Tag Archives: carbon-neutral mining

New Kalgoorlie metals research lab to pave the way for mining’s greener future

Curtin University is to open a new research lab geared towards carbon-neutral metal production paths at its Kalgoorlie campus in Western Australia.

Curtin’s WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering Head of School, Professor Michael Hitch, said the Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory would explore cleaner alternatives through teaching and research that would pave the way for a greener future for the industry.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will provide undergraduate students with practical education in carbon-neutral metal production paths, which is particularly important given they are the generation that will help decarbonise the mining industry in the most challenging area of pyrometallurgy,” Professor Hitch said.

Iron ore processing expert, Dr John Clout, has been appointed the Professor of Practice in Pyrometallurgy at the lab with Curtin’s WA School of Mines Kalgoorlie Director, Sabina Shugg, saying he would oversee a high-tech laboratory, fitted with experimental high temperature furnace equipment, capable of simulating the complete industrial process to test renewable energy and green hydrogen sources in the metal extraction process of pyrometallurgy, which currently require fossil fuels.

“Highly respected in the field of pyrometallurgy, Professor Clout will bring real-world experience to the laboratory’s teaching and research, ensuring we contribute to a sustainable future for the Western Australia resources industry,” Shugg said.

Professor Clout said he was thrilled to support the new research hub’s development as an internationally-recognised laboratory and pilot-scale pyrometallurgical research facility for undergraduate teaching and applied research.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will aim to develop end-to-end production paths that set new standards for efficiency, value and carbon neutral management, which will ultimately support a cleaner future,” he said.

“After working in the gold, iron ore and nickel industries for more than four decades, I am especially excited to be working with the future leaders of the resources sector to find the most efficient renewable energy sources and processes for pyrometallurgy.

“There is significant potential for industry to be extracting and producing critical metals right here in Western Australia, especially in the Goldfields where there is significant scope for renewal energy production, untapped critical mineral resources, an existing infrastructure network and workforce.”

The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory has been established as the result of a A$600,000 ($443,697) grant from Curtin University.

The new research facility is also seeking support from industry and private donors for the purchase of additional equipment and ongoing industry-funded projects.

TNG and SMS to investigate hydrogen use for Mount Peake project

TNG Ltd is participating in a ground-breaking project with its German-based strategic engineering partner, SMS group, which could lead to the production of a carbon-neutral product from its Mount Peake vanadium-titanium-iron project in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Under the agreement, TNG will partner with SMS to develop technology to produce green hydrogen from various renewable, secondary or fossil hydrocarbon sources by means of plasma pyrolysis.

SMS, TNG says, is already advanced in its understanding of such technology and will manage all development activities and, specifically, apply the technology to TNG’s TIVAN® Process (plant layout above).

The TIVAN process, developed by the two companies and Perth, Australia-based metallurgical consultants METS and the CSIRO, has been primarily designed for hydro-metallurgical extraction of vanadium, preferably as vanadium pentoxide, from a titanomagnetite orebody and also for separating the titanium and iron, preferably as ferric oxide and titanium dioxide.

SMS is to provide a fully detailed development program in support of the specific resourcing required from both parties under the agreement, TNG says.

The plasma pyrolysis technology, which consumes roughly one-third of the electricity required to produce the same amount of hydrogen by electrolysis of water, could be the preferred reduction agent for TNG’s TIVAN Process, marking an important step in the company’s roadmap towards achieving a net zero carbon footprint for TIVAN, TNG said.

“The technology also has the potential to be applied for the production of hydrogen and syngas from various fossil, biogenic and waste materials, opening up additional potential business opportunities for TNG and SMS in the fast-growing space of the hydrogen and e-fuels economy, and outside the company’s proposed core titanium-vanadium-iron business,” it added.

A by-product of this process is anticipated to be highly-pure carbon black powder, which currently sells at approximately $1,000/t. Possibilities to produce graphene and/or carbon nanotubes from this powder will also be investigated in parallel by SMS.

