Tag Archives: Bold Bataar

Rio Tinto’s Nuton to test leaching tech at McEwen Copper’s Los Azules project

McEwen Copper’s Los Azules project in Argentina looks like becoming the latest potential leaching asset put under the Nuton® Technologies microscope after the signing of a collaboration agreement between McEwen Copper and Nuton.

The agreement, tied to an oversubscribed $81.85 million offering of McEwen Copper shares, will see Nuton, a Rio Tinto Venture, test its technology for compatibility with Los Azules copper mineralisation.

Nuton, for its part, also contributed $25 million into the funds raised by McEwen Copper.

Rio Tinto’s copper leaching technology venture has been in the headlines of late, signing deals with, among other companies, Arizona Sonoran Copper Company Inc and Lion Copper and Gold, to test out its solutions.

Nuton is aimed at growing Rio Tinto’s copper business. At its core is a portfolio of proprietary copper leach related technologies and capability – a product of almost 30 years of research and development.

Rio says the Nuton technologies offer the potential to economically unlock known low-grade copper sulphide resources, copper bearing waste and tailings, and achieve higher copper recoveries on oxide and transitional material, allowing for a significantly increased copper production outcome, according to Rio. One of the key differentiators of Nuton is the potential to deliver leading environmental performance, including more efficient water usage, lower carbon emissions, and the ability to reclaim mine sites by reprocessing mine waste, Rio claims.

McEwen Copper and Nuton will jointly undertake copper leach testing using Nuton Technologies with samples from Los Azules. McEwen Copper has agreed to grant exclusivity to Nuton for one year in the area of novel, patented or trade secret leaching technology, while it will continue its independent test work and studies using conventional leach technologies.

McEwen Copper Chief Executive, Rob McEwen, said: “We recognise the potential opportunity of using Nuton Technologies to produce copper in greater amounts, more rapidly, and with less impact on the environment and water resources. I trust that our relationship with Nuton and Rio Tinto will accelerate the process of realising the enormous potential of Los Azules.”

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Copper, Bold Baatar said: “This agreement will allow us to evaluate the potential to commercially deploy Rio Tinto’s innovative Nuton Technologies for copper leaching in McEwen Copper’s planned development of Los Azules. Our Nuton Technologies have the capacity to unlock increased copper production for Rio Tinto and our partners, with a low carbon footprint and leading environmental performance.”

The next milestones at Los Azules are the upcoming drilling season from October 2022 to June 2023, the completion of an updated preliminary economic assessment early in the March quarter, and the planned initial public offering of McEwen Copper in the first half of 2023.

Los Azules’ current copper resources are estimated at 10.2 billion pounds (4.6 Mt) at a grade of 0.48% Cu (indicated category) and an additional 19.3 billion pounds (8.8 Mt) at a grade of 0.33% Cu (inferred category).

Rio Tinto and partners incorporate new entity to progress Simandou iron ore plans

The government of the Republic of Guinea, Winning Consortium Simandou (WCS) and Rio Tinto Simfer have incorporated the La Compagnie du TransGuinéen (The TransGuinean Company) to further progress plans to co-develop the multi-purpose and multi-user infrastructure for the Simandou iron ore project, in the country.

The joint venture incorporation is a significant milestone in implementation of the framework agreement signed among the parties on March 25, 2022. It has been fully registered and established in Guinea and is intended, following negotiation of definitive tripartite entity arrangements, the company will be the central structure for the co-development of the rail and the port components of the Simandou iron ore development project.

Following the incorporation of the joint venture, the parties will now work on next steps including shareholding agreement, finalising cost estimates and funding, and securing all necessary approvals and other permits and agreements required to progress the co-development of infrastructure.

WCS and Rio Tinto Simfer are committed to co-develop the rail and port infrastructures in line with internationally recognised environmental, social and governance standards, Rio says. This milestone paves the way to progress the shareholder agreement, and secure necessary financing to construct a strategic corridor with more than 600 km of rail infrastructure extending from south to south-west of the Republic of Guinea, as well as port infrastructure in the Forécariah prefecture in Maritime Guinea.

The infrastructure constitutes the backbone of the Simandou project, that presents a significant opportunity for the economic growth of the Republic of Guinea, in addition to the mining activities it will support, Rio says.

Sun Xiushun, Chairman of the Winning Consortium, said: “We are extremely grateful to our joint venture partners, the Guinean government and Rio Tinto Simfer for the spirit of cooperation they have shown in achieving this major milestone. The creation of La Compagnie du TransGuinéen is a positive step and builds a solid foundation for the realisation of the Simandou project. More importantly, it shows that WCS respects its commitments in a concrete way: to build and develop Guinea, and to significantly contribute to strengthening the country’s economy. WCS welcomes today’s signing and thanks all its partners on the ground, particularly our Guinean employees and surrounding communities without whom all this would not have been possible.”

