Tag Archives: coal

Integrated Pump Rental prevents flooding at KwaZulu-Natal coal mine

South Africa-based Integrated Pump Rental has recently come to the rescue of a coal mine in KwaZulu-Natal, providing fit-for-purpose dewatering equipment to prevent flooding in the open pit.

The unexpected failure of one of the mine’s own pumps came at a bad time. The national COVID-19 lockdown meant it would be some time before pump repairs were possible. Some heavy downpours aggravated the situation, demanding there be no delay in pit dewatering, Integrated Pump Rental said.

The answer came in the form of a Sykes HH130 high-head diesel-driven pump. The rugged, 5 t unit was promptly delivered to site by truck, and transferred to an on-site trailer for easy mobility. The 6 in pump is capable of pumping at a head of over 140 m high at a flow of between 80-90 litres per second, according to the company.

Henru Strydom, Operations Manager at Integrated Pump Rental, said: “From our experience of the mining sector, we know that water in a coal mine is acidic. The complete pump-end we supplied was, therefore, of stainless steel construction to resist corrosion and ensure reliability and uptime.”

Lockdown regulations allowed those coal mines supplying to state power producer Eskom to continue operations during Alert Level 5, even as most business activity came to a standstill. Rainfall across much of the coal-producing province of Mpumalanga raised the risk of flooding and led to Integrated Pump Rental also delivering solutions to several customers there during the lockdown, it said.

Strydom emphasises that, in addition to maintaining their vital dewatering activities, mines gain other benefits from renting pumps. There is no large capital outlay, for instance, and running costs can be controlled.

“The renting option means that we handle the maintenance, so that mines can better control their costs,” he says. “We also ensure the pump’s optimal performance, so that mines don’t risk costly downtime.”

Dana helps drive MMD Atlas Transporter at Mae Moh coal mine

Dana has played a role in MMD’s latest 500 t Atlas Transporter, delivered to the Mae Moh coal mine in Lampang, Thailand, further expanding its Brevini Motion Systems division’s reach in the mobile market.

Mining Machinery Developments (MMD) approached Dana SAC UK to supply critical parts for its Atlas Transporter, the latest technology from MMD to enable heavy semi-mobile structures to be relocated in a safe and controlled manner.

Transporters using Brevini Motion Systems components have now been delivered to Mae Moh, a crucial asset feeding the neighbouring Mae Moh Power Station.

MMD semi-mobile sizing stations are fed by a small fleet of trucks that transport material short distances from the mine face to the sizer unit which, in turn, reduces material in preparation for efficient conveyor haulage out of the mine.

As the mine face progresses, the sizer units are relocated occasionally to minimise the truck haulage distance. For this project in Thailand, which now totals eight sizer stations and two Atlas Transporters, the transporters are key to the relocation of the sizers and thus to the efficient and safe development of the mine, according to Dana.

Each Atlas Transporter incorporates Dana Brevini Motion Systems’ gearbox technology. The track drives are driven by two right angled planetary gearboxes from the Brevini Motions Systems S Series and are installed complete with Hydac airblast cooler. The planetary option specified for MMD offers substantial space and weight advantages and the S Series is Dana’s suite of gearbox solutions for applications requiring high torque with minimum dimensions, designed with fixed industrial equipment and self-propelled machines in mind. These were key factors in the selection of Dana products, as the transporter’s design is optimised to fit within compact dimensions and low height, to provide the ideal foundation for lifting large, heavy structures, according to Dana.

The Atlas Transporter’s driven slew canopy enables payloads to be lifted and rotated at any height for optimum travel, a unique capability facilitated by the specification of two Dana Brevini Motion Systems inline slew gearboxes, the company said.

“As with the track drives, weight and size issues were factors in the specification of Brevini Motion Systems’ slew drive gearboxes,” the company said. “Manufactured by Dana, these are an essential component in withstanding very high torque values while maintaining reduced dimensions, reduced weight and high efficiency.”

Dana have, to date, supplied units for three Atlas Transporters and Charles Lambert, Area Sales Manager for Dana SAC UK, said: “We were delighted to work with MMD on this innovative product. We’ve been working with them since 2017 on this ambitious project, which brings together the expertise of companies from around the world. We at Dana SAC UK look forward to continuing our relationship with MMD.”

CIMIC eyes more coal work as Q1 financials hold up

Australia-based engineering-led group, CIMIC, posted “robust” operating profit margins in its March quarter results, remarking that the mining market is proving resilient throughout the turbulence caused by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Revenue came in at A$3.3 billion ($2.1 billion) for the three-month period, slightly down on last year’s A$3.4 billion, while net profit after tax was A$166 million, compared with A$181.1 million in the March quarter of 2019.

