Tag Archives: Anglo American Platinum

Master Drilling’s Mobile Tunnel Borer heads to Anglo’s Mogalakwena mine

Master Drilling is readying its Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB) technology for a contract at Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena mine in South Africa.

The company, which revealed the news during its interim results presentation, said on-boarding for this project deployment was underway, with the start of “decline excavation” due by the end of the year.

Anglo American Platinum said in its own interim results recently that it was working on feasibility studies on the future of Mogalakwena, with completion of these studies expected at the end of 2021. Decisions on the pathway forward are expected shortly after this, however, one of the current key milestones at the asset includes progressing an underground exploration decline.

Master Drilling Executive Director, Koos Jordaan, said during the presentation that the contract with Anglo American Platinum is for a “turnkey operation” with Master Drilling providing capabilities in terms of construction, logistics and project management, in addition to its normal excavation services.

The MTB is a modular horizontal cutting machine equipped with full-face cutter head with disc cutters adapted from traditional tunnel boring machines. Unlike these traditional machines, it is designed to work both on inclines and declines, with the ability to navigate around corners and construct 5.5 m diameter decline access tunnels.

One MTB unit was previously scheduled to carry out a 1.4 km project at Northam Platinum’s Eland platinum group metals operation in South Africa, however this was cancelled in March 2020 due to the pandemic. This deployment followed testing of an MTB unit in soft rock at a quarry just outside of Rome, Italy, in 2018.

Alongside news of this latest MTB deployment, Master Drilling said in its results that it was studying the potential to deploy two of these MTB units in tandem for twin-decline access as part of the technology’s second-generation developments.

“We can already see the benefit of utilising two of these machines to do a twin-decline access to an orebody,” Jordaan said.

Looking to vertical developments, Master Drilling reported that it had received shareholder funding approval from the Industrial Development Corporation for the latest work on its Shaft Boring System (SBS), designed to sink 4.5 m diameter shafts in hard rock down to 1,500 m depths.

IM witnessed the main cutting mechanism of what was previously billed as being a 45-m long, 450-t machine at the back end of 2019.

The company has since said it will introduce a “smaller scope system” as part of its introduction to the industry.

While busy on the latest slimmed down design of the SBS, Master Drilling has signed a letter of intent with a prospective South Africa project that could see a machine start sinking activities in the first half of 2022, Jordaan said.

Outside of these developments, Master Drilling reported on several contract awards across the globe, including a three-year raiseboring extension with AngloGold Ashanti in Brazil, a joint venture agreement with Besalco Construction to work on Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper mine, an executed contract with Glencore’s Raglan mine in Canada, an agreement with Zimplats in Zimbabwe and a “long-term contract” on the Khoemacau copper-silver project in Botswana.

Zest WEG carrying out EC&I works at Anglo Platinum’s Mogalakwena CPR plant

Zest WEG is installing a range of electrical control and instrumentation equipment at Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena mine in Limpopo province, South Africa, working closely with engineering group DRA Global.

The construction is taking place within the Mogalakwena mine’s existing North Concentrator Plant, around various plant areas. The Electrical Control Instrumentation (ECI) package is being led by Eben Kleynhans, E&I Electrical Project Engineer from DRA.

According to Calvin Fisher, Electrical and Instrumentation Construction Proposals Manager at Zest WEG, the Zest WEG work is being conducted for the mine’s Coarse Particle Rejection (CPR) plant, and will be completed in the second half of 2021.

“In addition to applying the highest level of workmanship and professionalism, we are carrying out the project in line with our client’s Mining Charter requirements on local procurement,” Fisher says. “This means that over 70% of people involved in our scope of work will be drawn from local communities, and we are sourcing a significant level of our supplies from local businesses.”

Equipment to be installed includes three 2 MVA transformers, stepping down from 11 kV to 550 V, and a 630 kVA mini substation for lighting and small power requirements. Containerised motor control centres (MCCs), complete with variable speed drives (VSDs), an HVAC unit, cable racking, cables, lighting and small power also form part of the scope of supply. In addition, two back-up generators will be installed – one of 630 kVA capacity and the other 330 kVA.