Mount Peake is currently expected to process ore through a 2 Mt/y plant to produce 700,000 t/y of magnetite concentrate, which could then be turned into 100,000 t/y of titanium dioxide, 6,000 t/y of vanadium pentoxide and 500,000 t/y of iron oxide fines.

The agreement is not expected to impact the front-end engineering and design (FEED) study completion and delivery of the turnkey engineering, procurement and construction proposal from SMS.

TNG said: “The company’s primary focus remains on progression and completion of the remaining engineering and design work streams for the Mount Peake project, including the current FEED study. The hydrogen technology development program will be progressed in parallel, and, subject to confirmation of technical and commercial feasibility and integration with project development planning, has potential application for further optimisation of the Mount Peake project.”

TNG’s Managing Director & CEO, Paul Burton, said: “There is a huge amount of momentum globally moving towards a hydrogen-based economy, and this is an exciting opportunity for TNG while at the same time has the potential to move our TIVAN Process towards carbon-neutral which is important as we continue on our pathway to secure TNG’s position as a sustainable metals producer.

“We believe that being able to use a carbon-neutral product in our patented TIVAN process will be a further significant advantage to TNG in relation to other competing technologies used for the extraction of high-quality titanium, vanadium and iron products from titanomagnetite ores, sands and slags.”

SMS’ Senior Vice President of Strategic Project Development, Herbert Weissenbaeck, said: “From SMS’ perspective, the future of the metallurgical industry will rely on low-cost renewable electrical energy, as well as carbon-neutral means of energy transport and storage. Hydrogen, being a very efficient and carbon-free reduction agent, is thus obviously in the focus of many of our ongoing R&D efforts.

“Co-developing our plasma pyrolysis technology with TNG, which could reap immediate benefits in the form of effectively decarbonising TIVAN, is an exciting next step towards green, H2-based metallurgy, and we are looking forward to jointly turning it into industrial reality at TNG’s Darwin processing plant, soon.”

Anglo American enlists First Mode to help with carbon-neutral mining goals

Anglo American has signed a multi-year agreement with design, engineering, and system development firm First Mode that could see the Seattle-based company develop new systems and technology for the diversified miner.

First Mode, well known for its work adapting the tools and technologies developed for the robotic exploration of the solar system, will be supporting projects across Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™ program as part of the $13.5 million contract, it said. FutureSmart Mining is an innovation-led approach to address mining’s major sustainability challenges.

This work will include technology trade-off studies, engineering design, prototypical developments, technology demonstrations, delivery of integrated systems, and deployment to sites around the world, First Mode said.

This collaboration builds on successful projects across Anglo American’s portfolio during 2019, where First Mode is supporting Anglo American on the systems engineering, integration, and test program for its hydrogen-powered mine haul truck with ‘first motion’ planned in 2020, it said.

Tony O’Neill, Technical Director of Anglo American, said the miner looked forward to developing and implementing innovative technologies over the coming years in tandem with First Mode.

“This work supports our trajectory towards our carbon and energy targets for 2030 and, ultimately, our vision of carbon-neutral mining,” he said.

Chris Voorhees, President and Chief Engineer of First Mode, said: “Mining produces the resources needed for a cleaner, more sustainable planet. Development of the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine truck is an important step in making the natural resources sector carbon-neutral from start-to-finish.”

Rhae Adams, VP of Business Development at First Mode, meanwhile, said Anglo was the “perfect partner” to help fulfil the company’s vision of a future based on renewable energy.

Back in October, First Mode confirmed it had been selected by NASA to develop a pioneering lunar mission concept with Arizona State University (ASU), to be funded through NASA’s Planetary Mission Concept Study program. The mission, called Intrepid, would develop and deploy the Intrepid rover to traverse the furthest distance of any rover in NASA’s history, examining the geology of the lunar surface over an area of some 1,800 km.