Tag Archives: British Columbia

Taseko Mines using innovation to increase production and efficiencies

The Taseko Mines story is indicative of the current environment miners find themselves in – maximise productivity to grow margins at existing operations or invest in innovative new methods of extracting critical metals that come with a reduced footprint.

The Vancouver-based company is pursuing both options at the two main assets on its books – the Gibraltar copper mine in British Columbia, Canada, and its Florence Copper project in Arizona, USA.

Gibraltar, owned 75% by Taseko, initially started up in 1972 as a 36,000 t/d operation. It was shut down in 1998 due to low copper prices before Taseko restarted it in 2004. In the years since, the company has invested over $800 million in the mine, increasing the throughput rate to 85,000 tons per day (77,111 t/d), where it’s been operating at since 2014.

The asset now sits as the second largest open-pit copper mine in Canada – with life of mine average annual production of 130 MIb (59,000 t) of copper and 2.5 MIb of molybdenum.

Stuart McDonald, President and CEO of the company, says the company continues to work on the trade-off of upping throughput – potentially past the nameplate capacity – and improving metallurgical recoveries at the operation.

This became apparent in the latest quarterly results, when Taseko reported an average daily throughput of 89,400 tons/d over the three-month period alongside “higher than normal” mining dilution.

The company believes Gibraltar can improve on both counts – mill throughput and mining dilution.

“We were optimistic coming into the new pit (Gibraltar Pit) that, based on the historical data, we could go above 85,000 tons/d as we got settled in and mined the softer ore,” McDonald told IM. “We still believe there are opportunities to go beyond that level, but, at some point, it becomes an optimisation and trade-off between throughput and recoveries.

“In our business, we’re not interested in maximising mill throughput; we’re interested in maximising copper production.”

On the dilution front, McDonald believes the problem will lessen as the mining moves to deeper benches in the Gibraltar Pit.

“As we go deeper, the ore continuity improves, so we hope the dilution effect will continue to improve too,” he said.

“The dilution rate is still not quite where we want it to be, so it’s a matter of looking at our operating practices carefully and following through a grade reconciliation process from our geological model through to assays from our blast holes, assays into the shovel bucket and all the way through to the mill.”

‘Assays into the shovel bucket’?

McDonald explained: “We do use ShovelSense® technology on two of our shovels, so that helps us assess the grade of the material in the shovel bucket.”

To this point, the company has leveraged most value from this XRF-based technology, developed by MineSense, when deployed on shovels situated in the boundaries between ore and waste. This offers the potential to reclassify material deemed to be ‘waste’ in the block model as ‘ore’ and vice versa, improving the grade of the material going to the mill and reducing processing of waste.

ShovelSense has been successful in carrying out this process with accuracy at other copper mines in British Columbia, including Teck Resources’ Highland Valley Copper operations and Copper Mountain Mining’s namesake operation.

McDonald concluded on this grade reconciliation process: “We just have to make sure we are tracing the material through all of those steps and not losing anything along the way. Gibraltar is a big earthmoving operation, so we must continue to keep the material flowing as well as look at the head grade.”

A different type of recovery

In Arizona at Florence Copper, Taseko has a different proposition on its hands.

Florence is a project that, when fully ramped up, could produce 40,000 t of high-quality copper cathode annually for the US domestic market.

It will do this by using a metal extraction and recovery method rarely seen in the copper space – in-situ recovery (ISR).

The planned ISR facility consists of an array of injection and recovery wells that will be used to inject a weak acid solution (raffinate – 99.5% water, 0.5% acid) into copper oxide ore and recover the copper-laden solution (pregnant leach solution) for processing into pure copper cathode sheets. The mine design is based on the use of five spot well patterns, with each pattern consisting of four extraction wells in a 100 ft (30.5 m) grid plus a central injection well. This mine outline and associated infrastructure comes with a modest capital expenditure figure of $230 million.

The company has been testing the ISR technology at Florence to ensure the recovery process works and the integrity of the wells remains intact.

