Tag Archives: Argentina

Rio makes Rincon lithium play as part of portfolio decarbonisation plan

Rio Tinto has entered into a binding agreement to acquire the Rincon lithium project in Argentina, an undeveloped brine project that, Rio says, has the potential to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry and can help deliver on the company’s commitment to decarbonise its portfolio.

The agreement has been signed with Rincon Mining, a company owned by funds managed by the private equity group Sentient Equity Partners, for $825 million.

Rincon is in the heart of the lithium triangle in the Salta Province of Argentina, an emerging hub for greenfield projects. The project is a long life, scaleable resource capable of producing battery-grade lithium carbonate, according to Rio. The direct lithium extraction technology proposed for the project has the potential to significantly increase lithium recoveries as compared with solar evaporation ponds, according to the company. This process uses a resin to adsorb the lithium, with clean water used to wash off the lithium in desorption, and adsorption and desorption conducted with raw brine and water at ambient temperature to significantly reduce the energy consumption, Rincon says.

A pilot plant is currently running at the site and further work will focus on continuing to optimise the process and recoveries.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jakob Stausholm, said: “This acquisition is strongly aligned with our strategy to prioritise growth capital in commodities that support decarbonisation and to continue to deliver attractive returns to shareholders. The Rincon project holds the potential to deliver a significant new supply of battery-grade lithium carbonate, to capture the opportunity offered by the rising demand driven by the global energy transition. It is expected to be a long life, low-cost asset that will continue to build the strength of our Battery Materials portfolio, with our combined lithium assets spanning the US, Europe and South America.”

Once acquired by Rio Tinto, the Rincon project will be subject to the completion of studies to confirm the resource and define an JORC Code compliant resource statement. Work will be undertaken to determine the development strategy and timing, secure updates to existing Environmental Impact Assessment permits to allow development and production, and undertake ongoing engagement with communities, the province of Salta and the Government of Argentina, the company said.

As the project is currently held through an Argentine branch of an Australian company, completion of the transaction is conditional upon approval by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Subject to this FIRB approval, the transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.

Eramet re-energises Argentina lithium development with help of Tsingshan

Eramet plans to restart construction of its lithium production plant in Argentina after signing an agreement with Tsingshan that will see the China-based steel group finance the build in exchange for a 49.9% interest in the project.

The construction of the 24,000 t/y lithium carbonate equivalent plant will start during the March quarter of 2022, with commissioning scheduled for early 2024.

Eramet and Tsingshan have an existing relationship with the two companies jointly owning the Weda Bay nickel operations in Indonesia.

“With this project, Eramet will become the first European company to develop sustainable and large-scale lithium production, supported by a performing process developed in-house by its R&D centre,” Eramet said.

This is a two-step process that, firstly, uses an active solid to extract and concentrate the lithium. Developed by Eramet in liaison with IFPEN (the French Institute of Petroleum and New Energies) and Seprosys, this works like a sponge, capturing the lithium contained in the brine. Fresh water is then used to release the stored lithium. To further concentrate the extracted metal, two successive processes are then conducted: nanofiltration and reverse osmosis.

The lithium is then purified, after which a reaction occurs with sodium carbonate to convert it to lithium carbonate. Once filtered again and washed, it achieves the chemical quality of the finished product, Eramet said.

The lithium project was mothballed in April 2020 during COVID-19, as the conditions were not met to launch construction.

“Based on the partnership signed with Tsingshan and factoring in solid fundamentals as well as excellent outlook for the lithium market, the group’s Board of Directors has considered that the conditions are now met to launch the plant construction,” Eramet said.

Eramet will control the project, with a 50.1% interest. For its part, Tsingshan will contribute up to $375 million to the project through the financing of the plant’s construction, leading to it earning a 49.9% stake in the project.

Eramet owns perpetual mining rights over a major lithium concession, in the form of brine, located on the Andean highlands in Salta Province. The project plans to extract brine from the salar and process it into lithium carbonate. The 24,000 t/y LCE project is expected to have cash costs of around $3,500/t LCE ex-works, with large-scale drainable resources.

A pilot plant installed on the site since 2020 has demonstrated, in real conditions, the lithium carbonate production, which brought very high direct extraction yields of around 90%, according to the company.

