Tag Archives: aluminium

Australian government backs mining and metal sector decarbonising initiative

A new Cooperative Research Centre focused on integrating green energy sources such as hydrogen, ammonia and solar into high-heat and high-emission manufacturing processes for products like steel, aluminium and cement has won Australia government backing.

The Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition Cooperative Research Centre (HILT CRC), to be led by the University of Adelaide, has been provided with A$39 million ($29 million) of funding through the CRC Grants program. It is also backed by an additional A$175.7 million in funding and in-kind support from research and industry partners such as Alcoa, Rio Tinto Aluminium, South32, Roy Hill, Fortescue Metals Group, the Australian National University and the CSIRO.

South Australia Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter, said the CRC would help to secure the future of heavy industries right across the country by helping them to lower costs and establish a reputation as exporters of high-quality, low-carbon, value-added products.

“In order to remain internationally competitive, it is crucial that our heavy industries begin the transition to lower cost and cleaner energy technology to secure the long-term future of their operations,” Minister Porter said. “By connecting those industries with our best and brightest minds from within our major research institutions – coupled with the significant funding that’s now available to fast-track this work – we expect real-world solutions can be delivered within the 10-year life of the CRC.”

Dr David Cochrane, who is Technology Lead at core CRC partner South32 and also an industry leader of the HILT CRC, said: “The HILT CRC will play an important role in transitioning to a low-carbon future by creating a framework for industry to collaborate, sharing knowledge and experience while lowering the risk of trialling technology.

“For South32, we have recently set medium-term targets to halve our operational emissions by 2035 as we transition to net zero by 2050 and initiatives like the HILT CRC are part of our plan to achieve these targets.”

Susan Jeanes, who is Chair-elect of the HILT CRC, said: “Decarbonising Australia’s heavy industry will position it to be competitive in the rapidly developing, global low carbon markets for green iron and aluminium products that have higher value than our current exports. These new markets are being driven by our trading partners in countries like China, Japan and Europe, which are introducing a range of financial measures to meet their carbon targets, such as EU’s Carbon Border Tax.

“Our mineral resources geographically co-exist around the continent with our first-class renewable energy resources making decarbonising more competitive here than in other parts of the world.”

Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric partner on decarbonisation initiatives

Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a “first-of-its-kind” collaboration to develop a circular and sustainable market ecosystem for both companies and their customers.

This multi-product partnership will see Schneider Electric use responsibly-sourced materials produced by Rio Tinto. These include low-carbon aluminium and copper produced with renewable power, iron ore and borates. Rio Tinto will, in turn, use energy and industrial services from Schneider Electric, as the companies work together to develop digital platforms, technologies and solutions to be deployed across the metals and mining supply chain to drive further decarbonisation, they said.

Rio Tinto Chief Commercial Officer, Alf Barrios, said: “This unique partnership will help accelerate decarbonisation and renewable energy solutions by combining low-carbon materials with cutting-edge digital technology. Working together will allow Rio Tinto and Schneider Electric to pursue opportunities beyond what is possible for either company on its own.

“This collaboration also opens doors to consider strategic initiatives such as expanding the use of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to reduce downtime in our plants, digitisation of our supply chains, and a host of other transformative technologies.”

Schneider Electric Executive Vice-President Industrial Automation, Barbara Frei, said: “We are excited to work with Rio Tinto to develop clean and pioneering solutions to meet industrial decarbonisation challenges. As the world’s most sustainable corporation and a manufacturer with a global network of smart factories and smart distribution centres, Schneider Electric is on a mission to make industries of the future eco-efficient, agile, and resilient through open, software-centric industrial automation and sustainable energy solutions. This new partnership demonstrates that Rio Tinto is as passionate as we are about bridging progress and sustainability for all.”

The partnership will draw on Schneider Electric’s Energy as a Service expertise to evaluate the use of innovative solutions, including microgrids, to supply energy from low-carbon sources, and artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to help meet sustainability goals at Rio Tinto sites and throughout its supply chain.