Since acquiring Florence Copper in November 2014, Taseko has advanced the project through the permitting, construction and operating phase of the Phase 1 Production Test Facility (PTF). The PTF, a $25 million test facility, consists of 24 wells and the SX/EW plant. It commenced operations in December 2018.

Over the course of 18 months, Taseko evaluated the operational data, confirmed project economics and demonstrated the ability to produce high-quality copper cathode with stringent environmental guidelines at the PTF, the company says.

McDonald reflected: “We produced over 1 MIb [of copper] over this timeframe and then switched over from a copper production cycle into testing our ability to rinse the orebody and restore the mining area back to the permitted conditions.

“We’re proving our ability to do the mining and the reclamation, which we think is a critical de-risking step for the project.”

Over an 18-month period, Taseko produced 1 MIb from the ISR test facility at Florence

Taseko says Florence Copper is expected to have the lowest energy and greenhouse gas-intensity (GHG) of any copper producer in North America, with McDonald saying the operation’s carbon footprint will mostly be tied to the electricity consumption required.

“Our base case is to use electricity from the Arizona grid, which has a combination of renewables, nuclear and gas-fired power plants,” he said. “In the longer-term, there are opportunities at Florence to switch to completely 100% renewable sources, with the most likely candidate being solar power.

“At that point, with renewable energy powering our plant, we could be producing a copper product with close to zero carbon associated with it.”

Gibraltar has also been labelled as a “low carbon intensity operation” by Skarn Associates who, in a 2020 report, said the operation ranked in the lowest quartile compared with other copper mines throughout the world when it comes to Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

When it comes to the question of when Florence could start producing, Taseko is able to reflect on recent successful permitting activities.

In December 2020, the company received the Aquifer Protection Permit from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, with the only other permit required prior to construction being the Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On September 29, the EPA concluded its public comment period on the draft UIC it issued following a virtual public hearing that, according to Taseko, demonstrated strong support for the Florence Copper project among local residents, business organisations, community leaders and state-wide organisations. Taseko says it has reviewed all the submitted comments and is confident they will be fully addressed by the EPA during its review, prior to issuing the final UIC permit.

Future improvements

In tandem with its focus on permitting and construction at Florence, and upping performance at Gibraltar, the company has longer-term aims for its operations.

For instance, the inclusion of more renewables to get Florence’s copper production to carbon-neutral status could allow the company to benefit from an expected uptick in demand for a product with such credentials. If the demand side requirements for copper continue to evolve in the expected manner, it is easy to see Taseko receiving a premium for its low- or no-carbon product over the 20-year mine life.

At Gibraltar, it is also pursuing a copper cathode strategy that could lead to the re-start of its SX-EW plant. In the past, this facility processed leachate from oxide waste dumps at the operation.

“As we get into 2024, we see some additional oxide ore coming out of the Connector Pit, which gives us the opportunity to restart that leach operation and have some additional pounds coming out of the mine,” McDonald said.

Alongside this, the company is thinking about leaching other ore types at Gibraltar.

“There are new technologies coming to the market in terms of providing mines with the opportunity to leach sulphides as well as oxides,” McDonald said. “We’re in the early stages of that work, but we have lots of waste rock at the property and, if there is a potential revenue stream for it, we will look at leveraging that.”

Bolting head upgrade gives Sandvik DS300 drills new life at New Afton mine

A like-for-like Sandvik Bolting Head (SBH) upgrade at the New Afton mine, in British Columbia, Canada, is delivering a significant productivity boost at the New Gold-owned operation, according to Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.

Launched over a decade ago, New Afton’s now ageing Sandvik DS300 drill rigs are being given a new lease of life, thanks to an upgrade that sees a current generation bolting head fitted in a like-for-like replacement. Not only is maintenance more straightforward and spare parts easier to source, the new bolting head is delivering a remarkable productivity increase – of 25% – Sandvik claims. In fact, so successful has the mine’s 2021 upgrade been that New Gold has recently confirmed a second of its Sandvik DS300 drill rigs will be given the treatment.

Bolting rigs are used to stabilise hanging and side walls in underground mine applications.