“The three new containerised MCCs and VSD sets will be placed on plinths near the CPR feed tank, CPR process water area and CPR building and a steel roof structure erected over the containers,” he says. “The new transformer bay will be constructed next to the MCC, also with a roof over the transformer.”

About 70 km of cable will be laid – ranging from low voltage to medium voltage cable – as well as 3,300 terminations and almost 2.5 km of cable racking. The various structures that Zest WEG will install require some 9 t of steel. The instrumentation to be installed will comprise about 170 instruments including flow transmitters, pressure gauges, level switches, temperature gauges and density transmitters. There will also be around 250 lights installed, mainly outdoors.

Fisher notes that the electrical installation specialists are typically among the last contractors on a project, and must be quite flexible to accommodate certain modifications that may have been required in the civils, structural and mechanical work completed beforehand.

“Wherever necessary, we work closely with the client to implement the plan smoothly while meeting their need for safe access to the equipment being installed, to allow maintenance to be readily conducted,” he says.

In addition to the installation contract, Zest WEG is supplying some of the actual items of equipment for the expansion project, including WEG motors and containerised generators. The electrical installation work is expected to take about six months.

“We are proud of the high level of quality that we bring to projects like this, where we apply our successful model of procurement to support our clients in meeting their critical local expenditure targets,” he says. “This also allows Zest WEG to make a valuable contribution to uplift local companies wherever we can.”

Anglo American Platinum’s modernisation drive to continue into 2021

Anglo American Platinum says it is looking to deliver the next phase of value to its stakeholders after reporting record EBITDA for 2020 in the face of COVID-19-related disruption.

The miner, majority-owned by Anglo American, saw production drop 14% year-on-year in 2020 to 3.8 Moz (on a 100% basis) due to COVID-related stoppages. Despite this, a higher basket price for its platinum group metals saw EBITDA jump 39% to R41.6 billion ($2.8 billion) for the year.

As all its mines are now back to their full operating rates, the company was confident enough to state PGM metal in concentrate production should rise to 4.2-4.6 Moz in 2021.

Part of its pledge to deliver more value to stakeholders was related to turning 100% of its operations into fully modernised and mechanised mines by 2030. At the end of 2020, the company said 88% of its mines could be classified as fully modernised and mechanised.

There were some operational bright spots during 2020 the company flagged.

At Mogalakwena – very much the company’s flagship operation – Anglo Platinum said the South Africa mine continued its journey to deliver best-in-class performance through its P101 program.

Rope-shovel performance improved to 26 Mt in 2020, from 15 Mt in 2019, while drill penetration rates for big rigs increased from 15 m/h, to 16.7 m/h. Alongside this, the company said its Komatsu 930E truck fleet performance improved to 298 t/load in 2020, from 292 t/load in 2019.

These were contributing factors to concentrator recoveries increasing by two percentage points in 2020 over 2019.

During the next few years, the company has big plans to further improve Mogalakwena’s performance.

In 2020, the mine invested R500 million in operating and capital expenditure, which included commissioning a full-scale bulk ore sorting plant, coarse particle rejection project and development of the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell mining haul-truck (otherwise referred to as the FCEV haul truck).

First motion of the 291 t FCEV haul truck is still on track for the second half of 2021, with the company planning to roll out circa-40 such trucks from 2024.

Anglo Platinum said the bulk sorting plant (which includes a Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis and XRF sensor-based setup, pictured) campaign at the Mogalakwena operation is due to end this quarter.

The company’s hydraulic dry stacking project is only just getting started.

This project, which involves coarse gangue rejection before primary flotation for safer tailings storage facilities, is expected to see a construction start in the June quarter, followed by a campaign commencement and conclusion in the September quarter and December quarters, respectively.