Rio Tinto’s START traceability and transparency initiative, the first sustainability label for aluminium using blockchain technology, will be deployed with Schneider Electric to unlock value for customers, suppliers and partners, it said. The companies will work to expand this transparency, offering START in combination with Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ platform, an IoT system architecture that connects everything in an enterprise to deliver enhanced safety, reliability, efficiency and sustainability.

The companies will also partner to evaluate emerging innovation opportunities, such as the efficient production of critical materials for renewable technologies and advances in low-carbon, green steel manufacturing, both of which will play a significant long-term role in industrial decarbonisation.

Metso Outotec completes divestment of aluminium business to REEL International

Metso Outotec has completed the divestment of its aluminium business to REEL International, headquartered in France.

The divestment to REEL was announced on December 28, with the divested business comprising equipment and plant solutions to green anode plants, anode rodshops, and casthouses used in aluminium smelters, as well as the related services.

Metso Outotec will continue to serve its customers in certain other parts of the aluminium value chain, such as alumina refinery and petroleum coke calcination technologies, it said.

Jari Ålgars, President of Metals business area, Metso Outotec, said: “I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the Aluminium team for its contribution to Metso Outotec and for the hard work to ensure a smooth transfer of the business. I wish the team great success under its new ownership at REEL.”

Rio Tinto to establish high-quality scandium oxide production in Canada

Rio Tinto says it will become the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America, with construction of a new commercial scale demonstration plant underway at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada.

RTFT expects to begin commercial supply of scandium oxide in the June quarter of 2021. With its existing aluminium business, Rio says it is also well positioned to produce aluminium-scandium alloys to meet customer’s needs.

The company is investing $6 million for the construction of a first module in the plant, with an initial capacity to produce 3 t/y of scandium oxide, or approximately 20% of the current global market. The Government of Quebec is contributing around $650,000 to the project through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals. The new plant will have the ability to add further modules in line with market demand, Rio says.

RTFT developed a process it has proven at pilot scale to extract high-purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining at its ilmenite mine in Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec.

Scandium oxide is used to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used as a power source for data centres and hospitals, as well as in niche products such as lasers and lighting for stadiums or studios. It is also used to produce high-performance aluminium-scandium master alloys for the aerospace, defence and 3D printing industries, according to Rio.

Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Managing Director, Stéphane Leblanc, said: “We are proud to offer North America’s first reliable supply of scandium oxide using an innovative and sustainable process, with the construction of this new plant. Rio Tinto has been engaged in the exploration and production of rare earths and critical minerals globally for a number of years, to meet the demand in new and emerging technologies. With the support of Rio Tinto’s aluminium business, we are uniquely positioned to deliver aluminium-scandium master alloys and develop synergies with North America’s manufacturing supply chain.”

Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonatan Julien, said: “RTFT’s scandium oxide valorisation project is a concrete example of how we can extract value from our mining wastes. It demonstrates our ability to innovate and seize business opportunities in a growing market as we strive to ensure secure supplies of critical minerals. This business has the potential to become a major scandium supplier outside China.”

Both the high-quality scandium oxide and aluminium-scandium master alloy will be commercialised under the business brand name Element North 21.

Electricity agreement sparks new life into Tiwai Point aluminum smelter

Rio Tinto has reached agreement on a new electricity contract with Meridian Energy that allows New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) to continue operating the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter until December 31, 2024.

The extension provides certainty to employees, the local community and customers while providing more time for all stakeholders to plan for the future, Rio said.

While discussions with the New Zealand government are progressing in relation to its commitment to address the smelter’s high transmission costs, a new agreement has been reached with Meridian Energy in relation to power prices, making the smelter economically viable and competitive over the next four years, according to the miner.

The extension also provides time for detailed closure studies to be completed and for NZAS to support the government and Southland community in planning for the future.

“Plans for eventual closure of the Tiwai Point smelter will include extensive stakeholder consultation, including within the Southland community, and reflect the company’s robust closure and remediation standards,” the company said.

Rio Tinto Aluminium Chief Executive, Alf Barrios, said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Meridian Energy that will enable the Tiwai Point smelter to continue producing some of the lowest carbon aluminium in the world. This agreement improves Tiwai Point’s competitive position and secures the extension of operation to December 2024. It also provides Rio Tinto, the New Zealand government, Meridian, and the Southland community more time to plan for the future and importantly gives our hard-working team at Tiwai and our customers the certainty they deserve.”

