Tag Archives: Australia

Rio Tinto takes over Ranger uranium mine rehabilitation plan

Rio Tinto says it will manage the Ranger Rehabilitation Project in Australia’s Northern Territory on behalf of Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ERA), under a new Management Services Agreement (MSA) signed today.

The MSA will build on ERA’s existing rehabilitation work with Rio Tinto’s technical expertise in designing, scoping and executing closure projects. Transition to Rio Tinto management of the project will start immediately and is expected to take about three months.

The agreement follows an approach to Rio Tinto from ERA’s Independent Board Committee (IBC) to submit a proposal to provide services and advice to progress the project. Rio Tinto owns 86.3% of ERA’s shares.

Under the MSA, Rio Tinto and ERA aim to complete the Ranger Rehabilitation Project in the safest and most efficient way, and to a standard that will establish an environment similar to the adjacent Kakadu National Park and that is consistent with the wishes of the Traditional Owners of the land, the Mirarr people, it said.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Australia, Kellie Parker, said: “With the signing of this agreement, we are pleased to be able to directly provide more closure and project delivery experience and know-how to this critical task. So far, ERA has made progress in key areas, including water, tailings treatment and management and pit rehabilitation.

“We are aligned with ERA in wanting to build on this work using Rio Tinto’s expertise in closure projects and our commitment to strong stakeholder relationships. We look forward to working in partnership with the Mirarr Traditional Owners and other stakeholders to complete the project.”

ERA CEO, Brad Welsh, said: “The ERA team has worked incredibly hard and made good progress rehabilitating Ranger. However, as the project moves into a new phase it will benefit from Rio Tinto’s global expertise in mine closure.

“We look forward to working with and supporting Rio Tinto on the safe and efficient delivery of this important project.”

Rio Tinto plans to build on the expertise and relationships existing within the ERA team to finalise required studies and execute the necessary rehabilitation activities, it said. Management of ERA matters outside the Ranger Rehabilitation Project, including corporate matters, financial affairs, assets and governance will remain the responsibility of ERA.

BHP BMA’s Goonyella met coal mine receives ABB electrification upgrade

Sustainability, employee protection and operational insights are the drivers of a cutting-edge electrification upgrade at BHP BMA’s Goonyella Riverside Mine in Queensland, Australia, ABB says in a recent case study.

At the BHP-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) conjoined metallurgical coal mines Goonyella and Riverside in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, Subra Nedunuri, Senior Project Manager, Goonyella Riverside Mines (GRM), is responsible for delivering capital electrical projects without compromising environment, safety, quality, or mining schedules.

When a 43-year-old section of Goonyella Riverside’s power infrastructure became unreliable, Nedunuri began designing an upgrade with ABB capabilities, which protect employees, equipment and the environment, and enable predictive maintenance of 16 pumps critical to the mine’s operation.

Nedunuri said: “A rehabilitation project to move earth from one side of the mine to the other may cost $20 million, but in contrast this $3 million electrical upgrade can save lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in downtime.”

To power the coal wash treatment plant, pumps are used to direct water for reuse or into tailing dams: without them the plant can’t operate. In the past, the now obsolete electrical system communicated only three states of condition for the pumps operation – “On”, “Off” or “Fault”. The system had no protection against arc flash incidents (explosive releases of energy when an electrical arc travels through ionised air to ground or another part of the electrical system), which endanger the lives of service technicians and nearby workers.

For the upgrade, BMA wanted not only the safest switchgear to protect its employees, but a human-machine interface (HMI) that would enable remote and on-site monitoring and control of the electrical system and pumps around the clock.

ABB’s system-integrated Ultra-Fast Earthing Switches (UFES) formed the basis of GRM’s upgrade with safety, and protection of the people within the vicinity of the equipment in mind.

“The switch is installed into the panel to prevent an arc flash, if it occurs it will be detected and switch off the power in less than four milliseconds,” Nedunuri said. “In addition to UFES-enabled switchboards, the mine wanted to take advantage of new and trending technology in the form of digital communications between the switchboard and the plant.”

