Tag Archives: Alcoa

Civmec extends Pilbara stay with more iron ore agreements

Civmec Ltd has won multiple new contracts for its maintenance, manufacturing and construction divisions with a combined value of over A$100 million ($77 million).

Among these awards is a three-year contract for the maintenance division with Alcoa of Australia Ltd to provide calciner maintenance, major overhaul and repair services, including scaffolding, mechanical, refractory and electrical services at its Kwinana, Pinjarra, and Wagerup refineries. These plants contain 17 calciner units, two liquor burners and five regenerative thermal oxidisers.

The manufacturing division is celebrating minerals and metals sectors contracts in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

Among these is an agreement for Civmec to supply, manufacture, trial assemble and deliver four main train load-out bin modules for the BHP-owned Jimblebar iron project. The company will also supply, fabricate, surface treat and modularise shuttle trusses, conveyor trusses, platework and stick steel for the Rio Tinto-owned Gudai-Darri iron ore project, also in the Pilbara.

Still in the Australia iron ore hub, Civmec’s construction division is set to complete a civil package, including detailed earthworks, concrete placement, cabling and pipework for a Roy Hill de-bottlenecking project, as well as the delivery of a fixed plant workshop for Rio Tinto’s Mesa A project, where the group is already undertaking other structural, mechanical, piping, electrical and instrumentation work.

Worley to help sustain Alcoa of Australia’s mines, refineries and smelter

Worley says it has been awarded a three‐year services contract with Alcoa of Australia for the company’s integrated mining, refining and smelting operations.

Under the contract, Worley will provide engineering and project delivery services for Alcoa’s site‐based sustaining capital program of works.

The contract continues the existing relationship between Alcoa and Worley, and establishes Worley as the preferred engineering services provider for baseload works across the Wagerup, Pinjarra and Kwinana alumina refineries, Bunbury port terminal and the Willowdale and Huntly (pictured) bauxite mining operations in Western Australia, it said. Worley will also support Alcoa’s Portland aluminium smelter in Victoria, Australia.

The services will be executed by Worley’s Australian teams in Perth and Geelong and supported by its global integrated delivery team, the company added.

Chris Ashton, Chief Executive Officer of Worley, said: “As Australia’s leading energy services company, we are pleased to continue supporting Alcoa’s Australian operations. This portfolio is one of the largest in our mining, minerals and metals business and includes our specialist alumina, bauxite and aluminium teams.”

SRG Global seals Alcoa Kwinana alumina refinery contract

SRG Global, having been awarded preferred tenderer status for a A$90 million ($61 million) asset services contract with Alcoa in December, has confirmed the contract has now been executed.

The services will be provided at Alcoa’s Kwinana alumina refinery in Western Australia with a contract duration of five years. In December, the company said it would provide heavy mechanical and electrical maintenance as well as access solutions including highly skilled rope access technicians and scaffold services.

Site mobilisation is well advanced with contract services to commence in February 2020, according to the company.

SRG Global Managing Director, David Macgeorge, said: “This a very significant contract award for SRG Global in our Asset Services division and showcases our ability to deliver multi-disciplinary integrated solutions for tier one customers.

“We look forward to building a long-term partnership with Alcoa to deliver value-engineered maintenance and access services that drives value for their operations.”

SRG Global wins contract at Alcoa’s Kwinana alumina refinery

Australia-listed SRG Global has been awarded preferred tenderer status for up to a five-year multi-disciplinary asset services contract with Alcoa.

As part of this A$90 million ($61.4 million) agreement, SRG will provide heavy mechanical and electrical maintenance as well as access solutions including highly skilled rope access technicians and scaffold services, it said.

The services will be provided at Alcoa’s Kwinana alumina refinery in Western Australia with site mobilisation forecast to commence in early 2020.

The Kwinana refinery has an annual nameplate production capacity of 2.2 Mt and produces non-metallurgical alumina (15% of production) and smelter-grade alumina (85% of production), according to Alcoa.

