system.

Seriti to green coal mines with 155 MW wind farm in Mpumalanga

Seriti Resources and its renewable energy subsidiary, Seriti Green, have announced that Seriti Green will soon begin construction on South Africa’s largest wind farm in Mpumalanga, with power supply coming online by 2025. This follows the signing of heads of terms between Seriti Resources and Seriti Green to a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for 155 MW of power that will be generated by Seriti Green and wheeled through the national grid to Seriti Resources’ coal mining operations.

The PPA is a significant step in Seriti’s renewable energy plans and is a realisation of its commitments made in the MoU signed with Eskom and Exxaro in October 2021. Seriti Green is proud to partner with Standard Bank and RMB in the financing and development of this initial 155 MW facility with a capex cost of ZAR4 billion. The conclusion of the PPA and meeting of all conditions necessary to commence construction (including reaching a financial close on the project) is expected to be completed by Q2 2023. The project has already received its Environmental Authorisation from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, a critical requirement to start construction.

The 155 MW Wind Energy Facility is the first phase of a larger, ~900 MW renewable energy cluster called Ummbila Emoyeni located between Bethal and Morgenzon in Mpumalanga. Ummbila Emoyeni is a combination of 750 MW wind energy facilities and 150 MW solar PV plants. The entire project has been designated as a Strategic Integrated Project by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

The signing of the PPA, and the development of this first wind farm, is a major first step in the construction of Seriti Green’s larger renewable energy project ambitions, to develop the capacity for 3,000 MW of renewable energy (both wind and solar) in the next decade.

The wind farm will be constructed in Mpumalanga, the country’s coal heartland, and will translate into a significant investment in the province along with the creation of jobs, procurement opportunities and social investment expenditure.

“The agreement is the first step in Seriti Resources’ journey towards carbon neutrality. More than that, the addition of 155 MW of renewable energy into the national grid in just two years will contribute to relieving Eskom’s energy constraints,” said Mike Teke, CEO of Seriti.

He notes that 155 MW could power approximately 165,000 average South African households per year. “It is fitting, we think, that this project will be developed in Mpumalanga, the home of coal mining and Seriti’s own operations. We are very mindful of the need for a just energy transition, where the needs of and responsibilities to those most immediately affected – employees, communities and beyond – are considered and planned for. This is just a first step for Seriti Green,” said Mike Teke.

The agreement is in line with the pledge Seriti Resources made in the MoU signed with Eskom and Exxaro, which outlined Seriti’s commitments to use renewable wind and solar energy in its facilities through the signing of PPA’s for the procurement of renewable energy. Under the MoU, Seriti aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by up to 350,000 t per annum, around half of its current emissions.

CEO of Seriti Green, Peter Venn, commented: “Climate change is a reality, and we are proud to be part of the solution to lowering carbon emissions through stable and cost- effective renewable energy through this momentous agreement.”

As a responsible coal producer, Seriti Resources is conscious of the effect that fossil fuels have on the environment and humanity – the company is therefore committed to playing an active role in reducing carbon emissions while helping to manage a just transition to a low-carbon future.

Once constructed the wind farm will transform over 75% of the energy consumption from Seriti’s existing coal operations into renewable energy whilst helping to mitigate its Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and bringing the company a step closer to carbon neutrality. Scope 1 refers to emissions from processes at the mine site, while Scope 2 are the indirect emissions such as the purchase of electricity from Eskom.

Mike Teke said: “This agreement is a meaningful step that further cements the significance of the inclusion of renewable energy through Seriti Green into the Group’s existing portfolio of high-quality coal assets to lower its carbon footprint and ensure long- term sustainability as a diversified energy producer.”

AECI says mining can save billions of litres of water for South Africans

Inspired by UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, AECI Water says it is focused on taking the mining industry off the potable grid. This directly links to this year’s Mining Indaba theme of ‘Stability, Security and Supply.’

“2.2 billion litres of water are being saved by two mines and we’re just getting started,” says Dean Mulqueeny, the AECI Executive responsible for AECI Water. “There are approximately 200 mines in South Africa. If every mine saved one billion litres of water, 200 billion litres of water will be saved. This is enough to fill 88,000 Olympic-size swimming pools or supply 2.5 million South Africans with 237 litres of water a day for a year.”

At a platinum mine in North West, AECI Water is treating and reusing fissure water through desalination processes. At a deep-level gold mine in the North West, they’re treating and reusing process water through proprietary chemical technology. This treated process water is being used in high temperature cooling systems while safeguarding the asset integrity. A range of similar work is happening in Africa and will be publicised in due course.