Its operating profit margin was 8.4% for the period.

Throughout the quarter, the company said it had witnessed stable investment in capital expenditure to sustain mining operations. Its UGL subsidiary secured contracts to provide maintenance, shutdown and project services for clients in the mining sector, and its Thiess and Sedgman subsidiaries secured framework agreements with Rio Tinto Iron Ore, in Western Australia, and variations to operations contracts in New South Wales, respectively.

The future prospects for the company look good with, as at March 31, around A$90 billion of tenders relevant to CIMIC expected to be bid and/or awarded for the remainder of 2020, and around A$400 billion of projects coming to the market in 2021 and beyond, it said.

Some major projects the company is currently bidding on include the Lake Vermont mining extension contract in Queensland, Australia. CIMIC’s Thiess is currently working on this Jellinbah Group-owned coal asset through a schedule of rates contract that sees it carry out coal mining, clearing and grubbing, topsoil removal, drill and blast, overburden removal and rehabilitation of final landforms. It also provides all mobile plant and equipment and operates and maintains the client’s coal handling and preparation plant at the site, according to Thiess.

Another contract the company is eying up for more work is the Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC) mining extension in Indonesia. Again, Thiess has a schedule of rates contract in place at the 11 Mt/y Sangatta coal operation and the company hopes it can continue its relationship with the mine with a 2022 contract extension.

BHP consolidates digital project offering with new Brisbane facility

BHP, to more effectively ramp up its use of digital technologies, has opened the first of its ‘digital factories’ in Brisbane, Australia.

Instead of having digital projects delivered by multiple parts of its business, the factory will create a unified ‘community of practice’ among technical roles, according to Rag Udd, BHP Acting Chief Technology Officer.

“The new hubs will abandon the traditional hardware-centric approach to innovation and will help us maximise the use of cloud technologies for rapid digital development in an enhanced digital environment,” he said.

An example of that comes from the company’s coal business where it is launching its “first digital factory”.

Udd explained: “The coal mined from Caval Ridge needs to go through a processing plant. Typically, for every 100 t that enters the plant, around 58 ts of sellable product comes out the back-end. In our digital factory trial, we set the team a challenge of improving this yield using just 12 months’ worth of historical data.”

The team quickly created an algorithm that told the company what the optimal setting for the plant was, based on the blend of coal coming from the mine, according to Udd.

“There is more to do, but this will help us improve our yields and increase the utilisation of our processing facility,” he said. “This is the very definition of productivity: a low cost way to markedly improve an output.”

In the future, BHP hopes to see much more of this type of innovation, according to Udd.

“Our sites are expected to benefit from the rapid deployment of reliable solutions that make their lives easier, minimising variability and unplanned outages,” he said. “The factory will focus on projects that can be delivered quickly, where minimal onsite infrastructure is required and where the return on investment is many multiples of the initial outlay.”

While BHP has started in coal in Brisbane, it plans to also launch digital factories in Chile, North America and Western Australia, according to Udd.

“They will partner with our operations to help solve asset-specific problems,” he said. “Struggling with a well performance issue in the Gulf of Mexico? Speak to your local factory and see if machine learning can provide some insight. Conveyor belt reliability issues in Chile? Let’s see if your ‘digital foreman’ can run some advanced analytics over data from the sensors.”

He concluded: “Other industries have shown us that this model works. With the right people and the right operating model set up, I am confident that we can bring an exciting new element to the way we solve operational problems, and in doing so rapidly create real and lasting value for BHP.”

BHP sustainability drive expands with Responsible Steel membership

BHP has joined Responsible Steel, the international non-profit organisation that brings together organisations from across the steel supply chain, including steel makers, commodity producers and civil society groups.

Responsible Steel works with these groups to increase sustainability through the steel making supply chain, according to BHP, with the organisation having created a new standard and certification program that member organisations sign up to. The standard seeks to enhance responsible sourcing, production, and use and recycling of steel, according to the miner. The standard and certification is the first global standard for sustainable steel.

Fiona Wild, Vice President, Sustainability and Climate Change, BHP, said: “At BHP we take a product stewardship view of how our commodities are used through the value chain. We are pleased to join Responsible Steel and continue to partner with our customers to help improve sustainability and emissions standards in the steel making value chain.”