SRG Global Managing Director, David Macgeorge, said: “This is a very significant announcement for SRG Global in our Asset Services division and showcases our ability to deliver multi-disciplinary integrated solutions for Tier One customers.”

Why the Pilbara leads the way in haul truck automation

A presentation at last month’s AusIMM Iron Ore 2019 Conference, in Perth, Western Australia, made it clear that the state’s steel raw material miners are leading the way when it comes to applying autonomous haulage systems (AHS) in open-pit mining.

Richard Price, Manager of Projects for Mining Technicians Group Australia (MTGA), has been involved in this technology space for a number of years, having initially witnessed an automation trial involving two trucks at Alcoa’s Willowdale bauxite mine, in Pinjarra, all the way back in 1994.

At the conference, his paper set out the state of play in Pilbara when it comes to AHS, explaining: the first commercial scale trial in iron ore took place at Rio Tinto’s West Angelas operation in 2008, there are two original equipment manufacturer (OEM) AHS operating in the Pilbara – Caterpillar Command for Hauling and the Komatsu FrontRunner – and the three major iron ore miners (Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG)) were leaders when it comes to using autonomous trucks.

FMG is the largest operator of autonomous trucks in the Pilbara – making it effectively the largest in the world – with 128 at the end of June (according to the miner’s June quarter results). Rio, meanwhile, had 96 up and running, with BHP having a total of 50, as per publicly released data.

“FMG has plans to automate all of their trucks, including the first non-OEM trucks on an alternate OEM system,” Price said, with him adding that the company has now automated a number of Komatsu 930E vehicles using the Caterpillar Command for Hauling AHS: a world first.

“Additionally, FMG is also operating multiple Caterpillar OEM trucks onsite, in another world first having three classes of truck on the one system at the same site (789D, 793F and 930E),” he said.

While Komatsu, historically, has more time in the field with commercial autonomous applications – it surpassed 2 billion tons of autonomous haulage in November – than Caterpillar, the Illinois-based OEM has received more global success, being able to point to AHS deployments in the oil sands of Canada, the coal mines of British Columbia and Vale’s iron ore operations in Brazil.

“With regards to the on-board AHS componentry, the Komatsu system is somewhat simpler than the Caterpillar system,” Price said. “The significant difference is that Caterpillar utilises a LiDAR (Velodyne 64-layer), with RADAR, whilst the Komatsu system uses RADAR only. However there are additional differences in the on-board controls – the Caterpillar system is known for having more significant vehicle on-board computing power, versus the Komatsu system which places greater reliance on the wireless network whilst performing most of the calculations on the server side.”

Even with the on-board computing power of Caterpillar’s system, the performance of these trucks only tends to be as good as the communications infrastructure they are tied to.

Presently, only the Komatsu system has announced successful trials of using 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network technology as the communications system which commands the trucks, with the Caterpillar system presently reliant on wireless networking technology, “of which all current implementations rely upon (globally)”, Price said.

One of the issues with such technologies is the trucks stop driving, or operating, if they lose communications, with the trucks communicating, via this network, their position to each other and directional heading and speed.

The way the trucks re-start their driving routine is, at present, via manual visual inspection, which can be a process that takes time.

And, according to Price, a significant problematic issue with trucks stopping driving across all the Pilbara sites is the triggering of a false positive object detection.

“These are often referred to as ‘ODs’ on the various sites which utilise AHS,” Price said, with many operators blaming undulations in the road, pot holes, or small rocks for these occurrences.

Again, manual inspection is normally required as part of an operation’s procedure for re-starting the autonomous trucks.

Out in front

Despite these communication and OD problems, Western Australia still leads the way when it comes to automation with the Pilbara hosting around 75% of the circa-370 trucks operating globally.
What is the reason for this? Price highlighted five bullet points in his speech:

  • High cost of operators – annual salaries for truck operations are, in general, over A$100,000 ($68,882);
  • Ease of implementation – “the Pilbara miners generally have open ground, and have had an opportunity to trial the technology in a dedicated work area prior to a site-wide implementation,” Price said, adding that the topography has also made it simpler to install the required communications systems;
  • Scale and longevity of operations – Previously cost-benefit analysis of AHS included an approximate cutoff point of 12 Mt/y total material movement, which equates to six to eight off-highway haul trucks, Price said. All operations exceed this, as well as having long mine lives;
  • The fact that all the sites which have presently deployed AHS are currently fly-in/fly-out mines which transport the staff to site from their point-of-hire, and;
  • Experience of technology and processes in the Pilbara – miners in the region have long-term familiarity with fleet management systems and technology adoption.