According to the CSIR, mining consumes between 2% and 5% of South Africa’s available water. “There’s always water on mines,” explains Mulqueeny. “Mines are either removing water or using water to reduce dust, move slurry or tailings, or control fires. Pumps and wells are commonplace. Since mines know how to work with water, they can apply new water management principles and technologies more readily and reap the benefits more quickly.”

These can include recycling and re-using water; engineering closed loop systems; finding alternative sources of sustainable water supply; improving discharged water quality; maximising the use of abundant and legacy water sources; plus applying appropriate water qualities for specific applications that are fit-for-purpose – not using potable for everything.

AECI Water says it is the leading provider of process and water treatment chemicals, equipment and services to the mining and minerals processing industry in Africa. “The business develops integrated solutions for asset integrity, continuous improvement, process efficiency, product quality, reduced risk and regulatory compliance with a strong focus on minimising water usage and waste while achieving Zero Harm.”

The business can also help mines give back to the community by repurposing groundwater for agricultural purposes or treating it to potable specifications for social responsibility programmes.

AECI Water technologies on display at Mining Indaba this week are:

  • ‘Smart’ ultrafiltration for process water treatment and recovery (improves performance of reverse osmosis (RO) units, limits investment and operating costs, and reduces energy and water consumption due to low backwashing)
  • Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR) pilot plant for activated sludge process intensification and denitrification (mitigates greenhouse gases and reduces energy consumption)
  • Thickener management
  • Solidification of aqueous waste
  • Decentralised surface and borehole water treatment skids

New BASF mining solutions VP to focus on innovative chemistry potential

Caren Hoffman has been appointed VP of BASF’s global mining solutions business, effective January 1, 2023. The business, which she now leads, focuses on the development and marketing of innovative chemistries and digital applications that offer sustainable solutions for the mineral processing industry.

“My goal is to increase awareness about what our innovative chemistry, coupled with our scientific artificial intelligence solutions, can do to meet some of the mining industry’s pressing challenges. We can design chemistry to tackle specific problems and, with our digital solutions, target them very precisely. Imagine if nickel could be extracted from laterites in a simple manner, or sulphides could be floated without xanthates, or even if chalcopyrite could be leached efficiently. I am looking forward to tackling some of these challenges with our customers,” Hoffmann.

Caren has an accomplished career that spans over 25 years. Prior to her current role, she was heading new business development for the mining solutions business. She started her career in 1997 with BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, where she held various positions in marketing, business development, strategy, sales, and distribution. Hoffmann holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Cat gears up to boost wheel loaders with the 995

Caterpillar’s 994 wheel loader has been a leader in its size class since it was first introduced in 1990. Now the company is set to enhance its offering with a step up to the all new Cat® 995 Wheel Loader which it says will deliver more payload, more power and more performance while using less fuel. First shipments are expected in Q4 2023 with an official launch in the coming months.

The 995 builds on the success of the 994K model with the goal of achieving even higher efficiency and production. Compared to the 994K, Cat says the new 995 is up to 19% more efficient and up to 19% more productive, thanks to a higher rated payload, increase in hydraulic force and up to 20% reduction in hourly fuel consumption in Enhanced Eco Mode. Standard rated payload is 45.3 t for moderate to high digging resistance and 54.4 t for low to moderate. It also has 6% more hydraulic force than the 994K.

Using less fuel reduces engine emissions and carbon footprint; it’s 3156E Tier 4 Final engine reduces NOx and particulate matter. It also has Engine Idle Shutdown, which saves fuel by making it possible to avoid unnecessary idling.

Efficiency focussed technology includes Tire Slip Prevention, which reduces rimpull when there is less downforce on the tyre and increases rimpull when there is more downforce on the tyre — providing maximum rimpull when you can use it. Lift Stall Prevention automatically applies the impeller clutch when necessary to prevent hydraulic stall when lifting up through the face — keeping the lift motion continuous, without excessive use of the impeller clutch.

It also offers an improved operator environment. Designed for visibility, it has a taller windshield that provides a 25% increase in glass surface area for a better view to the bucket, standard rear-view camera, optional Detect 270-degree cameras, standard LED lighting and six-mirror system. It also has improved access and egress, with integrated powered access system that can be raised and lowered from cab or ground.

Cat MineStar™ Terrain for loading provides real-time feedback on payloads and design plan progress to increases productivity and accuracy, reduce rework, enhance ore control and improve shift-to-shift operator performance.

These represent just a selection of the features of the new 995. Numerous other attributes have boosted its serviceability, operator assistance and confidence, safety and productivity not to mention the latest bucket and GET options and designs.