Back in July 2019, BHP announced a five-year, $400 million Climate Investment Program to develop technologies to reduce emissions from its own operations as well as those generated from the use of its resources. The month before, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd to work together in the pursuit of emissions reductions, including from the life-cycle use of marketed products.

Matthew Wenban-Smith, Executive Director, Responsible Steel, said the organisation was delighted that BHP had joined as its newest Business Member.

“Having one of the largest resource and mining companies in the world as a member sends a very strong signal and commitment to the steel sector to help achieve the responsible sourcing and production of steel.

“BHP’s membership will ensure that as we further develop our Responsible Steel standard to include three additional components: requirements for the responsible sourcing of raw materials, requirements related to the measurement and reporting of GHG emissions, and the claims certified sites can make about the steel products they produce. In BHP we will have additional input, expertise and experience from an organisation committed to helping the sector reach higher levels of sustainability.”

Other members of Responsible Steel include Anglo American, ArcelorMittal and the Mining Association of Canada.

Thiess, Cat, WesTrac collaborating on Mount Pleasant autonomous drilling project

Thiess says it is realising the benefits of drill automation after undergoing a successful field trial at MACH Energy’s majority-owned Mount Pleasant coal operation in the Hunter Valley of Australia.

In collaboration with Caterpillar and WesTrac, Thiess introduced a new Caterpillar MD6250 drill rig with autonomous drilling capability at Mount Pleasant in a phased 12-month pilot project, it said.

The autonomous drill uses state-of-the-art guidance technologies to assist operators in drilling holes to the exact location and depth specified by the drill plan, resulting in safer and more efficient blasting.

Thiess General Manager Autonomous Services, Matt Petty, said the purpose of the pilot was to test the functionality and application of the technology while determining its viability for Thiess’ team, operations and clients.

“This trial is an exciting opportunity for us to investigate the applicability of the technology at our operations and train our people in the remote management of autonomous equipment,” Petty said. “The results are showing significant productivity improvements, safer operations and upskilling opportunities for our people.”

The phased pilot program is progressing through three stages of drill automation – operator mission assist, semi-autonomous drilling and full autonomy and perception, Thiess said.

The current stage, semi-autonomous drilling, automates the entire drilling cycle for one row, including moving between holes, from a remote operator station, it added.

“The drill is now controlled by satellite-guided precision ensuring the blast holes are drilled exactly to the design coordinates and desired floor elevation,” Petty said. “This stage allows our operators to select a row of holes for the drill to navigate and auto drill. Operators also help to monitor and authorise the auto-tram between holes to ensure safety is maintained.”

In the coming months, the drill will be fitted with proximity detection and collision avoidance technology, enabling full automation, Thiess said.

Mount Pleasant Drill Operator, Zac Brasington, said the remote operation of the drill had proven safety, precision and equipment utilisation benefits for his team.

“Working remotely eliminates operators’ exposure to potential high-risk activities and allows the drill to function without operator restrictions,” Brasington said. “The remote station replicates the seat and controls of the machine’s cab, allowing us, as operators, to control the machine with minimal decrease in functionality or productivity.

“It’s also helping drive consistency at our operation with improved accuracy in hole placement, trajectory and depth.”

Thiess’ team has been working closely with Caterpillar and the WesTrac team on the implementation plan throughout the trial process, it said.

Brasington added: “I’ve also had the opportunity to gain new skills and competencies. It’s very rewarding knowing I’m one of the few operators, worldwide, who is able to operate an autonomous drill.”

The outcome of the trial will help to inform how Thiess delivers automation as part of its services offering, according to the company.

Thiess first began mining at Mount Pleasant on November 20, 2017, following a successful five-month mobilisation period. The contractor is responsible for providing a full mining service and increasing mining production to 10.5 Mt/y run-of-mine, according to its website. The team is also undertaking progressive rehabilitation at the site.

Talbot provides total water management solution for South Africa coal producer

Talbot recently came to the rescue of a South Africa coal producer looking to remove gypsum from its waste stream, thereby freeing up capacity at a downstream dam.

While Talbot has more than three decades of experience in delivering industrial water management solutions across the African continent, what is not generally realised is the fact the company’s expertise extends beyond the ambit of water itself, the South Africa sustainable water and wastewater specialist says.

“Dealing with sludges and waste streams, typically with high suspended loads, is often required to provide a total water management solution and is viewed as being both a complex and expensive process,” Talbot said, explaining this needn’t be the case.

Talbot Consulting Services General Manager, Claire Lipsett, says the leading Highveld coal producer in question called on the company to provide a solution for the removal of gypsum generated as a by-product of its coal mine water purification process.

