Tag Archives: copper

PYBAR to trial autonomous loading at Dargues underground gold mine

PYBAR Mining Services says it is applying new technology to several automation projects it is currently working on, including Diversified Minerals’ Dargues underground gold asset and the Heron Resources-owned Woodlawn zinc-copper operation, both of which are in New South Wales, Australia.

Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Rouse, says the company’s approach has always been to get the basics right using traditional means and then adding technology to enhance its capabilities. “This guiding principle is being applied to several current automation projects,” he said.

New Cat R1700 underground loaders being deployed at the Dargues gold mine are undergoing staged testing that will result in them moving towards improved automation in early 2020, according to PYBAR.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. The mine is expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. Dargues is expected to produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

Testing of the LHDs has featured the use of Cat’s next generation MXZ technology, which includes traction control and Autodig, where the machine digs the load instead of the operator, PYBAR said. “Both technologies have made an impact with full buckets consistently being achieved,” the company added.

The next step in the process will involve setting up tele-remote operation from the surface in time for stoping in early 2020, according to the contractor.

PYBAR was part of the team at Ramelius Resources’ Vivien gold mine in Western Australia where the first global underground trial of the Cat R1700 loader took place in October 2017. This followed a global launch of the machine at MINExpo 2016.

Another project has seen PYBAR collaborate with Emesent to test automated drones at the Dargues and Woodlawn operations.

LiDAR and SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) technology is used to track the drones underground and keep them away from obstacles, according to PYBAR, with the trials having delivered some favourable outcomes; among them the swift processing of information gathered by the drones.

“The technology has great potential and PYBAR is investigating how best it can be applied to our business,” it said.

RME’s SKYWAY takes relining process outside of the mill at Cobre Panama

Russell Mineral Equipment says it has released world-first technology that is expected to drastically reduce risk by relocating the mill relining activity from inside the confined space grinding mill environment to a highly accessible, safer area outside the mill.

The semi-automated THUNDERBOLT Hammer guidance and suspension system, known as SKYWAY, has been in development by RME engineers since 2016, with the world’s first application now being commissioned at First Quantum Minerals’ Cobre Panama copper-gold mine, in Panama.

INSIDEOUT Technology is the name given to a suite of advanced technology processes which complement SKYWAY and facilitate relining to be performed from outside the grinding mill, the company said.

RME’s Managing Director, John Russell, during a tour of the operation in October, said: “Cobre Panama’s advanced relining technology suite means that ‘the future is now’.

“FQML are leading the world by recognising that by performing relining from outside the mill, they remove the risks for personnel typically surrounded by suspended loads during traditional relining activities. They’re partnering with us in this change and doing something that really shifts the dial firstly for their people and also for their profits.”

Russell added: “The safety of relining crews around the world has always been RME’s greatest motivator, and INSIDEOUT Technology with THUNDERBOLT SKYWAY also introduces new production efficiencies.”

THUNDERBOLT SKYWAY represents the fastest and safest method ever devised for the removal of mill liner bolts and worn liners, according to RME Executive Director, Peter Rubie.

“Following a comprehensive testing regime at RME’s testing and training facility, we’re excited to see the first use of this new system in action over the coming month,” he said of the reline in Panama in November.

THUNDERBOLT SKYWAY is a purpose-built structure external to the grinding mill that supports and positions THUNDERBOLT Recoilless Hammers and operator work platforms. The SKYWAY system features precise hydraulic control of these hammers, allowing for faster movement between bolts and faster alignment, along with increased Hammer preloading compared with conventional methods, the company said.

Relining external to the mill can be achieved independently of SKYWAY investment by using INSIDEOUT Technology, and RME has developed a staged INSIDEOUT Technology implementation which allows sites to access reline-by-reline safety uplift.

Photo: (from left) Customer Support Technician, Daniel Fernandez, Managing Director, John Russell, and Customer Support Technician, Luis Sanchez

Macmahon moves into “cash flow positive” territory on Newcrest Telfer contract

Macmahon Holdings says it has come to an agreement with Newcrest Mining over the increased rates for its work at the Telfer gold-copper mine, in Western Australia, with the settlement leading to the contract becoming “cash flow positive” over its remaining term.

In June, Macmahon said it had commenced facilitated negotiations with Newcrest regarding pricing for changes to the mine plan and contract program at Telfer following a disagreement between the two parties.

Macmahon first commenced the Telfer life of mine contract in February 2016 and, “despite previously disclosed risks and difficulties associated with the project, achieved an operational turnaround in 2018”, it said. Without a rate increase being agreed by Newcrest or some other form of contract amendment, the mine plan and program changes had a negative impact on Macmahon’s costs and returns from the project, according to the contractor.