In July 2020, Rio announced the conclusion of a strategic review of the smelter and a decision to wind down operations by August 2021 due to high energy and transmission costs.

NZAS is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (79.36%) and Sumitomo Chemical Company Ltd (20.64%). It employs around 1,000 people directly and creates a further 1,600 indirect jobs in Southland, according to Rio.

Metso Outotec books zinc plant order as it agrees sale of aluminium business

Metso Outotec has signed a contract to deliver a complete package of key process equipment for a greenfield zinc plant in the Chelyabinsk region in Russia.

The contract value of approximately €100 million ($122 million) has been booked in Metso Outotec’s Decemeber quarter order intake, a quarter of which will be booked in Minerals segment and the rest in Metals segment.

The order for the Verkhny Ufaley plant includes an equipment package for zinc concentrate processing, iron precipitation, solution purification and electrowinning (EW) technologies for safe and sustainable zinc processing based on OKTOP® reactor and plant products.

The order also contains a circuit heat recovery system, zinc EW and ingot casting equipment, as well as high-efficiency cooling towers for zinc EW and gypsum removal with drastically reduced emissions compared with conventionally-designed cooling towers, the company said. Clarifying solutions for consistent solid-liquid separation, high-performance Larox® FP and RB filters with low energy consumption, as well as fully integrated digital process automation for more reliable and flexible operation are also part of the order.

“Metso Outotec has been supplying minerals processing and metals refining technologies to our customers in Russia for a long time,” Jari Ålgars, President, Metals business area at Metso Outotec, said. “The new zinc plant will utilise Metso Outotec’s proprietary technology, which is both sustainable and highly cost effective.”

Stephan Kirsch, President of the Minerals business area at Metso Outotec, added: “Metso Outotec provides leading-edge technology for extensive zinc processing plants. This includes proprietary process equipment and know-how from raw material to final zinc product and various by-products.”

The technology to be delivered is the most cost-efficient technology available for zinc raw material processing, enabling efficient zinc and by-product recovery from a wide range of primary zinc raw material, according to Metso Outotec.

In a separate press release, Metso Outotec announced it had agreed to sell its Aluminium business to REEL International, headquartered in France. The business was put up for sale a year ago and has since been reported under the company’s discontinued operations.

The business to be divested comprises of green anode plants, anode rodshops, and casthouses used in aluminium smelters as well as related equipment and services. Approximately 120 Metso Outotec employees will join REEL upon closing, which is expected to take place during the March quarter of 2021, Metso Outotec said.

The parties have agreed not to disclose the value of the transaction.

Hindalco achieves aluminium industry first with red mud utilisation

Hindalco Industries has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UltraTech Cement, India’s largest manufacturer of cement and concrete, to deliver 1.2 Mt/y of red mud to UltraTech’s 14 plants located across seven states. This agreement will see Hindalco become the world’s first company to achieve 100% red mud utilisation across three of its refineries, it says.

Red mud generated in the alumina manufacturing process is rich in iron oxides, along with alumina, silica and alkali, with the cement industry, Hindalco says, having developed the capability to process red mud as a replacement for mined minerals such as laterite and lithomarge in its process.

Hindalco is supplying red mud to UltraTech Cement plants where it has proved to be an effective substitute for mined materials, successfully replacing up to 3% of clinker raw mix volume, according to the company.

“Use of red mud reduces the cement industry’s dependence on natural resources and promotes a circular economy,” Hindalco said.

Hindalco’s alumina refineries are currently supplying 250,000 t/mth of bauxite residue to cement companies, making Hindalco the world’s first company to have enabled such large scale commercial application of bauxite residue. In the current year, Hindalco aims to achieve 2.5 Mt of bauxite residue utilisation, which will be another global milestone, it says.

Satish Pai, Managing Director of Hindalco, said: “Hindalco has been working with cement companies to develop high-grade inputs for the construction industry. Hindalco has built a strong customer base and supplies red mud to over 40 cement plants every month. We have achieved 100% red mud utilisation at three of our refineries and our vision is to achieve zero-waste alumina production across our operations. Hindalco’s actions underscore our commitment to embracing solutions that have the potential to deliver long-term sustainability impact and transform the future.”

