Tag Archives: coal

Rio, Turquoise Hill put forward coal power plant option for Oyu Tolgoi

Rio Tinto says it is continuing to progress options to secure domestically sourced power for its majority-owned Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia.

The mining major’s domestic search for energy is part of an obligation to source power by June 30, 2023 under the 2009 Investment Agreement between Turquoise Hill Resources (which owns 66% of Oyu Tolgoi), the Government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto, and the subsequent Power Sector Framework Agreement signed in 2018.

In compliance with these agreements, Oyu Tolgoi LLC has submitted to the Government of Mongolia a feasibility study for the Tavan Tolgoi Power Plant (TTPP) project, which involves building a 300 MW coal power plant. This plant, to be located in Tsogttsetsii soum of Umnugovi province, comes with a total project cost estimate of up to $924 million, pending consideration of certain amounts yet to be finalised, Turquoise Hill said. Rio says this amount is already included in the group capital expenditure guidance of $7 billion in 2020 and $6.5 billion each in 2021 and 2022.

In parallel with the TTPP project, and in consultation with the Government of Mongolia, Rio Tinto is also progressing alternative options to source domestic power, including a renewable power component, Rio said.

Oyu Tolgoi is currently sourcing power from China’s Inner Mongolian Western Grid via overhead power lines, via a back-to-back power purchase agreement with National Power Transmission Grid JSC, the power importing entity, and the Inner Mongolian Power Company, according to Turquoise Hill.

Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds Chief Executive, Arnaud Soirat, said: “Rio Tinto, Turquoise Hill and the Government of Mongolia are all committed to securing a reliable and long-term domestic power source for the Oyu Tolgoi mine and are working together to achieve this.”

Dyno Nobel helps BMA Caval Ridge become electronic blasting leader

The Caval Ridge coal mine, in the Bowen Basin of Queensland, Australia, now holds the title of the world’s largest electronic blast completed using Dyno Nobel DigiShot technology.

The BHP Mitsubishi Alliance-owned (BMA) mine completed a blast in December that saw 4.7 Mcu.m of overburden shifted in a blast fired with 2,194 t of bulk explosives across 3,899 holes.

Back in October, BHP Mitsui Coal’s Poitrel mine, in Queensland, became the holder of the title of world’s largest blast using wireless technology after successfully completing the third blast in a trial series to test Orica’s WebGen technology. The blast saw 1.3 million cu.m of overburden shifted in a strata blast fired with 1920 WebGen 100 units across 534 holes, BHP Mitsui said.

Caval Ridge Drill and Blast Superintendent, Dallas Gostelow, said the electronic blast was loaded over 14 days, involving engineers, schedulers and the E and F Blast crews. It involved a combination of four related blast patterns, using 8,144 detonators – a significant number that Gostelow said the company had never set before at the one time.

He said there were significant safety, efficiency and cost improvements to be made using the electronic technology.

“Timings for the detonators are fully programmable and each blast hole is physically connected to the surface by a wire, but the systems is less complicated and fully digitised, which means higher fidelity of tie in to reduce misfire potential,” he said.

Dyno Nobel launched its DigiShot Plus 4G electronic initiation system back in 2018. The system, developed by Dyno Nobel’s joint venture partner DetNet®, was designed to help reduce overall costs and increase productivity by reducing blasting delays and introducing programming speeds seven times faster than existing systems.

The ability to fire larger blasts, or multiple blast patterns in one event, means downtime for equipment is kept to a minimum, according to BMA.

Jason Smith, Principal Category Management TCO, Drill Blast & Geology, said the successful outcome of the blast was down to the collaboration across asset, function and supplier.

He said the commercial team and Caval Ridge worked with Dyno Nobel to deliver improved technology that would provide bigger and more accurate shots with significant improvements to safety, productivity and cost.

“The significance of it is the precision timing you can get from using electronics rather than pyrotechnical blasting, which requires thousands of metres of on bench tie-in work, and can lead to poor blast fragmentation,” Smith said.