On another of Anglo Platinum’s big technology breakthrough projects – coarse particle rejection for post primary milling rejection of coarse gangue before primary flotation – the company plans to start a campaign in the December quarter of this year and conclude said campaign by the end of the March quarter of 2022.

The company also has eyes on making progress underground at Mogalakwena, with a hard-rock cutting project to “increase stoping productivity and safety” set for Phase A early access works this year. This project is set to involve swarm robotics for autonomous, 24/7 self-learning underground mining, the company said.

Lastly, the company’s said the digital operational planning part of its VOXEL digital platform had gone live at Mogalakwena. VOXEL is expected to eventually connect assets, processes, and people in a new digital thread across the value chain to create a family of digital twins of the entire mining environment, the company says. Development is currently ongoing.

Looking back to 2020 performance at the Unki mine, in Zimbabwe, Anglo reflected on some more technology initiatives related to R26 million of expenditure for a digitalisation program. This included installing underground Wi-Fi infrastructure, as well as a fleet data management system to track analytics on primary production equipment. The company says these digital developments will enhance real-time data analysis, improve short-interval control and overall equipment effectiveness.

To step up mechanisation of its PGM operations at Amandelbult, Anglo American Platinum is also investing in innovation.

This includes in-stope safety technologies such as split panel layouts to allow buffer times between cycles, creating safer continuous operation and reduced employee exposure; improved roof support technology and new drilling technologies; a shift to emulsion blasting from throw blasting; and safety enhancements through fall of ground indicators, 2 t safety nets, LED lights, and winch proximity detection.

Meanwhile, at the company’s Mototolo/Der Brochen operations, it is working on developing the first lined tailings storage facility at Mareesburg in South Africa to ensure zero contamination of ground water. The three-phase approach adopted for construction of this facility will be completed this year.

DRA Global to help debottleneck Anglo American Platinum’s Unki PGM concentrator

DRA Global says it has been awarded an engineering procurement and construction management contract to expand Anglo American Platinum’s Unki platinum group metals concentrator, in Zimbabwe.

The engineering company was previously enlisted to carry out a feasibility study on the expansion, referred to as the “debottlenecking” project by Anglo American Platinum, and will now help increase throughput capacity to 210,000 t/mth, it said.

The Unki concentrator, built in 2010, can currently treat up to 180,000 t/mth according to Anglo American Platinum. It processes material from the Unki mine, one the world’s largest PGM deposits outside of South Africa, the miner says.

Anglo American Platinum, in its 2019 results released earlier this year, said it had signed off on the R700 million ($39 million) debottlenecking project and expected commissioning to be completed in the September quarter of 2021.

Unki has steadily been ramping up production in recent years. In 2019, it produced a record 202,000 oz of platinum group metals, up from 193,000 oz in 2018 and 166,000 oz in 2017.

Concor Opencast Mining provides ‘seamless transition’ at Anglo’s Mogalakwena PGM mine

Contractor Concor Opencast Mining says it is helping Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena open-pit platinum group metals (PGM) mine team, in South Africa, boost annual production.

This growth can be attributed to various optimisation efforts on site at the largest open-pit PGM mine in the world, as well as the steady performance of its Zwartfontein pit, which Concor Opencast Mining is in charge of, the contractor said.

The majority of Mogalakwena’s production originates from the Central, North and South pits, supplemented further by the nearby Zwartfontein pit. Together these deposits should deliver on Anglo American Platinum’s record-breaking production target of 1.22 Moz of PGMs for 2019, Concor said.

While the three main production pits are operated by the mine’s personnel, it relies on a contractor for the smaller Zwartfontein pit, which requires an earthmoving fleet suited to its smaller size and production targets. Despite its size, it is an important contributor to Mogalakwena’s annual performance, Concor said.

A year and nine months ago, the pit underwent a significant transition that saw Concor secure the load and haul contract from Anglo’s previous operator.

“Because the mine required a smooth changeover with minimal disruption to production, we took over most of the previous contractor’s fleet, as well as its entire workforce,” Concor Opencast Mining’s Zwartfontein contracts manager, Donald Sisiya, said.