“The project has strong ESG performance, notably as demonstrated by the quality of the relationships tied with local communities during the preparatory phase of the project,” the company said. “Eramet’s process also presents an advantage in terms of hydric resources use compared with projects supported by a conventional extraction process. All Eramet’s CSR standards will be applied on the activity.”

Christel Bories, Eramet Group Chair and CEO, said: “Our decision to carry out our lithium project in Argentina is in line with the dynamic of strong market growth. It is a key milestone in the deployment of our strategic roadmap, which aims at positioning Eramet as a reference player in metals for the energy transition.”

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions bolsters Argentina service offering

To reduce response times, increase service quality and be closer to key mining clients, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions is decentralising its workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to invest in a service centre in Caleta Olivia in the Province of Santa Cruz.

The maintenance and repair workshop for mining equipment, which opened in July, is strategically located and equipped with advanced systems such as South America’s first test bench for transmissions, axles and converters, according to Sandvik. It not only allows for the equipment to rotate, but can also take a heavy load, helping to guarantee reliability and quality of repairs.

“The objective of the Sandvik service centre in Caleta Olivia is to deliver results with high quality standards, in a timely manner,” Sebastián Issel, Country Manager of Sandvik Argentina SA, said. “To do this, we are strongly committed to the strategic development of local suppliers.”

The workshop entails a reception area, a 1,775-sq.m service area for repairs (featuring capacity for four service teams), a specific area for component repairs, training rooms and offices. The workshop is designed to carry out repairs of all types of components and equipment that Sandvik currently has in service in Argentina, including surface and underground drills and underground trucks and loaders.

The new facilities will also serve to complement training connected to mine sites for Sandvik technicians and customer representatives alike, Sandvik said.

As a supplier to many key mining operators in the southern region of Argentina, Sandvik says it sees the opening of the new service centre as an important move to provide a more localised service offering. The opening of the Caleta Olivia workshop represents a distribution point and satellite to have a faster response when a customer needs a specific component or spare part, it said. Its location in Caleta Olivia allows for less travel and smooth shift changes for service technicians.

Sandvik’s presence in key mining and construction provinces in Argentina delivers, the company says, a strategic combination for customers in the area, with the headquarters located in San Justo and the facilities in Caleta Olivia serving as the distribution and repair centre in the region.

Worley to take Neo Lithium’s 3Q brine project into DFS stage

Neo Lithium Corp and its Argentinean subsidiary LIEX SA have engaged Worley Chile and Worley Argentina to complete a definitive feasibility study (DFS) of its flagship 3Q lithium brine project in Catamarca, Argentina.

The development strategy for 3Q focuses on production of 20,000 t/y of lithium carbonate with the flexibility to expand production to 40,000 t/y after phase one is completed and operational. The DFS is scheduled for completion in the September quarter of 2021.

Gabriel Pindar, COO of Neo Lithium Corp, said: “On the back of CATL’s investment and involvement, we are very pleased to have engaged and be working with Worley who bring a wealth of lithium knowledge and experience to our 3Q project. Worley is a leading global engineering firm and has been involved in all aspects of lithium brine operations which will be invaluable in executing our DFS.”

Results of the last prefeasibility study (PFS) on 3Q performed by GHD Chile SA and Groundwater Insight Inc outlined a project with 20,000 t/y of lithium carbonate production potential with after-tax net present value (8% discount rate) of $1.143 billion, internal rate of return of 49.9%, and capital expenditure of $318.9 million.

Neo Lithium said the studies carried out by the company in its evaporation pilot plant at the salar site and the lithium carbonate pilot plant in the town of Fiambalá confirm that the general parameters defined in the PFS will be validated in the DFS.

Neo Lithium has been operating pilot evaporation ponds for more than three years, while the pilot lithium carbonate plant has been in operation for nearly two years. This has resulted in a meaningful ramp up in knowledge while improving the process all the way through to validate the PFS and take the project more efficiently into DFS with a view towards future construction, it said.

“As a result of our efforts to maintain steady operations at pilot scale level, we continue to produce our own lithium brine concentrate and lithium carbonate on a regular basis, and believe that we are on track towards our goal of being in production by the later stages of 2023,” the company added.