“With the collaboration between Dyno and BMA, it is allowing Dyno to improve their product and giving BMA the advantage of better blasting and fragmentation and larger shots.

“This is a perfect example of the commercial teams working in the background to strengthen a supplier relationship and the site and supplier working together to deliver superior results.”

Trafo powers through at Mpumalanga coal mine

Trafo Power Solutions says it has recently completed a dry-type transformer contract as part of a significant upgrade at a coal mine, in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

This involved the design, supply and installation of two 200 kVA – 22 kV-400 V – dry-type transformers, according to Trafo Power Solutions Managing Director, David Claassen. Housed in specialised IP42-rated ingress protected enclosures, the units were specified by a design house on behalf of the end-customer, the dry-type transformer leader said.

“The contract demonstrated our application engineering capability and our experience in co-ordinating our solution within a larger project,” Claassen said. “This included meeting detailed specifications, and ensuring that our design for the transformers and their enclosures matched the requirements and constraints of the site.”

Trafo Power Solutions also equipped the units with the necessary earth fault protection and surge protection, as well as vibration pads, it said.

“Dry-type transformers are well suited for the coal mining environment, with its hazardous areas and its regulations to mitigate fire risk,” Claassen says. “The dry-type technology uses air to cool the transformers, doing away with the need to use oil as a coolant.”

Claassen emphasised that the absence of oil has advantages for safety, as the oil ignition potential is removed. The units can also be protected against fine airborne coal dust. An added environmental advantage is the lack of oil leaks contaminating the ground or water, too.

Miners need to do more in climate change, decarbonisation battle, McKinsey says

A report from consultancy McKinsey has raised concerns about the mining industry’s climate change and decarbonisation strategy, arguing it may not go far enough in reducing emissions in the face of pressure from governments, investors, and activists.

The report, Climate risk and decarbonization: What every mining CEO needs to know, from Lindsay Delevingne, Will Glazener, Liesbet Grégoir, and Kimberly Henderson, explains that extreme weather – tied to the potential effects of climate change – is already disrupting mining operations globally.

“Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 countries pledged to limit global warming to well below 2.0°C, and ideally not more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels,” the authors said. “That target, if pursued, would manifest in decarbonisation across industries, creating major shifts in commodity demand for the mining industry and likely resulting in declining global mining revenue pools.”

They added: “Mining-portfolio evaluation must now account for potential decarbonisation of other sectors.”

The sector will also face pressure from governments, investors, and society to reduce emissions, according to the authors.

“Mining is currently responsible for 4-7% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2 emissions from the sector (those incurred through mining operations and power consumption, respectively) amount to 1%, and fugitive methane emissions from coal mining are estimated at 3-6%.

“A significant share of global emissions – 28% – would be considered Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, including the combustion of coal.”

While there have been a number of high-profile mining companies making carbon emission pledges in the past 18 months – BHP pledging $400 million of investment in a low carbon plan being one notable example – the authors say the industry has only just begun to set emissions-reduction goals.

“Current targets published by mining companies range from 0-30% by 2030, far below the Paris Agreement goals, which may not be ambitious enough in many cases,” they said.

Through operational efficiency, and electrification and renewable-energy use, mines can theoretically fully decarbonise (excluding fugitive methane), according to the authors, with the disclaimer that building a climate strategy, “won’t be quick or easy”.

Water/heat

Water stress was one area the authors homed in on, saying that climate change is expected to cause more frequent droughts and floods, altering the supply of water to mining sites and disrupting operations.

The authors, using McKinsey’s MineSpans database on copper, gold, iron ore, and zinc, recently ran and analysed a water-stress and flooding scenario to emphasise the incoming problems.

The authors found that 30-50% of the production of these four commodities is concentrated in areas where water stress is already “high”.