Globally, 160 Mt of red mud is produced annually and stored in large tracts of land which is a serious industry challenge, Hindalco says. To find a sustainable solution, Hindalco has invested in infrastructure and collaborated with cement companies, with UltraTech Cement being a key partner.

KC Jhanwar, Managing Director of UltraTech Cement, said: “UltraTech has been among the early adopters in India on the use of alternative raw materials and fuels in manufacturing and invested to build storage, handling and processing facilities. Use of waste like red mud as an alternative raw material for manufacturing cement requires infrastructure and process modification to ensure a win-win for both business and the environment.”

Last year, UltraTech consumed about 15.73 Mt of industrial waste as alternate raw material and about 300,000 t as alternative fuel in its kilns.

Jhanwar added: “With an annual supply of 1.2 Mt of red mud from Hindalco, we expect to conserve more than 1 Mt of mined natural resources like laterite in our manufacturing process. Enhancing our contribution to the circular economy by strategically increasing the use of waste as raw material and fuel in the cement manufacturing process is in line with our aim to achieve our long-term sustainability goals.”

Enerpac and Cooper Fluid Systems aid dragline maintenance at coal mine

Enerpac and Copper Fluid Systems (CFS) have come to the rescue of a Queensland coal miner looking for a way to safely and efficiently carry out maintenance on its dragline.

The hydraulics leader, in tandem with Queensland distributor CFS, devised a solution that incorporated its RACH306 lightweight aluminium cylinders. This allowed operators to get out on the boom to provide essential maintenance.

Such a system requires special tools offering a combination of high power, light weight, compact size and reliability, Enerpac said. This is where the RACH306 cylinders provided a lightweight solution for tensioning the intermediate boom suspension on the dragline, ensuring it continued to operate without causing excess wear on the main frame.

With a total weight of around 11 kg each, the aluminium cylinders are roughly half the weight of their steel counterparts and provide the same power, with a capacity of 30 t, the company said.

CFS Queensland Regional Manager, Mark Lorber, said: “The lighter weight makes a significant difference to the safety and comfort of maintenance personnel, as the only way to get the tools up on the dragline is to individually transport them out on the boom and spend time precisely positioning them there.

“The Enerpac gear is used to tension the intermediate boom suspension ropes by sliding over threaded rods with 30 mm studs at each of the adjustment points. Hollow cylinders are used because they can slide over the top of the stud. The Enerpac RACH cylinders provide a 6 in (150 mm) stroke with smooth, reliable performance.”

Tensioning these suspension ropes on draglines is an essential maintenance task for mining operations, according to Lorber. A slack or loose rope can cause additional stress, or even cracking on the main frame – especially when digging, he said.

Lorber added: “With draglines typically costing in excess of A$100 million ($64 million), regular preventative maintenance is a vital part of minimising downtime and avoiding unexpected costs. The major advantages of using Enerpac tools in this application are the quality of a market-leading brand, coupled with service support on-site.”

CFS custom designs dragline tensioning system boxes, with each box containing four Enerpac P80 hand pumps, four Enerpac RACH306 aluminium hollow plunger cylinders and MDG41-compliant hydraulic pressure hoses. Four boxes are used in total for each dragline machine, where they are mounted on each boom.

The tensioning system boxes are designed to be weatherproof and protect the hydraulics against dust, which is highly prevalent on open-pit coal mining operations. Additionally, the boxes have a separate shelf for the pump so that it is further protected from dirt, grease and other contaminants, the company said.

Enerpac’s RACH-Series cylinders, with strokes from 50-250 mm, weigh from just 5.2-9 kg for the 20 t models through to a maximum of 48.9-77.2 kg for the range-topping 150 t models. The cylinders are comprised of composite bearings on all moving surfaces to prevent metal-to-metal contact, resist side loads and extend cylinder life.