Southern Copper Corp’s expansive growth plans in Mexico

While the situation for some of the major miners in Peru remains challenging, Grupo Mexico-owned Southern Copper Corporation (SCC) has so far avoided being affected at its key operations there, namely Toquepala, Tia Maria, Los Chancas and Michiquillay.

SCC’s current capital investment program for this decade exceeds $15 billion and includes investments in the Buenavista Zinc, Pilares, El Pilar and El Arco projects in Mexico and in the Tia Maria, Los Chancas and Michiquillay projects in Peru. This capital forecast includes several infrastructure investments, including key investments to bolster the competitiveness of the El Arco project.

Mexico forms an important part of its growth plans. German Larrea, SCC Chairman of the Board stated in its Q4 and FY2022 results: “We continue to focus on expansion and expect to deliver ore to the Caridad concentrator from the Pilares mine in Q2 2023, contributing with 35,000 t of copper annually. Additionally, the new zinc concentrator at Buenavista is expected to begin operations in H2 2023 generating 100,000 t of zinc and 20,000 t of copper per year.”

Starting with the Buenavista zinc project in Sonora, the engineering study has been completed, and the project has all the necessary permits. When operating, this facility will double the company’s zinc production capacity and provide more than 2,000 operational jobs. The capital budget of the project is $416 million, most of which has already been invested.

Pilares is also in Sonora, located 6 km from La Caridad, this project consists of an open-pit mine operation which will significantly improve the overall ore grade going to the Caridad processing plant (considering the 0.78% expected from Pilares and the 0.29% from La Caridad going forward).

The budget for Pilares is $159 million, most of which has already been invested. The project is currently operating and delivering copper mineral oxides to the SX-EW facilities of the Caridad operation. SCC expects to produce ore for the Caridad concentrator at full capacity in by Q2 2023.

Finally, El Pilar, also in Sonora is a low-capital intensity copper greenfield project about 45 km from the Buenavista mine. Its copper oxide mineralisation contains estimated proven and probable reserves of 317 Mt of ore with an average copper grade of 0.249%. SCC anticipates that El Pilar will operate as a conventional open-pit mine with an annual production capacity of 36,000 t of copper cathodes. This operation will use highly cost efficient and environmentally friendly SX-EW technology. The budget for El Pilar is $310 million.

In Mexico’s Baja California is El Arco, a world-class copper deposit located in the central part of the Baja California peninsula with ore reserves of over 1,230 Mt with an average ore grade of 0.40% and 141 Mt of leach material with an average ore grade of 0.27%. The project includes an open-pit mine combining concentrator and SX-EW operations. Annual production is expected to total 190,000 t of copper and 105,000 oz of gold. SCC has completed the environmental baseline study for the mine and industrial facilities and is reviewing the basic engineering analysis to request the environmental impact permits.

Its Mexican operations have also made progress with sustainability goals. The open pit mine La Caridad and the Sonora Metallurgical Complex (smelter and refinery) have received Copper Mark certification. Both units were assessed by this independent assurance system to demonstrate that SCC’s copper is produced responsibly. Additionally, La Caridad received the Molybdenum Mark.

Japan’s Idemitsu sells Ensham coal mine in Australia to South Africa’s Thungela

Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan has agreed to transfer all of its coal mining interests (85%) in the Ensham Coal mine located in Queensland, Australia, held through its wholly owned subsidiary Idemitsu Australia Pty Ltd to Sungela Pty Ltd, which is 75% owned by South Africa’s Thungela Resources Ltd, the thermal coal miner demerged from Anglo American in 2021. It follows Idemitsu’s sale of the Malinau coal mine in Indonesia in March 2022 and the completion of coal mining at Muswellbrook in December 2022.

Idemitsu says it aims to achieve sustainable profitable growth by transforming its business portfolio by reducing fossil fuel assets and maximising earnings from existing businesses, and by expanding new businesses that contribute to a carbon neutral society.

It retains the Boggabri coal mine in Australia but says it will promote the commercialisation of Idemitsu Green Energy Pellets as an alternative fuel to coal. This is a carbon-neutral, high-calorie fuel made from commonly used semi-carbonised wood pellets. It can be used as an alternative to coal and does not require modification of existing coal combustion facilities.

It says through the operation of Boggabri Mine, it will fulfill its mission of “providing a stable supply of energy needed today, while at the same time making maximum use of the resources it has developed over many years in Australia and promoting the diversification of its portfolio for a sustainable energy future such as renewable energy, rare metals, hydrogen and ammonia, in line with global growth demand.”

The Ensham share transfer price will consist of an upfront payment of A$340 million to be paid as of the transfer date and a royalty consideration payment based on the price and volume of coal to be sold from the Ensham mine in 2023 and 2024.