Austin truck bodies, buckets on their way to Egypt, Ukraine, Argentina and Dominican Republic

Austin Engineering’s growth initiative to expand the company’s presence into new markets appears to be working, with the company having recently won contracts to deliver products to Africa (Egypt), Eastern Europe (Ukraine), and South and Central America (Argentina and the Dominican Republic).

This is the first time in the company’s history that product has been supplied to these countries, it said.

The total value of orders, consisting of truck bodies and buckets, received is in excess of A$6 million ($4.3 million) and is anticipated to provide a springboard for further sales into these markets, the company said. The majority of the orders received by value have been provided from subsidiary companies of large global miners, it noted.

The order received in Egypt was made possible by the Austin ETT joint venture partnership entered into earlier this year. Prior to this partnership, Austin would not have been in the running for this opportunity, further cementing the value in collaborating with the right strategic partners in territories that Austin does not currently have a physical presence, the company said.

In line with this strategy, Austin Engineering has also recently signed a contract with a representative in South America to work with potential clients in Brazil and is in the process of finalising a representative to support Austin in Eastern Europe.

“Both of these markets have a large field population of mining trucks and shovels and could be important markets for Austin in the medium term,” the company said.

Austin Engineering Managing Director, Peter Forsyth, said: “These new territories are important to Austin’s growth aspirations, as there are a number of mining regions around the world that are still largely operating with standard OEM products for truck bodies and excavator buckets. Adoption of Austin’s innovative replacement products in these regions would enhance production metrics significantly.

“Partnerships are proving key to our success in entering these new regions and allow us to leverage our experience with our partners’ commercial contacts to achieve great outcomes for Austin, our clients and our partners.”

Fortuna pours first gold at Lindero heap leach mine

Fortuna Silver Mines has reported the first gold pour from its Lindero mine, in the Province of Salta, Argentina.

The pour took place on October 20, 2020, producing 728 oz of gold.

It follows on from the starting of irrigation and leaching of ore placed on the heap leach pad, reported in early September.

Jorge A Ganoza, President, CEO and Director of Fortuna, said: “The first gold pour at Lindero, our third mine in the Americas, is a significant achievement for the company as we advance the mine’s ramp-up phase towards commercial production in the first (March) quarter of 2021. Lindero is a mine with reserves for a projected life of 13 years and is a pillar in Fortuna’s asset portfolio.”

Ganoza continued: “I want to take this opportunity to commend our Salta-based team’s commitment and hard work in achieving this milestone, especially in the context where COVID-19 related restrictions continue to pose multiple limitations.

“If conditions permit, we look forward to hosting an on-site inauguration ceremony of Argentina’s newest gold mine with provincial and federal authorities early next year.”

Fortuna starts stacking at Lindero heap leach gold mine

Fortuna Silver Mines has completed the primary and secondary crushing circuits at the Lindero gold project, in Salta Province, Argentina, with the company starting to stack ore on the heap leach pad.

As of the end of June, the overall project is now 97% complete, with the first gold pour expected at the end of the September quarter, Fortuna said.

Jorge A Ganoza, President, CEO and Director of Fortuna, said: “The successful commissioning of the primary and secondary crushing circuits and the start of stacking ore on the heap leach pad are key and much awaited milestones at Lindero. Our project team is delivering on schedule and budget according to the revised plan, despite the challenges and limitations of carrying on construction activities under COVID-19 related constraints.

“The next upcoming milestone is the start of heap irrigation which is scheduled for the end of August.”

The ramp-up phase of the primary and secondary crushing circuits will involve an increase in production until nominal rates of 18,750 t/d are achieved, the company said. Fortuna expects to achieve nominal rate production in the December quarter of 2020, inclusive of the tertiary high pressure grinding roll system and agglomeration plant.

Ore for the commissioning and initial ramp-up of the crushing circuit and stacking on the heap leach pad is being sourced from the medium-grade coarse ore stockpile inventory of around 1 Mt averaging 0.55 g/t Au.

During the period from July to December, an estimated 1.7-1.9 Mt of ore is scheduled to be placed on the leach pad with an average gold grade of 1-1.1 g/t, the company said. The estimated stripping ratio during this period is 0.68-0.75.

Final construction activities related to the process ponds, ADR (adsorption, desorption and regeneration) and SART (sulphidisation, acidification, recycling and thickening) plants continues with electrical and piping installations progressing according to plan, Fortuna said. The process pond and ADR plant electric rooms have been energised, with pre-commissioning of the solution handling system commencing on July 11 with the barren pond pumping equipment.