“In 2017, these sites accounted for roughly $150 billion in total annual revenues and were clustered into seven water-stress ‘hot spots’ for mining: Central Asia, the Chilean coast, eastern Australia, the Middle East, southern Africa, western Australia, and a large zone in western North America,” the authors said.

The authors continued: “Climate science indicates that these hot spots will worsen in the coming decades. In Chile, 80% of copper production is already located in ‘extremely high’ water-stressed and ‘arid’ areas; by 2040, it will be 100%. In Russia, 40% of the nation’s iron ore production, currently located in ‘high’ water-stressed areas, is likely to move to ‘extreme’ water stress by 2040.”

And, mining regions not accustomed to water stress are projected to become increasingly vulnerable, according to the report.

By 2040, 5% of current gold production likely will shift from ‘low–medium’ water stress to ‘medium–high’; 7% of zinc output could move from ‘medium–high’ to ‘high’ water stress, and 6% of copper production could shift from ‘high’ to ‘extremely high’ water stress.

The authors said: “Depending on the water-intensiveness of the processing approach, such changes, while seemingly minor in percentage terms, could be critical to a mine’s operations or licence to operate.”

Mining executives in these regions are acutely aware of the water issue, according to the authors.

“For instance, Leagold Mining recently shut down its RDM gold mine in Brazil for two months because of drought conditions, even though it had built a dam and a water pipeline,” they said.

Even in areas with low water stress, certain water-intensive mining processes are jeopardised.

“In Germany – not a country known for being vulnerable to drought – a potash miner was forced to close two locations because of severe water shortages in the summer of 2018, losing nearly $2 million a day per site,” they said.

“The frequency and severity of these conditions are expected to increase along with the current climate trajectory.”

To improve resiliency, companies can reduce the water intensity of their mining processes, the authors said. They can also recycle used water and reduce water loss from evaporation, leaks, and waste. Mining companies can, for example, prevent evaporation by putting covers on small and medium dams.

In the long term, more capital-intensive approaches are possible, according to the authors. This could involve new water infrastructure, such as dams and desalination plants. Companies can also rely on so-called “natural capital”, like wetland areas, to improve groundwater drainage.

The authors said: “The option of securing water rights is becoming harder and can take years of engagement because of increased competition for natural resources and tensions between operators and local communities. Basin and regional planning with regulatory and civic groups is an important strategy but cannot alone solve the underlying problem of water stress.”

On the reverse, flooding from extreme rains can also cause operational disruptions, including mine closure, washed-out roads, or unsafe water levels in tailing dams, with flooding affecting some commodities more than others based on their locations.

The authors’ analysis showed iron ore and zinc are the most exposed to ‘extremely high’ flood occurrence, at 50% and 40% of global volume, respectively.

“The problem is expected to get worse, particularly in six ‘wet spots’ likely to experience a 50-60% increase in extreme precipitation this century: northern Australia, South America, and southern Africa during Southern Hemisphere summer, and central and western Africa, India and Southeast Asia, and Indonesia during Southern Hemisphere winter,” the authors said.

Companies can adopt flood-proof mine designs that improve drainage and pumping techniques, the authors said, mentioning the adaptation of roads, or the building of sheeted haul roads, as examples.

Moving to an in-pit crushing and conveying method would also help alleviate potential floods, replacing mine site haulage and haul roads with conveyors.

When it comes to incoming extreme heat in already-hot places – like China, parts of North and West Africa and Australia – the authors noted that worker productivity could fall and cooling costs may rise, in additon to putting workers’ health (and sometimes their lives) at risk.

“Indirect socioeconomic consequences from climate change can also affect the political environment surrounding a mine,” they said.

Shifting commodity demand

Ongoing decarbonisation is likely to have a major impact on coal – “currently about 50% of the global mining market, would be the most obvious victim of such shifts”, the authors said – but it would also affect virgin-ore markets.

“In a 2°C scenario, bauxite, copper, and iron ore will see growth from new decarbonisation technologies offset by increased recycling rates, as a result of the growing circular economy and focus on metal production from recycling versus virgin ore,” they said.