ABB Ability™ Electrical Monitoring and Control for Distribution Networks, known as ZEE600, integrates diverse devices from a variety of suppliers, under the IEC 61850 standard of communication preferred by BMA, ABB explained. At GRM, this condition monitoring solution harnesses the real-time diagnostic data of substation equipment and electrical assets – primarily the pumps – to alert on-site teams to respond with preventive maintenance.

“Via the HMI, you can actually see the health of the pumps, motors and starters – everything. Our analysis and improvement team also continuously collect the data and analyse it for troubleshooting and future enhancements,” he said.

Nedunuri said it’s all connected back to plant supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA).

Installation and commissioning of the upgraded system took place during the mine’s biannual three-week-long scheduled maintenance shutdown in August/September 2022.

Prior to the shutdown period, Nedunuri constructed the system at ABB premises in Brisbane. Together with the ABB technicians, they matched cabling inlets and outlets with a template of the GRM system.

Henry Lin, Project Manager for Electrification Service at ABB in Brisbane, says ABB customers need to reduce the risk of costly downtime. “Our main objective in these projects is to ensure that our customer’s assets operate at peak performance levels and are available as required,” he said.

BMA has performed much research on the digitalisation of its mines and the ongoing upgrade of infrastructure involves a constant rollout of individual projects. When it comes to the safety and reliability of electrical infrastructure, Nedunuri said the company doesn’t compromise, regardless of the cost.

“All upgrades must not only comply with Australian Standards, but also require ongoing modifications to meet the higher bar set by BHP BMA to make sure it runs efficiently and effectively into the future,” he said.

“I feel proud that I eliminated a huge risk to the business through the pump electrification project. We are protecting people using the new system with arc flash mitigation and at the same time, the monitoring and control enabled by ABB ZEE600, not only improves pump efficiency, but also adds a lot of functionality – it’s easy to operate and easy to maintain.”

BMA and ABB are collaborating on a pipeline of further potential upgrades to existing on-site installations, with each project planned to deliver greater safety, reliability and sustainable growth, ABB says.

NACG’s MacKellar Group banks five-year met coal contract in Queensland

North American Construction Group Ltd says the MacKellar Group has been awarded a five-year contract extension by a major metallurgical coal producer in relation to a mine in Queensland, Australia.

The contract contemplates the provision of fully maintained equipment and related services at the site operated by the producer.

The award extends the expiry date from June 6, 2025, to June 30, 2030, and qualifies as contractual backlog given minimum hour commitments in the agreement, NACG says. Rental scopes are estimated at C$100 million ($74 million) per year resulting in a total value from this extension of C$500 million, the company added.

The contract requires the addition of two loading units and one service truck, for between C$20 and C$25 million, which will be purchased by the end of the year and bring the total dedicated fleet at this site to approximately 70 heavy equipment units.

NACG acquired MacKellar in July 2023 for C$395 million.

Joe Lambert, President and CEO of NACG, said: “We are excited about this extension and look forward to continuing the relationship we have with our customer at this site. This is the first material contract we have signed in Australia since the acquisition of MacKellar and are very proud of how well the first five months have gone.

“MacKellar has provided an excellent platform to grow our business in Australia as we leverage our operational and maintenance expertise in the region. We believe this ‘locking in’ of fleet is indicative of the strong demand for heavy equipment in the Australian mining sector. In light of this demand, and bolstered by long-term contracts, we have begun to take steps towards prudently increasing fleet size in Australia, including potentially transferring underutilised Canadian fleet into that market with the goal of maximising overall utilisation.”

Grange Resources plots underground move at Savage River with electric mining equipment

A completed definitive feasibility study looking at the potential for underground mining below the North Pit and its integration with Grange Resources’ current open-pit mine at Savage River, in Tasmania, Australia, has showcased not only “robust financial outcomes”, but the potential for reducing carbon emissions by 80% at the mine, with the application of electric mining equipment and material handling systems underground.

This DFS development is in line with company’s environment, social and governance (ESG) initiatives to develop Green Pellet Production from the mine.