Price said: “Western Australia does not necessarily have any unique or special advantage, however, it has made sense for Pilbara iron ore operators to implement AHS for the reasons outlined above.”

The benefits

MTGA’s Price pointed to several quotes from the mining companies themselves to explain the benefits of automation.

Rio Tinto, in 2018, said: “On average, each autonomous truck was estimated to have operated about 700 hours more than conventional haul trucks during 2017 and around 15% lower load and haul unit costs.”

FMG, in the same year, said it was seeing 32% productivity improvements with autonomous trucking.

Vale, meanwhile, previously told Mining.com: “The adoption of autonomous trucks at Brucutu (iron ore mine, in Brazil) is expected to reduce fuel consumption by more than 10%. Maintenance costs, in turn, should fall by another 10% and off-road truck tyres, which cost up to $40,000, are expected to have 25% lower wear. The overall gains translate into a 15% increase in equipment life, reducing investments in new acquisitions and reducing carbon dioxide emissions at the same time.”

Price said: “There are clearly differing metrics being monitored by these three operators at present. However, irrespective of the metrics monitored, AHS obviously has had a significant impact on the operating environment.

“It appears that the increase in utilisation of the autonomous trucks is the most significant benefit that they provide. The decrease in costs is also helpful, but the increase in predictability of the truck fleet is what drives the actual benefit.

“A number of materially measurable but difficult to quantify benefits exist from the rendering of trucks autonomous as well. These include less maintenance, better tyre wear (or increased tyre life), reduced fuel costs (for the same tonnage output) and better overall truck performance.”

For instance, Komatsu has previously said the optimised automatic controls of AHS reduce sudden acceleration and abrupt steering, resulting in a 40% improvement in tyre life compared with conventional operations.

And, of course, there are the numerous safety benefits that come with using automated haul trucks.

The future

While Price believes that mining will continue to become more autonomous, he said the mine of the future was likely to involve the automatic distribution of data files that trucks would work off without human involvement.

“For now, technologies such as LTE for better communications network coverage, the use of drones, long-range cameras or other autonomous ground vehicles to conduct the manual visual inspection and other autonomous equipment will be implemented,” he said.

He added: “It is likely that there will be a continuum of development over the next 20-30 years.

“Mining companies and OEMs will have a lot to learn from automotive vehicle automation. Obviously, there are more cars on the roads than there are off-highway haulage trucks on minesites. Therefore the general costs of automation kits will come down, and there will be an opportunity to conduct operations in a GPS-denied environment.

“Already, the costs of select items such as the LiDAR utilised by the Caterpillar system have halved in price since they were used a decade ago. Solid state LiDARs, as opposed to rotational, are being implemented in the automotive industry already.”

He pointed to MINExpo 2016, in Las Vegas, when Komatsu showcased its cabless, driverless truck as one development to look out for.

“It is predicted that in the longer-term future (ie 20-30 years’ time), cabs will be an additional and expensive option to add onto an off-highway heavy haulage truck,” he said.

“Whilst the future is autonomous, it will be technologically more advanced than the present technologies,” he concluded, adding that, given its head start, one would expect the Pilbara iron ore industry to deploy these technologies first.

MTGA’s Richard Price has also written a business case study on AHS, published by AusIMM – www.ausimmbulletin.com/feature/autonomous-haulage-systems-the-business-case/ – and, in partnership with Whittle Consulting’s Nick Redwood, put together an Autonomous Haulage Systems Financial Model Assessment – www.whittleconsulting.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Autonomous-Haulage-Study-Report-Rev-F.pdf

Alcoa shores up gas supply for Western Australia alumina refineries

Alcoa of Australia has secured three new gas supply agreements which, combined, will supply close to 25% of the company’s requirements in Western Australia from 2020.