Having completed work at Mogalakwena’s tailings storage facility in the past, Concor Opencast Mining brought to the project not only an existing relationship with the mine but its solid reputation for mining open-pit, hard-rock PGM operations in South Africa, the company said.

Sisaya continued: “Combined with our cost competitive offer, the mine placed its faith in our ability to deliver a seamless transition and then to further optimise production without disrupting day-to-day running during the changeover period.”

Concor Opencast Mining’s agreement at Zwartfontein comprises a three-year load and haul contract, as of December 1, 2017. Over this period, it must move 32.4 Mt of material and, more specifically, 12 Mt of ore and 20 Mt of waste material.

With an effective change management structure in place, Concor Opencast Mining has improved the pit’s production performance, having revised the shift structure for all plus-100 of its employees, the company said.

It has also invested significant capital into upgrading most of the old earthmoving equipment on site which had not been properly maintained, according to Concor.

“We have over recent months added three 130 ton (118 t) excavators to the pit, over and above introducing 10 new 100 t (91 t) trucks as well,” Sisiya states.

Moving forward, Concor Opencast Mining has production targets to meet by the end of the year and Sisiya is confident of achieving these: “Taking over an existing contract while ensuring minimal impact to the employees and the production targets is a success story for the company which highlights our strong capabilities in the open-cast mining space.”

Amplats set for shock-break and coarse particle recovery technology trials

Anglo American Platinum, in its June quarter results presentation, has provided further detail on a range of initiatives it is working on as part of its “P101” and FutureSmart™ initiatives.

The company has been pursuing these developments to “drive improvement in operational performance from current levels”. The P100 benchmark represents “best in class in the industry”, while P101 represents operating assets and equipment at levels beyond what is currently thought to be possible in the industry.

Amplats has previously mentioned several technologies it is working on as part of its FutureSmart development, including “coarse particle flotation, which can reduce energy intensity by over 30%; advanced fragmentation and shock-break technology at concentrators, which has the potential to also reduce energy intensity by 30%; and fine recovery of chrome and PGMs, in conjunction with bulk sorting, which can lead to a 10% increase in feed grade and recoveries”.

In the June quarter results presentation, the company said it had made some headway on many of these.

In terms of bulk sorting technologies, which majority-owner Anglo American has been using in trials at the El Soldado copper mine, in Chile, Amplats said technology evaluation was progressing at its Mogalakwena PGM mine, in South Africa.

With the shock-break technology, Amplats said it had an “evaluation unit” installed at its Baobab concentrator, also in South Africa. Amplats has access to this concentrator through an agreement it signed with Lonmin (now part of Sibanye-Stillwater) a few years ago, with the company, previously saying use of the concentrator would allow it to process excess ore and unlock value at Mogalakwena (dispatch control room pictured).

The shock-break technology Amplats refers to uses VeRo Liberator® technology from PMS GmbH. Gregor Borg from PMS told attendees at MEI’s Physical Separation conference in Falmouth, UK, in June, that on an industrial scale, Amplats had already applied two customised VeRo Liberators at its South Africa platinum operations and had ordered a third which is due to be shipped. All three were specially designed to be used in industrial‐scale pilot tests at the miners’ operations, he said.

Coming back to P101, Amplats said its Shovel Performance project was in progress at Mogalakwena. This is seeking to increase the rope shovel performance at the mine from 26 Mt/y to over 45 Mt/y.

The coarse particle recovery technology – a core part of the company’s plan to ultimately eliminate tailings dams, according to Anglo American Technical Director, Tony O’Neill – is set for trials at Amplats’ operations in 2020, the company said.

At the same time as this, there was a fine particle recovery concept study in progress, as well as a prefeasibility study on fine chrome recovery, Amplats said.

Anglo Platinum and Platinum Group Metals look downstream with Lion Battery Technologies JV

Anglo American Platinum and Platinum Group Metals Ltd have launched a new venture, Lion Battery Technologies Inc, to, they say, accelerate the development of next-generation battery technology using platinum and palladium.