At the other end of the spectrum, niche minerals could experience dramatic growth. As the global electrification of industries continues, electric vehicles and batteries will create growth markets for cobalt, lithium, and nickel.

Emerging technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells and carbon capture would also boost demand for platinum, palladium, and other catalyst materials, while rare earths would be needed for wind-turbine magnets.

The authors said: “Fully replacing revenues from coal will be difficult. Yet many of the world’s biggest mining companies will need to rebalance non-diverse mineral portfolios.

“Many of the largest mining companies derive the bulk of their earnings from one or two commodities. Copper-heavy portfolios may benefit from demand growth due to widespread electrification, for example. And iron ore- and aluminium-heavy portfolios may see an upside from decarbonisation technologies, but they are also more likely to be hit by rising recycling rates.”

According to the authors, the mining industry generates between 1.9 and 5.1 gigatons of CO2-equivalent of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Further down the value chain (Scope 3 emissions), the metals industry contributes roughly 4.2 gigatons, mainly through steel and aluminium production.

To stay on track for a global 2°C scenario, all sectors would need to reduce CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by at least 50% by 2050, they said.

To limit warming to 1.5°C, a reduction of at least 85% would likely be needed.

“Mining companies’ published emissions targets tend to be more modest than that, setting low targets, not setting targets beyond the early 2020s, or focusing on emissions intensity rather than absolute numbers,” the authors said.

To estimate decarbonisation potential in mining, the authors started with a baseline of current emissions by fuel source, based on the MineSpans database of mines’ operational characteristics, overlaid with the possible impact of, and constraints on, several mining decarbonisation levers.

The potential for mines varied by commodity, mine type, power source, and grid emissions, among other factors.

“Across the industry, non-coal mines could fully decarbonise by using multiple levers. Some are more economical than others – operational efficiency, for example, can make incremental improvements to the energy intensity of mining production while requiring little capital expenditure,” they said. Moving to renewable sources of electricity is becoming increasingly feasible too, even in off-grid environments, as the cost of battery packs is projected to decline 50% from 2017 to 2030, according to the authors.

“Electrification of mining equipment, such as diesel trucks and gas-consuming appliances, is only starting to become economical. Right now, only 0.5% of mining equipment is fully electric.

“However, in some cases, battery-electric vehicles have a 20% lower total cost of ownership versus traditional internal-combustion-engine vehicles. Newmont, for example, recently started production at its all-electric Borden mine in Ontario, Canada.”

The authors said: “Several big mining companies have installed their own sustainability committees, signalling that mining is joining the wave of corporate sustainability reporting and activity. Reporting emissions and understanding decarbonisation pathways are the first steps toward setting targets and taking action.”

Yet, these actions are currently too modest to reach the 1.5-2°C scenario and may not be keeping up with society’s expectations – “as increasingly voiced by investors seeking disclosures, companies asking their suppliers to decarbonise, and communities advocating for action on environmental issues”.

They concluded: “Mining companies concerned about their long-term reputation, licence to operate, or contribution to decarbonisation efforts may start to consider more aggressive decarbonisation and resilience plans.”

Downer EDI to continue work at Stanwell’s Meandu coal mine

Downer EDI has been awarded a five-year contract extension, valued at around A$600 million ($412 million), to provide mining and related services at the Meandu coal mine, in Queensland, Australia.

The mine is owned by Stanwell Corp, has a 7.6 Mt/y thermal coal capability and is in Queensland’s South Burnett Region.

Under the contract, Downer will carry out full mining services, including operation of the coal handling and preparation plant (CHPP). The new contract extends Downer’s current remit at the mine, which commenced in 2013 and expires on June 30, 2020. The new contract will commence on July 1.

Grant Fenn, CEO of Downer, said: “Downer has worked closely with Stanwell since 2013 and we look forward to continuing to provide safe and productive services at Meandu mine.”