Lipsett explains the waste stream flowing out of the treatment process into a downstream holding dam contained a high content of gypsum, to the extent it significantly reduced the facility’s finite storage capacity.

Following an on-site examination of the processes involved, Talbot proposed a simple and well-known technology that would provide an effective solution and could be proven on site during live operations through pilot testing.

In this case, a hydraulic filter press was selected to dewater the solids, dry and press them into briquette form for transportation to end-use customers. The filtrate – minus the extracted solids – was directed to the evaporation dam before returning to site processes via a blend line, Talbot said.

The effectiveness of the solution was proven during a two-week trial in March, which achieved impressive results, according to Lipsett. “We reduced the waste solids from around 2,900 mg/l to just 84 mg/l,” she said. “We also demonstrated that the technology would extract gypsum at a rate of 100 kg/h on a full-scale site operation.”

The trial, Lipsett says, showed that effective solids removal could be achieved in a single-step process, without the use of flocculants or coagulants. It also offered the client an easy-to-operate, appropriate solution to achieve total water management for the site.

Pilot trials conducted by Talbot, such as this, generate several benefits that enable clients to not only fully understand the short-term implications of investing in a new technology but how they will positively impact on the future operation of a business, according to Lipsett.

“Before making any form of commitment, the client has the opportunity to engage with the technology and equipment in terms of look and feel, its effectiveness and ease of operation, all the while receiving technical and commercial guidance from a supplier that is a leader in its class and is committed to providing long-term support, not just a one-off sale,” she said.

Financial projections from Talbot of conceptual models prepared during the piloting process include not only the original capital cost of the equipment but anticipated expenditure on items like membrane replacement, operational and maintenance costs.

The company said: “This provides potential users with a comprehensive set of economic life-cycle projections, thus enabling them to make informed decisions on the short-, medium- and long-term benefits and implications with no hidden extras.”

Lipsett cites the results obtained in a similar process employed by a South Africa platinum producer where the recovery of precious metals from a wastewater stream was achieved using the same technology and significantly exceeded initial design expectations. Pilot trials had a substantial impact on the business case and ultimately enabled the client to invest in the solution, according to the company.

“While this may be an extreme case, there are many instances in which the materials recovered have significant intrinsic value so that solids recovery projects not only pay for themselves but deliver sustainable economic value into the future,” the company said.

Martinus wins another Carmichael rail contract with Adani Australia

Adani has awarded a plus-A$220 million ($139.3 million) civil construction contract to Martinus to build a critical section of the railway for the Carmichael coal project, in Queensland, Australia.

The contract for the Carmichael Rail Network will see the Australia rail company deliver 86 km of rail formation works, a road over rail bridge, nine waterway bridges, more than 200 culverts and 35 rail crossings.

Late last year, Martinus was awarded the track works component, worth more than A$100 million, to deliver around 210 km of narrow-gauge rail from the Carmichael mine to the existing rail infrastructure.

The transport network underpins the first stage of the 10 Mt/y coal project at Carmichael, which was given the thumbs up to start construction in 2019. It will see a narrow gauge rail network built that connects to existing rail infrastructure and goes from the mine to the Port of Abbot Point. The initial design capacity of this line is for 40 Mt/y, with the ability to further expand, according to Adani.

Martinus CEO and Managing Director, Treaven Martinus, said: “Our focus has been to be the best large-scale railway construction contractor in Australia and being a part of this project enables us to fulfil that vision.”

He added: “Our 600-strong project delivery workforce will be based in Townsville and Rockhampton and partnering with local and other regional Queensland businesses and people, while also upholding the highest standards of project delivery across environmental and safety conditions.”

Adani Mining CEO, Lucas Dow, said the contract with Martinus would deliver some 600 new jobs, which was more important than ever as the local community braces to withstand the economic shifts being brought about by the COVID-19 virus.

“We’re following all advice from Queensland Health and the Federal Government and doing all we can to keep our people and the community safe,” Dow said.

“We also understand how important it is to continue our operations where safe and practicable to provide certainty of employment for our staff and contractors. I want to make it clear that the health and safety of our staff is our first priority, however, where we are able to continue to operate safely and in line with advice, we will do so.”

Dow said the company had implemented measures including social distancing, health screening and increased hygiene in the hope more of its contractors, suppliers and the businesses that depend on the company can also “weather the storm, keeping their doors open, services running, and importantly provide certainty of employment”.