The study, according to Grange, presents a technically achievable and financially favourable underground mine at Savage River, with integration with the current open-pit mining operation to deliver “excellent” projected financial returns and sustains a mine life of 15 years. In line with this, the Savage River ore reserve is increasing by 12.5 Mt to 109 Mt with integration of the underground operation.

The new life-of-mine-plan will deliver a substantial reduction of 30% in operating costs with underground mining costs at an average of A$13/t ($8.4/t). It also delivers an internal rate of return of 34% based on an average product price of approximately A$177/t. The ore delivery of 64 Mt of ore produces 28 Mt of concentrate with an iron grade of over 66% over 15 years, Grange said.

A sub-level caving (SLC) transition mine to recover ore left in the walls of the North Pit provides early access to ore and contingency production during the establishment and ramp-up of the block cave mine. Over 2 km of exploration decline has been completed, which reduces the risk for many technical and cost elements of the project, with a further commitment for additional decline development and geotechnical investigation drives in 2024, the company said.

The prefeasibility study for this project considered several haulage options with associated underground configurations and underground and surface infrastructure. The underground crushing and inclined conveying option was chosen as the go forward case for DFS for the following reasons:

  • Significant reduction in emissions and ability to meet the long-term requirements of the updated Safeguard legislation;
  • Lower operating costs by the removal of production trucks and significant reduction in diesel;
  • Better future proofing with higher ore production levels possible allowing the option of higher concentrate production;
  • Improvement to the underground operating environment with improved air quality;
  • Increased options for future automation.

In addition, the single gyratory crusher that was presented in the prefeasibilty study has been replaced with two eccentric roll crushers, which provides redundancy in the material handling system. Crushed ore is transferred to the inclined conveyor system via apron feeder and conveyors.

Another PFS change saw the extraction level layout changed from ‘El Teniente’ diagonal to an offset herringbone to enable the use of tethered electric loaders and to mitigate effects of potential inrush events.

A board decision for Grange to move forward with execution planning and permitting will occur over 2024 with final construction decision in the second half of 2024, the company said.

RHI Magnesita to use MCi Carbon’s CCUS technology at refractory operations

MCi Carbon, an Australian clean technology platform, has commenced preliminary engineering work for its first industrial large-scale plant in collaboration with refractories leader RHI Magnesita.

Alongside an additional multi-million-dollar investment from RHI Magnesita, this accelerates MCi Carbon’s mission to scale-up and commercialise its carbon capture and utilisation technology, the company said.

“This investment marks a pivotal moment for MCi Carbon and underscores the trust our partners place in our transformative technology,” Marcus Dawe, Founder and CEO of MCi Carbon, said. “With RHI Magnesita’s support, we are poised to accelerate our global commercialisation efforts and address the challenges faced by heavy industries in achieving decarbonisation.”

Stefan Borgas, CEO of RHI Magnesita, said: “The partnership with the Australian cleantech startup MCi Carbon is forward-looking and their technological approach is particularly interesting because it combines carbon capture storage and carbon utilisation. This is currently the most promising way for the refractory industry to reduce process emissions.”

Previously, RHI Magnesita signed a long-term strategic cooperation agreement with MCi to decarbonise components of its operations. This partnership was formed alongside an initial multi-million-dollar investment made in February 2023 in MCi’s carbon capture and utilisation technology. RHI Magnesita will be MCi Carbon’s first global commercial customer.

The investment will facilitate completion of the Myrtle facility, which is currently being constructed in Newcastle, Australia. Once complete, Myrtle will abate over 1,000 t/y of CO2 through customer-focused trial campaigns. The company is scaling its technology to provide decarbonisation pathways for hard-to abate sectors including steel, cement, lime, mining, chemicals and manufacturing.

Thiess turning autonomous mining opportunities into reality

Thiess may have deliberately started small with autonomy, however, 10 years into its journey, the company is now being recognised as a mine automation leader in the ever-competitive mining services space.

Whether it is drilling, dozing or haulage, Thiess has plenty of autonomy expertise to offer.