This is all geared towards creating additional demand for platinum and palladium in the battery technology space.

The new Lion venture has entered into an agreement with Florida International University to further advance a research program that uses platinum and palladium to unlock the potential of lithium air and lithium sulphur battery chemistries to increase their discharge capacities and cyclability, the companies said. As part of this, Lion will have exclusive rights to all intellectual property developed and will lead all commercialisation efforts. “Lion is also currently reviewing several additional and complementary opportunities focused on developing next-generation battery technology using platinum and palladium.”

Thanks to considerably higher energy density, lithium oxygen and lithium sulphur batteries can perform better, by orders of magnitude, than the best-in-class lithium-ion batteries currently on the market or under development, according to the two companies. “This new generation of lightweight, powerful batteries has the potential to grow to scale on the back of the attractiveness of battery electric vehicles and the use of lithium batteries in other applications beyond mobility.”

Benny Oeyen, Executive Head of Market Development at Anglo American Platinum, said: “This exciting early-stage technology aligns with our broader strategy to bring new technologies to market that will help us secure future demand for the platinum group metals we mine and pave the way to a more sustainable energy future. Our commitment to market development is underscored by our relationship with AP Ventures, of which we are a cornerstone investor and who is a potential investor in this technology as it matures.”

Michael Jones, CEO of Platinum Group Metals Ltd, commented: “Developing new applications for platinum group metals is key to ensuring long-term sustainable demand, demand which will be important to the future success of our large-scale Waterberg palladium and platinum mining project, in South Africa.”

Amplats goes down innovation path for further operational gains

In Anglo American Platinum’s 2018 results, the company revealed how its latest technology and innovation efforts were coming along.

Amplats, in 2018, recorded earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of ZAR14.5 billion ($1.03 billion), compared with ZAR11.99 billion a year earlier, as total platinum group metal production rose 4% to 5.19 Moz.

In the company’s strategic overview of the business – under a section titled: “Extracting the full potential from our operations through our people and innovation” – the company talked up several processes it was pursuing to “drive improvement in operational performance from current levels”. This was through “greater stabilisation and process optimisation, towards best in class in the industry, known as P100”.

Amplats said: “The next step is to operate our assets and equipment at levels beyond what is currently thought to be possible in the industry, known as P101.”

Examples of areas of P101 improvement include increasing the rope shovel performance at its massive Mogalakwena PGM mine (pictured) in South Africa, from 26 Mt/y to over 45 Mt/y, increasing throughput at the concentrators by over 10%, boosting operating time of concentrators to over 94%, increasing recoveries of concentrators to over 83% and increasing the operating factor at processing facilities (defined as availability multiplied by utilisation).

“Beyond P101, a number of step-change technologies are being developed and deployed, including coarse particle flotation, which can reduce energy intensity by over 30%; advanced fragmentation and shock-break technology at concentrators, which has the potential to also reduce energy intensity by 30%; and fine recovery of chrome and PGMs, in conjunction with bulk sorting, which can lead to a 10% increase in feed grade and recoveries,” Amplats said.

Shock-break technology at concentrators has the potential to eliminate the use of SAG mills, according to Amplats. The company is piloting this technology after successful tests of Mogalakwena pebbles indicated a more than 50% saving in power consumption.

Pilot plant trials, “leveraging Element 6 wear resistant tools”, started in April 2018, according to Amplats.

To “unlock” this additional value through P101 and a number of FutureSmart Mining™ technologies and digitalisation, additional investment in a number of fast payback, value enhancing projects is required, Amplats said. “This is expected to deliver EBITDA margin uplift of 5-8% on a mine-to-market basis, within a three- five-year-time horizon, before the benefit of any expansion projects using 2018 prices and exchange rates”.

Capital guidance, including for these fast-payback and P101 investment projects will be in the region of ZAR1.5–1.8 billion in 2019, and around ZAR2 billion for each of 2020 and 2021.