Telfer, some 450 km east-south-east of Port Hedland, comprises the Main Dome and West Dome open pits and the Telfer underground mine.

Macmahon CEO and Managing Director, Michael Finnegan, said: “The resolution of this dispute means we can now focus all of our attention on maximising the performance of our existing business, and capitalising on growth opportunities. We have several opportunities in our tender pipeline that we are pursuing from an exclusive or shortlisted position, and I am optimistic about the prospects of winning additional work in Australia and achieving further growth in our profitable operations offshore.”

Macmahon has reiterated its financial year 2020 guidance, with revenue expected to be between A$1.2-$1.3 billion ($829-898 million), and EBIT between A$80-$90 million.

Pucobre to employ Epiroc 6th Sense solution at UG copper mines

Epiroc says it has signed a collaboration agreement with Sociedad Punta del Cobre SA (Pucobre) in Chile to digitalise the company’s mining operations, in turn, boosting productivity and safety.

The mining OEM is helping Pucobre to enhance its mining operations in the Atacama region of northern Chile, with the collaboration including defining new ways of working and new roles as well as development of an integrated information management system, it said.

Epiroc’s new 6th Sense Mine Management Solution will be included in this solution, combining Pucobre’s existing systems with, for instance, scheduler and other task management and reporting features, Epiroc said.

The new solution is already visible in Pucobre’s newly established Control Tower (pictured).

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said the 6th Sense collaboration with Pucobre would help modernise its mine operations and make it safer and more productive. “This represents the future of mining,” she added.

Sebastián Ríos, Pucobre’s CEO, said the company had high expectations for 6th Sense to continue improving the safety and productivity of its underground copper mining operations.

“We have strengthened our relationship with Epiroc, as we both target excellence in mining operations,” he said. “We rely on Epiroc’s strategic approach, its collaborative work and its professional team, which is regularly present at our mine site.”

The 6th Sense system can be connected to the customer’s existing machine fleet regardless of make or model, according to Epiroc.

“6th Sense is Epiroc’s new way to optimise customers’ processes through automation, system integration and information management – enabling a smart, safe and seamless operation,” the company said.

The collaboration extends the partnership between the companies. Pucobre’s Epiroc equipment includes Simba production drill rigs, Boomer face drilling rigs, and Scooptram and Minetruck underground loading and haulage vehicles, Epiroc said. The company also provides Pucobre with consumables and service.

Outotec to help modernise Rich Metals’ Madneuli copper concentrator

Outotec and Rich Metals Group Copper (RMGC) have signed a contract for the delivery of minerals processing technology and equipment to modernise the Madneuli copper concentrator in southern Georgia.

The contract is valued at around €10 million ($11.2 million) is booked in Outotec’s 2019 December quarter order intake.

Outotec’s scope of delivery includes a tertiary ball mill, Outotec® HIGmill® high intensity grinding mill, flotation cells, a complete process control system as well as a pressure filter and a high rate thickener. The deliveries will follow completion of basic engineering for the project, which is currently ongoing. RMGC is expected to take delivery of the products in the second half of 2020.

Outotec says it has been involved in the modernisation project from the early stages to support in process design to improve the efficiency and value of production. Extensive test work, along with the chemical and mineralogical characterisation of different ore samples, were carried out at the laboratories of Outotec Research Centre in Pori, Finland.

The Madneuli mine has produced around 85 Mt of copper- and gold-bearing ores, at a reported grade of 1 g/t Au and 1% Cu, over a period of 30 years, according to RMGC.

“We are happy to support RMGC’s target to improve the performance of their operations. Outotec’s process technology and proprietary equipment will assure sustainable beneficiation of the complex orebodies RMGC is processing,” Kimmo Kontola, Head of Outotec’s Minerals Processing business, said.

BHP builds its ‘green’ copper credentials at Escondida, Spence

BHP says new renewable energy contracts it has recently signed in Chile will reduce energy prices for its Escondida and Spence copper mines by around 20% and help displace up to 3 Mt/y of CO2 emissions from these operations.

These agreements not only benefit BHP’s business but generate strong environmental and social value, according to Daniel Malchuk, President Operations for BHP’s Minerals Americas business.

BHP operates and own 57.5% of the Escondida mine, a leading producer of copper concentrate and cathodes from a copper porphyry deposit, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Spence, which is 100% owned by BHP, is also in northern Chile.

He said: “Population growth and higher living standards combined with greater electrification are expected to push up demand for copper. This means that copper in products such as electric cars and renewable energy infrastructure, which are vital to the world’s sustainable growth, must be produced to the highest environmental aspirations.”