The company started off in 2013 with maintenance and service work on the autonomous haulage fleet a major producer had assembled at its iron ore operation in the Pilbara. This has since broadened out to semi-autonomous tractor system (SATS) operations at major coal mines in Australia, autonomous drilling advances using Epiroc and Caterpillar platforms and, most recently, autonomous haulage and drilling operations at Pembroke Resources’ Olive Downs Complex greenfield operation in Queensland.

Trent Smith, Head of Autonomy and Operations Technology at Thiess, says the company seeks to involve itself early on with autonomy projects to ensure benefits can be realised.

He explains: “We like to help identify the opportunity for automation, which initially involves answering two big questions: is the application suitable? And does it deliver a financial benefit to the project? If there are positive answers to both questions, we try to work with those potential clients on how to bring the vision to life.”

Thiess’ involvement in this process is extensive, looking at network options, OEM selection, the “people element” and more, according to Smith.

“Our strategy was a bit different to others, where, aside from the work at our first autonomy project in the Pilbara, we started with small pilot projects on drills and dozers,” he told IM on the side lines of IMARC 2023 in Sydney earlier this month. “This enabled us to establish some solid foundations, understand the significance of the required changes, understand what the key enablers like networks were and put support models behind those aspects.”

To date, the mining services provider has worked closely with OEMs Epiroc and Caterpillar on modifying their autonomy platforms to fit its clients’ operations to improve safety and efficiency.

“With Caterpillar, we were able to take an emerging technology platform like Cat® MineStar™ Command for drilling and ensure it was fit for purpose for the coal environment we were planning to deploy it in.

“With Epiroc’s solution, we took a mature and proven product from the iron ore environment – equipped mainly for single pass, vertical drilling in competent ground with big and open drill pads – and tailored it for a coal application. This application required the introduction of autonomous rod changing and angle drilling for drilling in varied ground within tighter working areas.

“We worked hand-in-hand with Epiroc to understand the complexities of translating the solution for this environment, utilising all of the on-board data in the early trial stages and filtering that down to identify areas of waste and opportunity that could be used by the OEM and ourselves to realise an improvement in performance within that new environment.”

This evidently worked, with the companies, earlier this year, achieving the significant milestone of drilling more than one million lineal metres at the Lake Vermont coal mine in Queensland.

Pembroke Resources’ Olive Downs Complex has become the world’s first mining operation to deploy Command for hauling and Command for drilling solutions simultaneously

Thiess is also expecting to later this year reach the same autonomous drilling milestone with Cat’s Command for drilling platform; this time at a major coal mine in New South Wales.

The company has also helped achieve an industry first at Pembroke Resources’ Olive Downs Complex, with it becoming the world’s first mining operation to deploy Command for hauling and Command for drilling solutions simultaneously.

This assignment, which moved from concept to implementation of autonomous trucks and drills within a matter of 18 months, will ultimately include the deployment of 21 haul trucks (15 Cat 794 ACs and six Cat 793Fs) and three drills (Cat MD6310s) fitted with autonomous technology. Additionally, Thiess has established a private LTE network on Pembroke’s on-site communication infrastructure, enabling the safe operation of more than 85 connected assets within the autonomous operating zone. It has also upskilled more than 280 team members to, Thiess says, support the delivery of autonomous operations at Olive Downs to enable improvements in safety, operating hours, cycle efficiency and cost.

There is potential to add Command for dozing at Pembroke Resources’ Olive Downs Complex in future years, according to Smith.

“We have built the network and control room with the anticipation that this will be used,” he said. “We are already the first company in the world to have all three Caterpillar autonomy products running at operations, but Pembroke Resources’ Olive Downs Complex would be the first operation in the world to have all three Cat autonomy products operating at one mine.”

Thiess now has six autonomy projects out in the market, all of which are performing well against industry automation benchmarks, according to Smith, who says this capability is being recognised within the mining company community and OEM space.

The company has already announced its first automation project outside of Australia – at a coal mine in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, where it will deploy autonomous drilling operations – and Smith says the company is exploring further autonomous drilling opportunities in Latin America.