The agreements with BHP, Woodside and Chevron, coupled with other gas supply contracts, including with Quadrant Energy and Santos, announced in 2015, complete Alcoa’s gas portfolio to fuel its Kwinana, Pinjarra and Wagerup alumina refineries for the mid-term, the company said.

President, Alcoa Alumina, and Managing Director, Alcoa of Australia, Michael Parker, said: “In securing these new gas contracts we are demonstrating to our employees, suppliers, customers and the communities where we operate our commitment to the state.

“Alcoa’s three WA refineries are the largest integrated source of alumina globally and an important source of economic activity. They provide jobs for more than 3,000 Western Australians, primarily in the state’s south west, and generate some A$1.4 billion ($1.01 billion) in expenditure with WA suppliers.”

Alcoa is Western Australia’s single largest user of natural gas, consuming around 25% of the state’s total domestic gas supply.

Alcoa of Australia is 60% owned by Alcoa Corp and 40% owned by Alumina Limited. It owns and operates two bauxite mines and three alumina refineries in Western Australia, and the Portland aluminium smelter (holding a 55% share) in Victoria. Each year the company mines around 36 Mt of bauxite, refines 9 Mt of alumina and produces 300,000 t of aluminium.

Fluor helps CBG reach major milestone at Guinea bauxite expansion project

Fluor Corp reports Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) has achieved first ore at its Bauxite Production Expansion project in Kamsar, Guinea, safely, on budget and on schedule.

The project is expanding bauxite production at the mine from 13.5 to 18.5 Mt/y, with Fluor, as the engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services contractor, responsible for the expansion of the mine infrastructure, rail system, port facility and processing plant infrastructure and utilities.

Tony Morgan, President of Fluor’s Mining & Metals business, said: “From developing the local craft workforce to strengthening the economy, this project will have a lasting positive impact on the Kamsar community. Achieving this milestone safely, on budget and on schedule is a testament to the dedication and perseverance of the joint CBG and Fluor team.”

There were more than 1,500 craft workers on site at peak construction. The project team focused on hiring a local workforce, which resulted in Guinean workers representing nearly 75% of the employees on site.

To align the workforce on safe work practices and create a safe work culture at the site, Fluor developed a specialised safety programme. This allowed more than 4 million hours of work to be completed without a lost-time incident.

CBG is jointly owned by the Government of Guinea and the Halco Mining consortium, which includes Alcoa, Rio Tinto and Dadco Investments.

Fluor’s Tony Morgan recently spoke to IM for its annual December issue focus on EPC and EPCM contractors. You can read part of the Q&A here.

ARC centre on mine asset maintenance receives Australia government backing

Universities and the mining industry are teaming up to tackle asset maintenance in the resources sector through the use of data science.

The new Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre will be led by Curtin University in partnership with The University of Western Australia (UWA), CSIRO and the University of Adelaide, and industry partners Alcoa, BHP and Roy Hill, as well as CORE Innovation Hub and the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia.

Curtin University was awarded A$3.9 million ($2.9 million) in ARC funding for the establishment of the centre, with planning for the new ARC Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science starting immediately.

ARC Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science Director, Professor Andrew Rohl (pictured), from the Curtin Institute for Computation, said: “The effective maintenance of engineering assets underpins the A$205 billion ($151 billion) annual export earnings from Australia’s resources sector.

“However, maintenance management practices have changed little in the last 20 years and are ripe for a digital overhaul that will bring developments in computational methods, statistics, applied mathematics and artificial intelligence to determine how, when and why maintenance is conducted.”

The new centre will enable the development and adoption of new practices to improve productivity and asset reliability for industry and to foster a new maintenance technology service sector for national and international markets, according to Professor Rohl.

UWA Professor Michael Small, CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Engineering Systems, said being able to effectively use data to create better systems, develop new technology and transform the way maintenance is carried out across the resources sector is critical and the creation of the new centre will allow industry to take huge steps towards this.