“The upgraded SBH bolting head fitted to the Sandvik DS300s is the business end of the drill and features the latest RD300 series rock drill,” Francois Nell, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions’ Head of Rebuilds and Upgrades, says. “This makes it perfect for rock reinforcement in underground mines with small-and-medium cross sections. Different bolt type and length configurations are available, providing an extensive bolt selection, while a full bolt carousel ensures the DS300 is capable of installing up to 15 bolts, ranging from 1.6-3 m in length. Bolt types include cement grouted, resin grouted, anchor point and friction bolts.”

There are several benefits of adding new technology to ageing drills, according to Nell.

“The new SBH is already proven in the field and gives an instant performance boost, thanks to the RD314’s much improved penetration rates,” he explained. “Added to that is the convenience of being able to source readily available current parts more easily, as well as increasing mine’s parts commonality across more drills.

“Also, the new SBH doesn’t put the rest of the D300 under additional strain; in fact, due to the lighter RD314 drifter compared to the drill it replaces, machine strain is, if anything, reduced.”

The SBH upgrade itself is straightforward, coming in kit form, and can be conducted by a mine’s in-house technical teams using the instruction manual the SBH comes with, according to Sandvik. Taking at most a couple of shifts to complete, customer feedback regarding the installation process has been universally positive, the OEM says.

With several hundreds of Sandvik’s Lyon, France-built D300s still working around the world, Sandvik says it expects that this SBH upgrade will be as popular with other mines as it is at New Afton.

Teck to deploy first electric tug boats in Canada at Neptune Terminal

Teck Resources has announced an agreement to deploy two electric tug boats at the Neptune Terminal in Vancouver, British Columbia, in support of Teck’s climate goals.

This marks the first electric tugs operating in Canada as a full tugboat package for harbour assist and tug services, according to Teck.

Under the agreement, SAAM will furnish two ElectRA 2300 SX tugs commencing operation during the second half of 2023, which are expected to eliminate over 2,400 t/y of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to emissions reductions, using electric tugs will also reduce underwater noise, benefitting marine life in the harbour.

“Working with SAAM Towage to further reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation of our products is another step forward in achieving our climate goals and contributing to global climate action,” Jonathan Price, CEO of Teck, said. “Collaborating with transportation providers to develop green transportation corridors is part of our climate action strategy and supports our goal of net zero emissions by 2050.”

Sander Bikkers, President, SAAM Towage Canada, added: “With Teck and Neptune Terminals, SAAM Towage has found value aligned partners who want to drive sustainable environmental change through innovation. This partnership is based on a shared commitment to do our part to address the global challenge of climate change by reducing our carbon footprint.”

The ElectRA Tugs are designed by Vancouver-based Robert Allan Ltd and will be built at Sanmar Shipyards in Turkey.

Neptune is owned by Canpotex Bulk Terminals Limited, a Canpotex affiliate, and Teck Coal Partnership, a subsidiary of Teck Resources.

This announcement builds on Teck’s progress to work with partners to reduce emissions across its supply chain and achieve a 40% reduction in shipping emission intensity by 2030.

Teck previously announced an agreement with Oldendorff Carriers to employ energy-efficient bulk carriers for shipments of Teck steelmaking coal from the Port of Vancouver, reducing 45,000 t/y of CO2, equivalent to removing nearly 10,000 passenger vehicles from the road, according to the company.

Teck has also announced a pilot of a fully electric on-highway transport truck to haul copper concentrate between Teck’s Highland Valley Copper Operations in south-central BC and a rail loading facility in Ashcroft, BC.

Teck’s climate action strategy also includes goals to reduce carbon intensity across operations by 33% by 2030 and be a net-zero operator by 2050.

Intrepid Group and indurad partner on anti-collision, volumetric inventory and positioning solution offering

Intrepid Group Ltd and indurad have announced a new strategic partnership to provide robust anti-collision, volumetric inventory and positioning solutions for the mining and material handling industry.

The partnership will have a focus on the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the pair said.