Lindero has been designed as an 18,750 t/d owner-operated open-pit mine with a pit life of 13 years based on current mineral reserves.

Commit Works expands mining software footprint into South America

Commit Works, a mining software company headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, is continuing its expansion plans with a move into South America.

This builds on Commits Works’ growth trajectory into South Africa, North America and New Zealand in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively, and comes only seven years since the company was founded in 2013.

While Commit Works is still assessing where its new office location will be, a spokesperson confirmed it was at this stage looking into addresses in Chile or Peru.

The expansion follows the successful relationship the company has been building since December with its first South America customer, a gold mine in Argentina.

Commit Works provides planning, scheduling and visual management software for the mining industry, with its flagship solution, Fewzion, enabling planners to quickly build integrated shift plans, which are provided electronically to mining and support crews, coordinating the complex work being performed throughout each shift.

Paul Moynagh, CEO and Founder of Commit Works, said: “Expanding into South America is an incredible opportunity our entire team is thrilled to have. With our frontline productivity software and proven approach that drives commitment, trust and performance, we can help mines throughout the continent sustainably deliver hard dollar value into the business, and build a better, more collaborative culture for the entire workforce.”

The South America customer in question has been realising preliminary production improvements that are consistent with the double-digit results Commit Works has helped mines elsewhere in the world achieve, the company said. “The foundation of those outcomes has been significant reductions in variability that boost and sustain productivity,” it added.

Moynagh added: “South America has many high-value mines, and it’s important the resources are managed in the most efficient way possible. We want to help mine leaders and their entire teams do that responsibly and safely.”

Moynagh said adding a new office in the region reflected how Commit Works’ software and proven approach will help customers emerge and surge when mines fully re-open following the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our expansion in the region is an opportunity for us to work with the area’s brightest talent to positively impact the technology and mining sectors, and help mine’s emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever,” he said.

Maestro Digital Mine makes connections in Latin America

Maestro Digital Mine’s Latin America expansion is gaining traction, with the Sudbury-based company recently landing sales from major gold mines in Argentina.

Its flagship Industrial Internet of Things measurement and control instrumentation solutions, such as the Vigilante AQS™ and Zephyr AQS™ air quality monitoring stations, and the Plexus PowerNet™ last mile communication platform, are designed to provide the visibility and communication miners require to keep up productivity and improve safety while operating at increasing depths

Having successful launched these products in over 130 mines, in more than 20 countries around the world, Maestro started its strategic outreach and market research in Latin America last year.

Maestro’s says its distribution channels are vital to its success in this area and, as part of the Maestro sales team, provide valuable feedback, access and service to potential clients in Latin America.

This strategy saw it partner with associations that assist with market research and business-to-business meetings, such as the Mine Connect (formerly SAMSSA), and the Northern Ontario Export Program led by the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation (GSDC) and Mining Suppliers Trade Association (MSTA), as well as secure four new distributors/agents in the key mining hubs of Argentina, Chile, Peru and Mexico to support this growth.

This investment is already starting to pay off, with the company recently landing significant contracts across the region.

In Argentina, Yamana Gold’s Cerro Moro mine, in the Santa Cruz province, is installing the Plexus PowerNet solution. This delivers a high speed, low latency digital communication network that provides “PoE+ power” to Wireless Access Points, cameras and any other IP-based device, Maestro said. The system eliminates the need for costly outside fibre optic contractors and can be installed and maintained by any internal tradesperson, according to Maestro.

Cerro Moro, an open-pit and underground gold-silver operation, poured its first gold and silver doré back in May 2018 and, up until recent COVID-19-related restrictions hit mining operations, was expected to produce 117,000 oz of gold and 7.5 Moz of silver in 2020, according to the miner.

In that same province, Maestro has also installed the last mile communication solution at Newmont’s Cerro Negro mine. This operation includes five underground mines (Eureka, Mariana Central, Mariana Norte, San Marcos, Bajo Negro), one open-pit mine (Vein Zone) and one cyanide leach processing facility that yields gold recoveries of 96%, according to Newmont.

In Mexico, Maestro has installed Vigilante AQS – air quality monitoring stations in Peñoles mines. Peñoles, a subsidiary company owned by Grupo BAL, is the second largest Mexican mining company, the top Mexican producer of gold, zinc and lead and a world leader in silver production.