As well as continuing to engage with the wider OEM market on automation options, Thiess is working on different automation applications for existing products.

“With the SATS Command for dozing product, for instance, we are looking to take the platform and work with Caterpillar to move it towards a rehabilitation application,” Smith said, referencing the Thiess Rehabilitation business the company launched last year. “The requirements in mine rehabilitation are somewhat different to standard dozer push and stockpile applications, with multi-push vectors and the ability to potentially control several small-scale projects from one centralised hub.

“This is an example of where we work with an OEM, bring our knowledge of working with the product, identify a new application for the product, and then lay out what new set of capabilities need to be addressed to meet the requirements and fulfil that market opportunity.”

The company has a track record of proposing and advancing such autonomous dozing opportunities in certain niche applications, Smith said, adding that it recently achieved the 10 million cubic metres push mark with SATS.

The first rehabilitation application for SATS could end up being at a project in central Queensland – a project the Thiess Rehabilitation team started work on last year.

Thiess recently achieved the 10 million cubic metres push mark with SATS

Against this advancing autonomy backdrop, Smith says the company continues to be asked about combining the “decarbonisation” and autonomy pieces of the mine operating puzzle, with a staged approach typically being recommended.

“At the moment, these two (autonomy and decarbonisation) are a little bit separate, but they will converge at some point,” he said. “I imagine artificial intelligence and predictive capabilities will play a role in that – evaluating when the truck might run out of charge, when is best to pull that truck out of service for a 30-minute fast charge, etc.

“What I would say is if you have taken a step in either direction (autonomy or decarbonisation) already, you are well placed for this convergence.”

Smith offered up one last piece of advice to any company looking to take its next automation step: “Don’t forget the people and process part.”

He explained: “Most organisations know how to deliver a technology project, but I think the real value in automation is bringing the people and process along with that. Automation is a business transformation.

“We worked with Pembroke Resources’ at their Olive Downs Complex to ensure the appropriate change management process to enable automation was implemented across all business functions. Each function was reviewed to understand what needed to change to bring in automation and create a cohesive environment.

“It’s already starting to pay off at that project, where we exceeded our target of 6,500 annualised hours within two months of commencing autonomous haulage operations.”

BMA completes SABR Hay Point coal terminal project

BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA)’s Hay Point team recently celebrated the completion of the Shiploader and Berth Replacement Project, nicknamed SABR, in Queensland, Australia.

In operation since 1971, the Hay Point Coal Terminal has undergone multiple expansion projects over its lifespan. It is a critical piece of infrastructure in BMA’s logistics portfolio and enables the BMA team to deliver high quality metallurgical coal for steelmaking to customers all around the world, quickly and reliably, BHP says.

These vital replacement works, requiring 15,000 tonnes of steel, will reinforce Hay Point’s ability to deliver coal to customers into the future. As Gaia Antoniucci, Head of Asset Projects, said at Thursday’s celebration: “The completion of the SABR project will improve the terminal’s cyclone immunity and ensure its long-term sustainability.

“I’m so proud of all of the teams who worked tirelessly day-in, day-out – both on-site during construction, as well as behind the scenes, and of the fantastic integration between the various parts of the different organisations to ensure the project ran without any major issues, and with the utmost focus on safety and the best outcomes for project delivery.”

SABR has been designed with a safety mindset – most of the project infrastructure has been built in controlled environments, minimising the exposure of front-line workers to the danger of high-risk work activities such as working over water environments. Over three years, the project absorbed more than 250,000 work hours during construction, and supported almost 700 BMA and contractor personnel working over the life of the project to carry out the transformation.

Linda Murry, General Manager at Hay Point for BMA, acknowledged at the celebration that the project has not just been an investment for BMA, but for Central Queensland more broadly.

“The terminal is a very busy place, which is constantly working for our customers,” she said. “It needs to be at its best to ensure BMA remain the world’s largest exporter of seaborne metallurgical coal.