The new energy contracts, along with BHP’s investment in desalinated water in Chile, demonstrate social value in action and help drive the wider agenda for sustainable green copper, according to Malchuk.

Social value is one strategic pillar the company embeds in all its decision-making and informs the way in which it provides resources and generates long-term, sustainable value. This was the subject of BHP Chief External Affairs Officer, Geoff Healy’s speech in London earlier this month.

Malchuk said the company has negotiated four new power contracts that will meet its energy requirements at Escondida and Spence from 100% renewable energy sources by the mid-2020s.

“When fully operational, these renewable supply arrangements will eliminate virtually all of Escondida and Spence Scope 2 emissions (emissions from purchased energy), effectively displacing up to 3 Mt of CO2 annually compared to the fossil fuel contracts they replace,” he said. “This is the equivalent to annual emissions from about 700,000 combustion engine cars and accounts for around 70% of BHP’s Minerals Americas total greenhouse gas emissions.”

These actions also support Chile’s wider “Energia 2025” power policy target for 20% of all Chilean energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.

Following a competitive tender process, Escondida and Spence agreed separate 15-year contracts for 3 TWh/y and 10-year contracts for 3 TWh/year with ENEL Generación Chile and Colbún respectively. The ENEL contracts will begin in August 2021 and the Colbún contracts in January 2022, BHP said, with power supplied from solar, wind and hydro sources.

Malchuk said: “These contracts are practical examples of our commitment to social value that are linked to a sound business case. We estimate the agreements will reduce energy prices at our Escondida and Spence copper mine operations by around 20%, provide our operations flexibility and security of supply, and strengthen our ability to deliver sustainable copper across our supply chain.”

On top of this, the company has confirmed that its Spence operations will begin using desalinated water as the main source of supply from mid-2020 upon completion of a 1,000 l/s capacity desalination plant. This was part of a plan the company outlined in 2017 to grow the Spence operation.

This is on top of the more than $4 billion, 2,500-l/s desalination plant the company built at Escondida.

Malchuk said: “Water is a precious commodity that is critical to our operations in Chile and to the communities where we operate in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions in the world. We recognise our operations have an impact on the environment given the immense amount of water they consume.”

He added: “Our Water Stewardship position statement, launched last month, outlines our vision for a water secure world by 2030. It sets out our actions to improve water management within our operations and contribute to more effective water governance beyond the mine gate.

“We strongly support the UN Sustainable Development Goals on access to clean and affordable water. That’s why we will set public targets and engage industry, communities and governments to improve governance, transparency and collaboration in water management.”

Sandvik provides productivity boost at New Afton block cave mine

An automated loading solution has enabled Canada’s only block cave mine to mitigate mud rush hazards and improve productivity – and it paid for itself in less than two months, according to Sandvik.

Operated by New Gold, New Afton development began via decline ramp in 2007 and the mine reached commercial production in 2012. The mine, which employs a workforce of around 450, produced 77,329 oz of gold and 85.1 MIb (38,601 t) of copper in 2018.

Tonnage is tantamount to profitability at New Gold’s New Afton mine in south-central British Columbia. The mine has moved and milled as many as 22,000 t of ore in a single day and routinely extracts 18,500 t from Canada’s only block cave.

Like other prolific block caves, New Afton enjoys enviable efficiency at extremely low operating costs. But the mine has also had to conquer one of the biggest block cave challenges: mud rush.

Mitigating mud rush hazards was the major motivation for implementing automated loading at New Afton. As the block cave grew, more and more drawpoints became finely fragmented and wet. By 2016, one in five drawpoints were assessed as high risk, according to Sandvik.

To ensure operator safety, New Afton stopped manual mucking in those drawpoints and implemented line-of-sight teleremote loading.

“When 20% of your ore source needs to be remotely mucked, you run the risk that you can’t supply your mill with adequate tonnages,” said Mine Manager Peter Prochotsky, who joined New Afton in 2009 as a Mining Engineer and has seen the operation grow from a development project into Canada’s highest-tonnage underground mine. “The line-of-sight systems just weren’t keeping up with the growing production demand over the years and we needed a new way of doing things.”

New Afton conducted an engineering study in late 2016 to assess the potential value of implementing automated production loading to overcome the production constraint caused by line-of-sight and further improve safety.

The mine trialled an AutoMine-equipped Sandvik LH514 for one month in early 2017. Although the 14-t loader proved too long for some of the cave’s tighter turns, New Afton estimated impressive cycle times and buckets per shift for a smaller Sandvik LH410 based on the trial performance of the Sandvik LH514.