Coeur Mining has, meanwhile, installed and integrated the Vigilante AQS and MaestroLink software into its Mexican mines. This includes the Palmarejo silver-gold complex. The miner continues to expand Maestro’s digital solutions on each new level of its Mexico mines, Maestro said.

Maestro concluded: “With the support of our distribution partners, we are proud to be enabling worker safety and productivity in the mines of Latin America. It is through a collaborative model that Canadian suppliers can impact positive change in the global mining industry.”

Newmont withdraws 2020 guidance as four mines go into care and maintenance mode

Newmont says it is withdrawing its full-year 2020 guidance after placing four of its operations into temporary care and maintenance mode in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The company said these actions could see some production deferred into 2021, potentially impacting costs in 2020 if the suspensions continue for an extended period. This meant its guidance of 6.4 Moz of gold at an all-in sustaining cost of $975/oz for 2020, given in early January, would no longer stand.

For the March quarter, Newmont said it expected to produce some 1.4 Moz of attributable gold and around 325,000 of “co-product gold equivalent ounces”. Year-to-date through February 29, Newmont had produced around 981,000 oz of attributable gold and some 227,000 co-product gold equivalent ounces, it said.

“Newmont continues to work proactively with logistics partners and refiners to transport and refine product in a challenging environment,” it said. “We are not currently experiencing significant delays in the shipping of concentrate or transportation and refining of doré, but they may occur in the coming days and weeks if certain government-required shutdowns and border restrictions occur.”

Mines representing around 80% of the company’s production outlook for 2020 continue operating in line with production targets for the year, it said. These operations have implemented heightened levels of health screening, along with support services being conducted remotely.

“If at any point the company determines that continuing operations poses an increased risk to our workforce or host communities, we will reduce operational activities up to and including care and maintenance and management of critical environmental systems,” the company added.

Yet, in order to protect nearby communities and align with travel restrictions or health considerations in Argentina, Canada and Peru, four of its operations are being temporarily put into care and maintenance.

“The operations will be positioned so they can safely and quickly resume normal operations once protective measures have been lifted,” the company said.

The operations being placed into care and maintenance mode includ:

  • Musselwhite: Newmont has decided to limit personnel on site to minimise fly-in/fly-out activity to prevent the possible transmission of the virus into communities, including nearby First Nations communities in northern Ontario – essential personnel to maintain infrastructure, continue environmental management and provide security;
  • Eléonore (pictured: Credit Osisko Gold Royalties): Newmont has decided to limit personnel on site to comply with the Quebec government’s restriction on non-essential travel within the province and to prevent the possible transmission of the virus into communities, including nearby First Nations communities – essential personnel to maintain infrastructure, continue environmental management and provide security;
  • Cerro Negro: Newmont will have to limit personnel on site due to the halt of all domestic flights and mass transportation in Argentina through March 31 – remaining on site will be essential personnel to maintain infrastructure, continue environmental management, provide security and continue ground control activities; and
  • Yanacocha: As previously disclosed, mining operations were in the process of safely ramping down due to government travel restrictions in-country, while gold production from leach pads and critical safety, security and environmental management activities continue

Tom Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Newmont, said: “Our business continuity plans and rapid response teams have been fully mobilised in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“We are working closely with host communities, First Nations and other indigenous peoples, regional and national governments and health experts to protect our workforce and nearby communities. This includes putting some operations temporarily into care and maintenance while others continue to operate at targeted production levels.

“We are also making sure that these short-term disruptions do not impact long-term business value while ensuring we are well-positioned to safely and efficiently ramp-up operations in a timely manner once the worst of this global pandemic passes.”

Measures taken at Newmont operations and offices globally include:

  • Cancelling all non-essential travel;
  • Enhanced temperature and questionnaire screening at entry points to sites;
  • Establishing flexible and remote working plans for employees;
  • Establishing screening for fly-in-fly-out employees prior to their departures from their home communities;
  • Mandatory self-quarantine for anyone who has travelled internationally or has any flu-like symptoms;
  • Providing logistical and health care support to nearby communities where needed; and
  • Established a global supply chain task force to assess all potential risks and develop viable contingency plans that enable us to stay ahead of any potential supply disruptions.