Indurad calls itself the global leader in radar-based automation and productivity solutions for mine sites, train loadouts, stockyard equipment and shiploading facilities. Its patented 2D and 3D radar systems are installed at mining operations and ports worldwide to increase ore throughput and minimise downtime and collisions.

Intrepid Group says it helps its customers improve their operations through accurate and efficient measurement of their processes, partnering with manufacturers to develop solutions that achieve these goals.

“Partnerships with regional leaders like Intrepid Group allow us to enhance our market coverage,” Adriaan Goosen, Director of Engineering at indurad, said.

Campbell Adams, Chief Executive Officer at Intrepid Group, added: “We are delighted by the partnership. indurad’s solutions affords us even greater flexibility to meet the diverse needs of our customers. The synergies of this partnership will greatly benefit both our current and future customers.”

Sedgman formally awarded EPC contract for Artemis’ Blackwater gold project

CIMIC Group’s mineral processing company, Sedgman, has been awarded an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to deliver services for Artemis Gold at the Blackwater gold project in British Columbia, Canada.

The EPC contract, which supersedes the temporary interim service agreement announced on May 2, 2022, will generate revenue for Sedgman of C$318 million ($245 million).

Sedgman will design and construct the processing and non-processing infrastructure for a 6 Mt/y carbon-in-leach gold plant at the project.

Even before this announcement, Sedgman had made good headway on the project, executing an agreement with Metso Outotec to secure supply and delivery of crushing and grinding equipment for the processing plant.

The project schedule as laid out by Artemis supporting the EPC contract with Sedgman includes the following assumptions:

  • Receipt of the BC Mines Act and related permits in the Fall of 2022;
  • Construction mobilisation and major works preparations commence in the March quarter of 2023 with process plant bulk earthworks scheduled to be completed prior to the start of major works;
  • Commissioning activities of the process facility to commence in the firts half of 2024; and
  • First gold pour expected in the September quarter of 2024.

CIMIC Group Executive Chairman, Juan Santamaria, said: “Sedgman and Artemis have already commenced initial design and procurement work at the project, helping Artemis to unlock the value of this key gold project and work towards its first gold pour in 2024.”

Sedgman Managing Director, Grant Fraser, said: “We are pleased to be working with Artemis Gold on this exciting project and look forward to continuing our strong working relationship to ensure successful outcomes for both Sedgman and Artemis.”

Work is expected to be completed in the September quarter of 2024.

Artemis has said previously that Stage 1 development at Blackwater should lead to the building of a 6-9 Mt/y operation (6 Mt/y in years 1-4 and 9 Mt/y in year 5) able to produce around 312,000 oz/y of gold.

Newcrest’s Brucejack mine set for full fleet battery-electric transition in Q4

Newcrest’s Brucejack gold-silver mine in British Columbia, Canada, is set for a full battery-electric fleet transition by the end of the year, the gold miner said in its financial year 2022 results.

Following a successful site trial, seven underground battery-electric trucks are being commissioned at Brucejack, replacing the existing diesel fleet and abating approximately 65,000 t of CO2 emissions through to 2030.

The new fleet will improve truck productivity, lower unit costs and enhance operational efficiency from planning to production, according to Newcrest. Three of the Sandvik 50-t-payload Z50 battery-electric trucks are already in production, with the full switch over expected to be completed in the December 2022 quarter, it noted.

Sandvik and Pretivm previously noted that seven Z50 haul trucks would be supplied to the operation as part of the planned fleet transition.

The project is being partly funded thanks to a C$7.95 million ($6.1 million) investment from The CleanBC Industry Fund.

Brucejack, which became wholly owned by Newcrest when the acquisition of previous owned Pretivm Resources completed earlier this year, is currently the subject of Newcrest’s EDGE program, which aims to drive a culture of innovation, high performance and continuous improvement. The program has identified additional opportunities of approximately C$15-$25 million/y, with improvements in stope turnaround time and more efficient mine operations as the initial focus areas, the company said.

Run-rate benefits from this effort are expected to be fully realised by the June 2024 quarter, Newcrest says.