In addition to the Martinus announcement, Adani said assembly of its first mining trucks was now complete, with two heavy vehicles having left Mackay, in Queensland, to make the plus-300 km trip to the Carmichael mine site this week.

These are the first of more than 24 trucks being assembled in Mackay, which is thought to include electric drive Caterpillar 796 AC (327 t) models.

SUEK-Kuzbass takes to the skies for surveying and land management surveys

SUEK says it has purchased six unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with various modifications intended for aerial photography during surveying operations of its Kuzbass facilities, in the Kemerovo region of Russia.

The decision to develop the company’s fleet of UAVs was made after a test of aerial photography at SUEK’s open-pit mines in the Krasnoyarsk region and Buryatia, the company said. “After analysing the accuracy and detail of 3D terrain models obtained using UAVs, SUEK concluded that this technology could be used for surveying and land management in mining,” it said.

In August 2018, the Aerial Surveying Office was established as part of the technical directorate in Kuzbass. Today, the office is equipped with two Russia-made UAVs capable of making aerial photographs at a height up to 1 km, with a flight duration of two-and-a-half and four hours, respectively.

SUEK’s fleet also includes four compact DJI drones and a GNSS receiver that makes it possible to receive and process signals from all navigation satellite systems that exist today, it says. This latter device enables surveyors to locate UAVs during aerial photography.

Simultaneously with the procurement of equipment and staff training, the Aerial Surveying Office has made efforts to satisfy the requirements of the mandatory registration of UAVs with the Federal Air Transport Agency, to ensure compliance with legislation governing the use of Russian airspace, the process of aerial photography and the operation of UAVs, SUEK said.

The technology is helping the company solve a whole range of issues related to open-pit mining, such as evaluating the size of coal storage facilities, monitoring hazardous situations, updating topographic plans of work areas and surrounding territories, and monitoring the use of company land. The latter includes actual use of allotted land, the intended purpose of the land, reclamation, demolition control in buffer zones and property stock taking, the company said.

Anatoly Meshkov, Technical Director of SUEK-Kuzbass, said: “First of all, UAVs improve the efficiency and safety of surveying measurements and the accuracy of necessary calculations. We can now remotely control mining operations at almost any point and build digital enterprise models.

“Essentially, this is another step towards creating a ‘digital underground mine’ and a ‘digital open-pit mine’ to obtain the maximum amount of data for highly efficient management of coal production processes.”

Whitehaven Coal hits automation milestone at Maules Creek mine

Whitehaven Coal says autonomous haulage operations have now commenced at its Maules Creek coal operation in New South Wales, Australia.

In its latest quarterly report to March 31, 2020, the miner said the autonomous haulage system (AHS) started up in the three-month period and autonomous haulage of overburden had commenced.

Back in July 2018, Hitachi Construction Machinery Co Ltd and Whitehaven announced the two had come to an agreement to implement the first commercial Hitachi autonomous truck fleet at Maules Creek. The collaboration between the two companies entailed scoping the delivery and commissioning of phased AHS deployment for the fleet of Hitachi EH5000AC3 trucks at Maules Creek and the establishment of the physical and technological infrastructure to support AHS capability.

At this point, the two companies said the AHS solution would leverage the fleet management system provided by Hitachi’s Wenco International Mining Systems subsidiary, in addition to Hitachi Construction Machinery’s Smart Mining Truck with Advanced Vehicle Stabilisation Controls using Hitachi robotics, AC motor and drive control unit technologies. The Blockage management system from Hitachi’s railway business would also play a role in this solution, as would a sensing technology and navigation system developed in Hitachi Group’s automobile industry segment.

Initial on-site testing of Hitachi’s AHS took place last year and the company has since been ramping up these tests to reach the commercial deployment stage.

As planned, a fleet of six EH5000 trucks and one excavator (an EX3600) started operation last month, Whitehaven said. During the current quarter, additional labour resources will be trained and deployed to allow for seven-day operation of AHS by end of June, according to the miner.

At an investor day presentation in September 2019, Whitehaven Coal Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Frankcombe, said following a six-month period of operating the initial fleet, a transition to one EX8000 excavator and nine EH5000 trucks could occur. Then, additional EX8000 fleets would be added in six-monthly intervals based on “performance gateway” achievements, with a target of five fleets and up to 45 trucks within three years.

This ramp-up of automation comes at the same time Maules Creek is being expanded, with Whitehaven expecting production to go from 11.7 Mt run of mine (ROM) in the year ended June 30, 2019, to 16 Mt/y of ROM coal.