Downer’s Queensland operations include the Blackwater, Commodore, Goonyella and Meandu coal mines.

Weir’s Cavex hydrocyclones boost yields, production at Yoctolux Collieries operation

Yoctolux Collieries in Mpumalanga, South Africa, has achieved improved yields and production throughput with the installation of a Cavex® 500CVXT20 DM hydrocyclone from Weir Minerals Africa, the OEM says.

Part of the Tala Group, the open-pit coal mine was looking to improve the performance of its dense media separation (DMS) circuit in its Wash Plant 1. The existing 610 mm cyclone, installed during the mine’s initial design phase, had an operational life of only six months between refurbishments.

Members of the Weir Minerals Middelburg branch and hydrocyclone product team conducted a site audit, revealing the incumbent cyclone was operating inefficiently. A “wash-ability” analysis showed that an improved yield could be achieved using the Cavex hydrocyclone technology on the DMS circuit, Weir said, with the customer specifying that the product would have to offer improved separation efficiency, increase wear life and match the existing cyclone footprint.

Following a proposal that included dense media (DM) hydrocyclone simulations, a Cavex 500CVXT20 DM hydrocyclone was installed in August 2017. Manufactured from mild steel, it is lined with 25 mm slip-casted radius ceramic tiles manufactured with 92% alumina content.

To date, the hydrocyclone has achieved higher separation efficiency through an average 15% yield increase, according to Weir. It has achieved an overall average of 75% yield for both of the mine’s coal types – grains and peas. This compares favourably with the 65% achieved previously by the competitor’s cyclone, Weir said.

There has been a 49% throughput increase in production tonnage, from 78 t/h to 116 t/h as a result of the reduced turbulence in the hydrocyclone’s design. The mine has also seen significant wear life improvement, with the Cavex DM hydrocyclone requiring only a spigot replacement after nine months, according to the equipment manufacturer.

So satisfied was the management at Yoctolux Collieries that they placed an order for an additional Cavex 500CVXT20 DM hydrocyclone in May 2018. This replaced the competitor’s cyclone on Wash Plant 2, with the replacement based on the improved metallurgical and operational benefits obtained by the Cavex hydrocyclones.

Jennmar to become US underground coal rail and tie component leader

Jennmar, a subsidiary of Frank Calandra Inc, says it has acquired the Vossloh track, tie and rail accessory inventory from Atlantic Track.

Along with the entire mining inventory, Jennmar has purchased all machinery necessary to support Vossloh’s current mining business consisting of rail, tie and rail straightening capabilities, it said.

Tony Calandra, Group President of Frank Calandra Inc and Calandra Group LLC, said the acquisition made Jennmar the “premier provider” of rail and tie components for the underground coal market in the USA.

Michael Calandra, Executive Vice President of Frank Calandra Inc, said Jennmar will continue to offer the same services with enhanced resources and capabilities.

“This will not affect or delay any current business. We will honour all existing POs that were issued to Vossloh Track Materials prior to January 1, 2020,” he added.

Canada to launch strategic assessment for new thermal coal projects

Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, in partnership with Natural Resources Minister, Seamus O’Regan, have announced that Canada will launch a strategic assessment looking into how future new thermal coal mine projects will be assessed under the government’s Impact Assessment Act.

The strategic assessment will include, but not be limited to:

  • Environmental and health impacts of thermal coal mining;
  • Market analysis of projected demand for thermal coal, including economic impacts and impact on jobs in Canada; and
  • The use of thermal coal mining, including its impact on Canada’s international commitments and initiatives.

The United Nations Secretary General has called for no new coal plants by 2020, and Canada has plans to phase out traditional coal-fired power by 2030.

Wilkinson said: “An important pillar of the Government of Canada’s plan to fight climate change is phasing out traditional coal power generation, while ensuring a just and fair transition for workers and communities. With the phase out of coal power, it is important to consider the future of thermal coal mining. This strategic assessment is the tool included in the Impact Assessment Act to do this.”