Newcrest said in the financial results that it was also assessing ore sorting technology at the mine, which aims to classify and separate mineralised material from non-mineralised material to deliver more consistent mill feed grades and increase operational flexibility.

Teck to trial carbon capture utilisation and storage tech at Trail Operations

Teck Resources has announced a Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) pilot project at its Trail Operations metallurgical complex in southern British Columbia, Canada, in support of its Net-Zero Climate Change Strategy.

The CCUS pilot is expected to begin operation in the second half of 2023 and is expected to contribute to the company’s aim of reducing the carbon intensity of its operations by 33% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“This carbon capture pilot is an important step towards our knowledge building for the application of carbon capture, utilisation and storage as an emissions reduction solution, as we work to evaluate pathways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our operations and achieve our net-zero goal,” Don Lindsay, President and CEO, said. “The pilot also provides us with a technical platform to assist our steelmaking coal customers in materially reducing the carbon intensity of their steel production.”

The pilot plant will capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the acid plant flue gas at Trail Operations at a rate of 3 t/d. The pilot project will also evaluate options for the utilisation and/or storage of the captured CO2 at Trail Operations, Teck says.

If successful, the project could be scaled up to an industrial CCUS plant with the potential to capture over 100,000 t/y of CO2 at Trail Operations, the equivalent emissions of more than 20,000 cars.

Teck acknowledged the support of the CleanBC Industry Fund for its funding contribution towards the CCUS Pilot Plant Feasibility Study, which was an important step in advancing the pilot. The CleanBC Industry Fund highlights the alignment between industry and government in achieving Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, it said.

Artemis awards Blackwater gold EPC contract to Sedgman Canada

Artemis Gold Inc says it has made an award for the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPC) scope of works for the processing plant and associated infrastructure at its Blackwater project in British Columbia, Canada, to Sedgman Canada Limited, a CIMIC Group company.

The award amount of approximately C$312 million ($243 million) is consistent with the prescribed budget for the process plant and selected infrastructure scope of works in the 2021 feasibility study.

Sedgman Canada Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary company of Sedgman Pty Limited, a CIMIC Group company. CIMIC Group (ASX:CIM) is an engineering-led construction, mining, services and public private partnerships leader working across the lifecycle of assets, infrastructure and resources projects.

The EPC contract is expected to be executed by June 30, 2022, with the contract supported by performance security including bank letters of credit, which will underwrite the financial performance and obligations of the contractor under the contract.

While the parties finalise the definitive EPC contract, in order to maintain the project schedule, an interim services agreement has been agreed which could cover procurement and pricing of long lead equipment and optimisation through refined scope changes, among other aspects.

The project schedule supporting the award to Sedgman includes the following assumptions:

  • Construction mobilisation and major works preparations commence in Fall 2022 with process plant bulk earthworks scheduled to be completed prior to the start of major works;
  • Commissioning activities of the process facility to commence in Q1 (March quarter) 2024; and
  • First gold pour expected in the first half of 2024.

The final EPC contract terms will provide for potential cost adjustments of certain components of construction representing approximately less than 15% of the total contract amount, including the potential for cost adjustments from further quantity definition, Artemis said. Standard adjustments, including currency exchange rates for certain equipment purchases also apply, and further optimisation of the processing plant with final engineering will occur.

Artemis is also considering awarding additional construction packages under an EPC agreement type structure to further enhance the risk management of the total capital expenditure for Blackwater, it said.

When combined with the EPC for the Power Transmission Line announced on August 18, 2021, the percentage of the estimated total capital expenditure for Blackwater under EPC is on track to target circa-60% of the initial Stage 1 development capital of C$645 million in a lump sum EPC type arrangement by the September quarter of 2022.

Stage 1 development should lead to the building of a 6-9 Mt/y operation (6 Mt/y in years 1-4 and 9 Mt/y in year 5) able to produce around 312,000 oz/y of gold.