Complementing the RACH-Series cylinders are Enerpac’s lightweight hand pumps, models P-392 or P-802, which are constructed of composite materials including aluminium to comprise the optimum lightweight pump and cylinder set, according to the company. The cylinders can also be powered by fast-acting Enerpac electric, air and petrol pumps.

Features of the full RAC range include:

  • Hollow plunger design allows for both pull and push forces;
  • Composite bearings increase cylinder life and sideload resistance;
  • Hard-Coat finish on all surfaces resists damage and extends cylinder life;
  • Floating centre tube increases seal and product life;
  • Handles standard on all models;
  • Steel base plate and saddle for protection against load-induced damage;
  • Integral stop ring prevents plunger over-travel and is capable of withstanding the full cylinder capacity;
  • High strength return spring for rapid cylinder retraction;
  • CR-400 coupler and dustcap included on all models; and
  • All cylinders meet ASME B-30.1 and ISO 10100 standards.

Rio Tinto’s ACF aluminium technology goes commercial

STAS and Rio Tinto have agreed to commercialise an advanced compact filtration technology (ACF) for aluminium cast houses.

The ACF technology, developed by Rio Tinto, will now be manufactured and sold under licence by equipment manufacturer STAS worldwide.

The filtration technology was developed in the early 2000s at Rio Tinto’s Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC), located in Quebec, Canada. The ACF technology is an optimal filtration solution that can eliminate more than 90% of inclusions in liquid aluminium, according to the company. It is used to manufacture products intended for critical applications, such as high value added aluminium sheets and plates used to produce cans.

Rio Tinto partnered with STAS to design and manufacture the first prototypes of the ACF technology for its Grande-Baie (pictured) and Laterrière smelters, in Canada, where it has been used successfully for more than a decade. “Commercialising the technology will now maximise the value gained from it, and support its ongoing development and evolution,” the company said.

Louis Bouchard, Executive President of STAS, said: “We believe the ACF technology has enormous commercial potential for the global aluminium industry and we are convinced that this partnership will maximise the value it can deliver.”

Claude Dupuis, Casting Technology Director at ARDC, added: “Thanks to the unique expertise of our researchers, the ARDC has a strong track record of creating innovative technologies that have been widely adopted and become industry standards. We look forward to continuing our long-term collaboration with STAS and other equipment manufacturers in the region.”

Alcore’s CORE plans move forward with Clough engineering appointment

Alcore Ltd has executed a contract with major Australia engineering firm, Clough, to help with the design and construction of the first Alcore production plant.

Clough, which will be represented by Clough Projects Australia Pty on the project, has been investigating the CORE technology that will be used by Alcore for several years and is ready for a smooth entry into the Alcore project, the company said.

Alcore says the engineering firm’s in-house skills and expertise provides the full spectrum of capabilities needed, including: concept evaluation & regulatory approvals; project feasibility studies; design, specialised process engineering, electrical controls & instrumentation; and construction, process optimisation and debottlenecking.

Alcore is a 90%-owned subsidiary of Australian Bauxite, which has the global exclusive rights to the aluminium-related portion of CORE Technology (patent application). After six months of test work, Alcore has committed to the best strategy for the first commercial plant called “Refine & Recycle”, whereby by-products from aluminium smelters will be converted into aluminium fluoride to be sold back to the smelters as an essential electrolyte for smelting, it said.

“This strategy has highest profit and fastest growth potential worldwide.”

Plants can be replicated adjacent to aluminium smelters throughout the western world that seek higher environmental credits for recycling by-products, reducing emissions, lowering costs and reducing their dependence on imported aluminium fluoride, according to Alcore.

Alcore can refine two smelter by-products, one with high aluminium (~85% Al) and the second with high fluorine (~55% F), so that all aluminium fluoride components are freely available, it says.

Phillip Hall, Alcore’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Clough is an ideal engineer for Alcore’s transition from the lab research stage to its first commercial plant. Clough’s long-term association with this technology augers well for good teamwork.

“Alcore is now fully-resourced on technology, having also appointed Dr Mark Cooksey, a senior CSIRO chemical engineer with over 22 years’ experience in the aluminium smelting industry.”

Alcore plans to build its first plant at Bell Bay, in Tasmania, Australia.