“To transition from a line-of-sight solution to an automated solution, we calculated a 54-day payback period,” Prochotsky says. “If we continued using line-of-site teleremotes, that production loss was essentially, over 54 days, the value of a brand new Sandvik LH410. And, we obviously made the choice pretty quickly that it was the right way to go.”

New Afton’s existing block cave extraction level layout wasn’t optimised for automation, Sandvik said. “Two dedicated colleagues worked hand in hand to champion the project, implementing the system and building operator buy-in,” it added.

Bob Garner, a technical expert with decades of block cave experience, led the operational side and trained operators on the AutoMine system. Electrical Instrumentation Technician, TJ Williams, meanwhile, handled installation of all electrical systems.

Garner says: “We needed to figure out the infrastructure, figure out the Wi-Fi, where we were going to put antennae points, how far apart they had to be, and then teach the loader its path and dial everything in to get it running efficiently.”

Sandvik provided initial engineering assistance, starting system implementation in the west cave that Williams was able to replicate himself in the east cave.

“The infrastructure is relatively simple,” he says. “Sandvik provided excellent documentation that we followed to a ‘T’ and I picked things up along the way working with their engineers. The overall process of installation was pretty straightforward.”

Within a week of commissioning in late 2017, the first of the mine’s two automated Sandvik LH410s was already proving significantly more productive than the teleremote solution, the mining OEM said.

Williams says most of the mine’s line-of-sight operators were comfortable running AutoMine within five days.

“The Sandvik automated loaders are much more technologically advanced than the competitor loaders featuring aftermarket line-of-sight, but the learning curve wasn’t steep,” he says. “Everybody picked it up really easy.”

New Afton has used its Sandvik LH410s for production mucking on the mine’s extraction level, one of the block cave’s five main underground levels. The average tram distance between drawpoint and ore pass is only 250 ft (76 m), limiting automation’s benefits.

Prochotsky says: “The longer the distance from drawpoint to ore pass, the faster the loader can tram and complete a cycle and the greater the value of automation.”

Despite the limitations created by the level’s short trams, the automated Sandvik LH410’s cycle time is almost twice as fast as the mine’s line-of-sight loaders, according to Sandvik. Manual mucking is still faster in the areas New Afton can use it, but the automated Sandvik LH410’s lower downtime and higher utilisation compensate for its modestly higher cycle time, the company said.

“At the end of the day, the tonnes moved by a manual loader and an automated loader are very similar,” Prochotsky says.

On top of recouping the investment cost of the automated loader in less than two months of operation, New Afton has experienced equipment health benefits on its bottom line, Sandvik said.

“AutoMine steers the loader with pinpoint precision and its collision avoidance features help eliminate damage while enabling high speeds that accelerate overall cycle time,” the equipment maker added.

“We used to do about C$10,000 ($7,565) of collision damage per loader per month, directly related to operating our line-of-sight loaders in a tight environment,” Prochotsky says. “This cost has dropped to zero thanks to AutoMine.”

The mine has also seen a 30% increase in tyre life on the automated Sandvik LH410s compared with the mine’s other 10 t loaders, Sandvik said.

After successfully managing the step change from line-of-sight to automated loading, and improving mucking efficiency while mitigating mud rush hazards, New Afton started thinking bigger.

For the first 18 months, operators oversaw the automated Sandvik LHDs from two underground control rooms. New Afton recently finalised a permit amendment process with British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to allow the mine’s operators to run AutoMine from a third chair on surface, eliminating travel time and enabling automated mucking through shift change.

“We think that’s really going to enable us to unlock the productivity benefits of automation,” Prochotsky says. “The gains we expect to see from this change should more than close the narrow gap between manual and automated mucking productivity.”

While New Afton focused almost solely on production during 2018, the mine has also recently restarted development to access a new zone that is expected to extend mine life to 2030. New Afton must maintain the same 18,500 t/d output despite three fewer operating hours due to twice-daily blasting.

Running AutoMine from surface enables New Afton to solve this challenge, too.

“We’ll keep our block cave productive by using an automated loader to muck our development rounds through blast clearing delays,” Prochotsky says. “If we can save 90 minutes in each shift, that’s a huge efficiency gain that also de-risks the project.”

Prochotsky contends New Afton couldn’t have implemented automated loading at a more ideal time.

“The opportunity to take your learnings and put them into action happens infrequently in block cave mines, as a new level is only developed every five to 10 years,” he says.

“We’re fortunate that we brought the AutoMine system in at really the perfect time for us, to learn how to use it for maximum benefit and position ourselves to take full advantage of it in future mine design.”

For New Afton, AutoMine has proven to be the complete automation solution that management assessed it to be, according to Sandvik.