“This has not just been an investment for BMA, but for Central Queensland more broadly. Hay Point’s increased capacity will drive economic growth throughout the region well beyond this port. We’re hugely proud of our ongoing contribution to Central Queensland.”

BHP to install Metso cone crushers at Whaleback iron ore mine

BHP has awarded Metso an order for three high-capacity Nordberg® MP Series™ cone crushers to be installed at its Whaleback iron ore mine in Western Australia, according to the OEM.

Vinicius Vilela, Vice President, Mining Crushers at Metso, said the MP800™ cone crushers will replace the long-serving MP cone crushers.

“The robust and high-capacity MP Series crushers are a step change in the crushing process, enabling maximum operator safety and easy maintenance, as the key components can be accessed from the top of the crushers,” he explained. “They provide a more sustainable solution, delivering high crushing force with relatively low energy consumption.”

Metso’s cone crusher offering includes four product families for different applications and operations. The Nordberg MP Series cone crushers feature high capacity and high crushing force for size reduction with good energy efficiency.

Just last month, Rio Tinto awarded Metso an order for 10 HP500™ cone crushers to be installed at the company’s Tom Price iron ore mine in Western Australia, replacing  the long-serving Symons cone crushers at the operation.

DRA Global to carry out works for Whitehaven’s Vickery Extension project

DRA Global says it has secured the contract for a major design package for Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery Extension project located in New South Wales, Australia.

As the preferred supplier, the DRA team will execute the detailed engineering and design and post Whitehaven’s Financial Investment Decision provide technical and project support services during the tendering, construction and commissioning phases for the Vickery Coal Handling and Preparation Plant, it said.

DRA Global APAC Executive Vice President, Darren Naylor, said the contract award underscores the company’s recognised technical expertise and capabilities in the market.

“Led by the APAC team in Brisbane, the works will continue to build the EPCM delivery capabilities for process plants and infrastructure, leveraging our proven track record of success,” he said. “We are pleased this award strengthens our long-standing partnership with Whitehaven Coal and further solidifies our presence within the broader New South Wales and Queensland resources market.”

The Vickery Extension project is a proposal to construct an open-cut coal mine and associated on-site infrastructure about 25 km north of Gunnedah, Whitehaven says. The mine will produce a majority metallurgical coal for steel-making, with the balance being high quality thermal coal destined for premium export markets in our region. The proposal builds upon, and further optimises, an already-approved mine, on a site that has already been extensively and safely mined over many years.

In August 2020, Vickery was approved by the Independent Planning Commission NSW.

Perenti books exploration, development and production work with Australian miners

Perenti says it has secured new work and contract extensions with the likes of Regis Resources, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) and Catalyst Metal in Australia representing nearly A$150 million ($97 million) of revenue across its 2024 and 2025 financial years.

It has booked a A$70 million, six-month contract for the continuation of underground development and production works at the Regis Resources Garden Well and Rosemont underground gold mines. Barminco and Regis continue to progress collaboratively towards further and material contract extensions at these two mines, it says.

It has also sealed a A$27 million, 24-month contract for exploration surface drilling services at the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance in Queensland, while a A$14 million, 24-month contract has been awarded for underground diamond drilling works at Catalyst Metal’s Plutonic underground gold mine in Western Australia, subject to finalisation of contract terms.

Furthermore, AUMS (through UMA, a joint venture with Rocksure International) received a limited notice to proceed related to the initial underground development works at the Newmont Akyem underground gold mine in Ghana. The finalisation of contractual negotiations continues, however, once finalised it is forecast that the contract could represent circa-A$32 million of revenue over an initial term of 11 months, with a capital structure that is likely to be similar to that adopted for Newmont’s Subika project.

Mark Norwell, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Perenti, said: “The award of these contracts and the limited notice to proceed across both our underground and surface mining businesses demonstrates the diversity of our service offering and the strength of the relationships we share with our clients. Collectively these three contracts and the limited notice to proceed represent nearly A$150 million of revenue across FY2024 and into FY2025 and come after the recent announcement in which Perenti secured circa-A$360 million of revenue at the Sandfire Resources A4 project in Botswana.”