Rio Tinto Executive Committee member in charge of the Simandou project and Copper Chief Executive, Bold Baatar, said: “The incorporation of La Compagnie du TransGuinéen with our partners underscores the importance of the Simandou resource in today’s decarbonising world, and its development will complement Rio Tinto’s strong iron ore portfolio. It is also a very important moment for Guinea and for Guineans, for whom the project’s southern infrastructure corridor has the potential to bring significant benefits for regional economic development by leveraging international project and ESG standards. We are most grateful to the government of Guinea and WCS for their collaboration and look forward to making the promise of Simandou a reality.”

Djiba Diakité, Chairman of the Strategic Committee of the Simandou project and Minister Director of the Office of the Presidency of the Republic, said: “Under the leadership of the Head of State, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya, the Republic of Guinea reassures the partners, and the world of its firm will to develop the Simandou project in the best interests of the people of Guinea, and all partners. Guinea’s mineral resources belong without exception to all of its daughters and sons and therefore nothing will be done to their detriment. Our country remains open to all responsible and serious mining investment that will help support the sustainable development of our economy and, in turn, is committed to maintaining a stable and calm business climate.”

WCS and Rio Tinto Simfer, the holders of blocks 1-2 and 3-4, respectively, are fully engaged with all stakeholders at national and local level to transform the iron ore potential of the Simandou mountain range into a sustainable source of wealth for the people of Guinea for generations to come, Rio added.

Shareholding of La Compagnie du TransGuinéen will be split between development partners Simfer Jersey Ltd. and WCS each receiving a 42.5% equity share and the Government of Guinea taking a 15% free carry equity stake.

WCS is a consortium of Singaporean company, Winning International Group (45%), Weiqiao Aluminium (part of the China Hongqiao Group) (35%) and United Mining Suppliers International (20%). WCS is the holder of Simandou North block 1-2 (with the Government of Guinea holding a 15% interest in the mining vehicle and WCS holding 85%) and associated infrastructure.

The Simfer joint venture comprises Simfer S.A., the holder of Simandou South Blocks 3 & 4, which is owned by the Government of Guinea (15%) and Simfer Jersey Limited (85%). In turn, Simfer Jersey Limited, is a joint venture between the Rio Tinto Group (53%) and Chalco Iron Ore Holdings (CIOH) (47%) – a Chinalco-led joint venture of leading Chinese SOEs (Chinalco (75%), Baowu (20%), China Rail Construction Corporation (CRCC) (2.5%) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) (2.5%).

Rio Tinto bringing Richards Bay Minerals back online

Close to four weeks after deciding to curtail operations at its Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operations in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Rio Tinto says it has started the process of resuming work at the zircon, rutile, iron and slag works.

The U-turn follows discussions led by the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, involving all stakeholders focused on securing stability in order to address the issues in the community and provide the stable environment necessary for RBM to resume operations, Rio said.

Rio, which owns 74% of RBM, previously made the call to suspend work to ensure the safety and security of its employees due to an escalation in violence in the communities surrounding the operations.

In the December 4 announcement, it said: “There has been an escalation of criminal activity towards RBM employees and one was shot and seriously injured in the last few days. As a result, all mining operations at RBM have been halted and the smelters are operating at a reduced level, with a minimum number of employees now on site. Construction of the Zulti South project has also been temporarily paused.”

In its latest statement, the company said a phased restart is now in progress across the operation, with RBM expected to return to full operations in early January, leading to regular production in early 2020.

Having previously advised of a force majeure in supply following the suspension, Rio is now contacting customers to say this declaration has been lifted. The company said it would also review the restart of the Zulti South project after normalisation of operations at RBM.

The $463 million Zulti South project will sustain RBM’s current capacity and extend mine life. RBM currently operates four mines in the Zulti North lease area, a mineral separation plant and smelting complex. The Zulti South mine will underpin RBM’s supply of zircon and ilmenite over the life of mine, according to the company.

Bold Baatar, chief executive, Energy & Minerals, said: “The safety and security of our people is always our first priority and we are pleased that we will now be able to get back to work creating value for our people, our communities, South Africa and RBM’s shareholders.

“I would like to thank the Government of South Africa and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal for their support and assistance in getting us to a position where we can restart operations at RBM. I would also acknowledge the work of community leaders and the police over the previous few weeks.”

Rio previously advised that titanium dioxide slag production for 2019 was expected to be at the bottom end of 2019 guidance of between 1.2-1.4 Mt.