IIT (ISM) Dhanbad deepens tech cooperation with top Indian miners

The Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad is deepening its relationships with top Indian miners to help further technology solutions to improve mining and mineral processing efficiency, including for lower grade ores. Firstly, Tata Steel has established a Centre for Innovation in Mining and Mineral Beneficiation at IIT (ISM) Dhanbad.

The company aims to strengthen its long-term competitiveness through excellence in developing technological solutions in natural and urban mining and beneficiation for value from low grade and difficult ores. The centre will enable growth of relevant research infrastructure, attract talent, and help strengthen industry-academia collaborative eco-system in areas of strategic national importance. “Creation of this centre is aligned to Tata Steel’s focus on building closer ties with centres of academic excellence and set up technology clusters in identified, strategic areas.”

Dr Debashish Bhattacharjee, Vice President, Technology and New Materials Business, Tata Steel, said: “Collaboration between industry and academia is key to catalysing innovation and aiding sustainable business growth. IIT (ISM) Dhanbad provides a strong academic and research platform with excellent talent pool in one of the areas of Tata Steel’s strategic, long and short-term business interests – mining and mineral beneficiation. With the creation of this Centre for Innovation with INR220,000,000 [about $2.7 million] from Tata Steel, we look forward to jointly develop and scale up technologies relevant for local mines and ores. Work at this centre will cover technology development for natural and urban mining. The centre will also work on beneficiation and value addition of low-grade ores. Tata Steel is committed to pioneer disruptive development through active engagement with academic institutions.”

Professor Rajiv Shekhar Director Indian Institute of Technology (ISM) said: “We are delighted to establish this Centre of Excellence (CoE) with Tata Steel Ltd…to strengthen industry-institute collaborations and solve real-life problems of mutual interest. IIT (ISM) Dhanbad, a world-renowned Institute in the fields of Mining, Mineral & Earth Sciences, is extremely pleased to work with Tata Steel Limited on this path-breaking initiative. Academia and industry need to forge such symbiotic partnerships that bring benefits to both. Such collaborative efforts will be instrumental in advancing research and innovation in technology development, besides creating a skilled workforce. Through this joint collaboration, we look forward to leveraging the latest technological advancements to groom our researchers and work towards the development of sustainable, innovative processes for a green and safe future.”

IIT (ISM) Dhanbad is a prestigious institute that will contribute technological thought leadership and further strengthen Tata Steel’s research & development prowess. The innovation centre is strategically located to leverage the advantages of other nearby research institutes, regulatory bodies, and, more importantly, a trained and skilled workforce. The centre would be one of its kind in the state of Jharkhand and will further aim to achieve research excellence by attracting renowned experts and forming strategic partnerships with OEMs to provide complete solutions.

It follows the signing of a MoU in January 2023 for collaborative and sponsored research projects between Hindustan Copper Ltd and IIT (ISM) Dhanbad at HCL Corporate Office in Kolkata in the presence of Arun Kumar Shukla, CMD, HCL and IIT (ISM) Dhanbad’s Professor Shekhar.

The first technical collaboration with IIT (ISM), Dhanbad, was hailed as a momentous occasion for HCL, the only copper miner in India, owning all the operating mining leases of copper ore in the nation. Presently, the majority of ore production comes through underground operations only and the level of ore production is hovering around 4 Mt/y.

Due to the complex geological characteristics of the ore body and the increased depth of mining, various geo-technical and ground water related issues along with technical/ operational problems are being faced during the process of production along with maintaining safety standards and dealing the emerging sustainability issues.

HCL is in its expansion phase with about threefold enhancement of ore production capacity wherein development activities in projects are either on-going in nature or already planned in most of its mines. At present, the mined out ore is processed at its own ore beneficiation plants and the metals in concentrate is sold partially in domestic market and the rest in the international market.

IIT (ISM) Dhanbad will play a key role in solving the emerging geological, technical, environmental, sustainable and ore beneficiation issues for achieving the envisaged expansion programme of HCL. The present MoU will address HCL’s need for technical assistance, guidance and consultancy work from IIT-ISM for enhancing copper ore production through modifying mining methods with application of state-of-the-art technologies, improvement of productivity and safety in mines, environmental clearance issues, various hydrological & hydro-geological studies and in areas of unconventional exploration methods like geophysical exploration, Remote Sensing etc. for depth exploration of copper ore.

HCL wants to partner with IIT (ISM) Dhanbad in taking up R&D projects for the improvement of Indian copper mining sector, training and development of HCL engineers and managers for skill set development and knowledge up-gradation in the areas of exploration, ore beneficiation and various other statutory/mine regulation amendments or related issues.