Draft terms of reference for the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining will be available online for public comments early in 2020, according to the government.

It also said the Coalspur Vista Coal Mine Phase II project, located in Hinton, Alberta, currently undergoing an environmental assessment by the Province of Alberta, will not be designated for federal review under the Impact Assessment Act because it will be covered under the Provincial environmental assessment process, and the issues of Federal jurisdiction will be covered through other regulatory processes.

“If the project proceeds, it will be subject to all applicable federal regulations,” the government said.

BMA Blackwater coal mine starts up new gen Cat D11 dozer

The first Caterpillar new generation D11 dozer in the world has started work at BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) Blackwater coal mine in Queensland, Australia, according to mining, resources, transport and logistics group National Group.

National Group secured the first of these dozers earlier this month from Cat dealer Hastings Deering as part of an order that would see six of these machines hauled by its National Heavy Haulage subsidiary, the company said.

While the specifics of this new dozer are not yet known, Cat did plan to launch an update to its D11 earlier this year. This would have seen the machine receive new load-sensing hydraulics and new drivetrain components among other additions.

BMA’s Blackwater coal mine, in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, produced close to 2.1 Mt of coal in the most recent September quarter, according to BHP.

In a Hastings Deering release in mid-December, National Group’s Managing Director, Mark Ackroyd, said: “The D11 is the industry’s best large dozer so it was a logical choice for us to bring in six new dozers to add to our expansive fleet.”

Along with load sensing hydraulics reducing fuel burn, the new D11 will extend out component life from fuel burn to overhaul, according to the company. Caterpillar has developed this machine to ensure faster cycle times to produce more dirt at a lower cost per tonne, National Group added.

Ackroyd said the contribution the dozers will add to production and efficiency will boost overall performance on site. “We expect to lower maintenance and repair costs by up to 5% thanks to a new case and frame design, improved bearings, redesigned pin joints, and a 30% larger oil pan.”

Jason Garea, Mining Account Manager at Hastings Deering, said: “There is a single frame now used between both the D11 standard dozer and the carry dozer applications. It’s a beefed-up frame that now does both.”

National Group has lined up all six dozers to be fitted with the new Reclamation blade, or XU Blade, which takes the dozer from a 34 cu.meter blade, to a 42.2 cu.m, according to Garea. “The best thing here is that it still handles like a U-Blade and can go into the same applications. They are far, far more productive which reduces the cost per tonne.”

The second D11 dozer is expected to be commissioned onsite at Blackwater in January.

Mastermyne outbye services contract extended at South32’s Illawarra coal mine

Mastermyne Group says it has won a short-term extension to its existing contract with South32 at the Illawarra metallurgical coal operation in New South Wales, Australia.

The execution of the new contract will see the ASX-listed contractor continue to provide outbye services at the operation, part of the Appin colliery, until June 30, 2020. This extension closely aligns Mastermyne’s outbye services with the roadway development contract also operating in parallel at the mine, it said.

The scope of the agreement provides for a range of services managing outbye processes and supplementary labour in the Appin colliery longwall area.

The contract extension, expected to generate revenue of around A$17 million ($11.6 million) over the seven-month period, also allows the company to use this time to finalise an Enterprise Agreement with its workforce, it said.

South32 completed two longwall moves in the June 2019 quarter and plans to produce 7 Mt of metallurgical coal in the year ending June 30, 2020. This is up from 6.6 Mt in the previous 12-month period. More longwall moves have been scheduled for the current quarter and the March 2020 quarter as South32 looks to support the operation’s return to a three longwall configuration from the June 2020 quarter.

Mastermyne CEO, Tony Caruso, said: “We have worked closely with South32 for some time now, and putting this extension in place means both organisations are able to plan and get set for the longer term requirements at the mine.

“The company has provided contracting services to the Illawarra metallurgical coal operations for over 15 years now and we look forward to assisting South32 with their next stage of underground growth at the Appin colliery.”