Steven Dean, Chairman and CEO, said: “The award of the EPC job for the process plant at Blackwater is another significant milestone for Artemis, reflecting a competitive process involving multiple bidders. We are very pleased to be working with a world-class engineering firm in Sedgman. In partnership, we will work to finalise the design and engineering of the Blackwater project in advance of a start of major development activities. Blackwater remains on track for a start of major construction activities following receipt of Mines Act and other permits in Fall 2022 with a first gold pour in H1 2024.”

Metso Outotec to engineer SAF solution for MGX’s silicon project

MGX Minerals Inc has announced the engagement of global mining equipment supplier Metso Outotec for its British Columbia silicon project.

The OEM has been tasked with providing design, equipment and mechanical engineering for the processing of high-grade silica from the company’s wholly-owned Gibraltar silica deposit into silicon metal 3303# grade.

The primary piece of processing equipment related to the agreement is a submerged arc furnace (SAF). This electric arc furnace generates heat up to 1,600°C sufficient to melt the quartzite. The liquid metal is then tapped and poured into bricks and rough crushed into 3-4 in (76-102 mm) pieces for shipment.

Recent metallurgical testing on a 1 t sample from the company’s Gibraltar silica deposit, 95 km northeast of Cranbrook, British Columbia, has indicated that the material is chemically suitable as medium-quality feedstock for metallurgical-grade silicon.

MGX says the demand for silicon metal continues to grow and recent supply chain bottlenecks have limited overall supply, creating an opportunity for the distribution of silicon in Asia from North America.

Kutcho Copper outlines combined open-pit/underground plan for mine

Kutcho Copper Corp has outlined a plan to develop an open pit and underground operation at its copper and zinc project in northern British Columbia, Canada, with the publication of a feasibility study.

The results of the study highlight an 11-year mine life with metal production of 533 Mlb (241,765 t) of copper, 841 Mlb of zinc, 10.6 Moz of silver and 129,700 oz of gold at all-in sustaining costs of $1.80/lb ($3,969/t) of copper equivalent. It came with an initial capital cost of C$483 million ($388 million).

The Main deposit at Kutcho is designed to be mined primarily as a conventional shovel and truck open-pit operation, with a deeper remnant mined by underground longitudinal longhole open stoping (LLHOS) with cemented rock fill (CRF). The underground Esso deposit is also designed to be mined using LLHOS with CRF.

A total of 17.3 Mt is planned to be mined over an 11-year mine life, with 14.5 Mt coming from the open pit and 2.8 Mt from the underground mines. A steady-state crusher production rate of 4,500 t/d is expected be achieved by the end of the first year of operations.

After primary crushing at an average steady state rate of 4,500 t/d, an ore sorter using an X-ray Transmission (XRT) sensor would remove low-grade and waste material from the feed to the SAG and ball mills, followed by conventional flotation, regrind and dewatering circuits. Approximately 3,900 t/d of ore would report to the milling and flotation circuit after ore sorting. The XRT plan follows testing of Kutcho samples at TOMRA Sorting Mining facilities.

The project design includes an extensive progressive reclamation program, including the backfilling of the open pit and water treatment during operations and for the closure period.

The company also plans to use liquified natural gas for power generation as opposed to diesel, which will significantly reduce the generation of greenhouse gases and reducing the potential for fuel spills. This would see four 2.5 MW LNG generators plus one on standby used, with a 2 MW diesel generator providing occasional plant start-up assistance.

Vince Sorace, President & CEO of Kutcho Copper, said: “The feasibility study represents a major milestone for Kutcho Copper as we continue to advance the high-grade Kutcho copper-zinc project towards a development decision. The significant redesign and engineering of the project delivers a mine plan that is a predominantly open-pit mining operation with the concurrent development of two underground mines. The mine plan has resulted in a technically robust and capital efficient project with a minimised footprint.

“The results of the feasibility study highlight the attractive economics of the Kutcho project which are resilient at lower metal prices, very attractive at base case prices and exhibit significant leverage to rising prices as reflected in spot metal prices with a C$931 million after-tax NPV (7% discount) and a 41% internal rate of return. We believe that the results of the feasibility study mean that Kutcho Copper is now one of the most undervalued copper investment opportunities in North America.”