“If another Mine Manager came to me and asked me who they should automate with, I think that Sandvik has the best system on the market, and it’s really because they have the total package,” Prochotsky says.

“They’ve got field service representatives available to come to your site to help train your people, they’ve got great safety documentation that allows you to make sure there won’t be any incidents or accidents underground, and they’ve got a product that works. It’s a pretty simple solution in my mind.”

The full version of this article appeared first as a Sandvik Solid Ground online news story, see following link: https://solidground.sandvik/the-ultimate-proving-ground/

Wood’s cobalt and copper refining expertise tapped for Jervois ICO project

Having recently sewn up the lead engineers for finalisation of a bankable feasibility study (BFS) at its 100%-owned ICO cobalt-copper project in Idaho, US, Jervois Mining has selected Wood as its preferred engineering contractor to progress the refinery scoping study at the project.

The ICO, planned to be the only domestic cobalt mine within the US, is expected to commence commercial concentrate production in the second half of 2021.

Jervois said Wood has expertise in the refining of sulphide concentrates through to both battery-grade crystal and refined LME copper and 99.8% LMB cobalt metal, which will be of use in this study. The company said: “Wood is well placed to lead the engineering study which includes an initial high-level review of commercially available technology for the refining of sulphide concentrates through to metal.”

Battery recycling technology and third-party feed processing will also be considered to highlight future market opportunities that may enhance the refineries strategic importance within the US and further improve the economic returns, Jervois said.

Mineralogy and metallurgical test work progressing at SGS will optimise the selective cobalt concentrate chemical characteristics and be applied in the flowsheet options study.

“As part of the current feasibility study being led by DRA and M3, preliminary results obtained from the SGS test work have achieved satisfactory separation and selectivity between copper and cobalt,” Jervois said, adding that locked cycle tests are planned to define the improved selectivity.

The Wood refinery study will be completed during the March quarter in conjunction with the previously announced feasibility study to concentrate.

Outotec improving energy consumption, efficiency at Glencore Nikkelverk refinery

Outotec has agreed with Glencore Nikkelverk AS on the delivery of coated titanium anodes to the new tankhouse for its copper electrowinning plant in Norway.

The delivery will include over 5,000 of the new mixed metal oxide coated titanium anodes, with the order value, booked into Outotec’s September quarter order intake, being some €10 million ($11 million).

Glencore’s Nikkleverk refinery in Kristiansand, Norway, produces around 40,000 t/y of copper.

Outotec’s coated titanium anodes were tested on-site for five years, with the results verifying that Outotec anodes will significantly reduce energy consumption and provide higher current efficiency than traditional lead anodes, the company said.

Outotec said: “Outotec Coated Titanium Anodes provide totally lead-free electrowinning operations and increased occupational health and safety by eliminating lead and lead sludge handling.”

The end result for Glencore Nikkelverk AS is green technology electrowinning operations with higher quality copper product at lower energy consumption and operating costs, it concluded.

Kalle Härkki, Head of Outotec’s Metals, Energy & Water business area, said: “This is one more reference delivery of Outotec Coated Titanium Anodes in the copper electrowinning industry. The energy efficiency benefits and lower operating costs of our anodes enable Glencore Nikkelverk to improve their profitability in a sustainable way.”

Major Drilling helping narrow down Oyu Tolgoi orebody

Major Drilling says it is nearing the completion of a cave tracking system installation at the Turquoise Hill Resources and Mongolia government-owned Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, in Mongolia.

In early 2000, Major Drilling established a drilling campaign in the middle of the Gobi Desert, with operational supplies needing to ramp up to support 20 rigs that were transported to the site.

This drilling work has since evolved into the tracking system that has proven successful in the block cave operation.

These trackers are lowered through a specially-drilled borehole into the Oyu Tolgoi orebody below. Block cave magnetic beacons are embedded into the orebody and spun to create a magnetic field.

“Magnetisation has been found to be the most effective way to track the fragmentation as an orebody caves in allowing loaders to mine the ore from draw points deep underground,” Major Drilling said.

Major Drilling’s teams strategically place magnetic beacons throughout the mine to create a 3D map and to track the position of the orebody cave-in flow. The cables are attached to the duct rodder, which is lowered from a winch system. Once the trackers are placed, block caving techniques will undercut and fragment the deepest points of the geology, according to the company. The orebody is then collected and taken away for processing.

“Block caving is a low-cost mining method used for the development of massive ore deposits,” Major Drilling says. “Mine planners often use an experienced specialised drilling company to precondition the block cave mining area through hydrofracking. Tracking the flow of the fragmented, caved ore is a critical part of accessing targeted orebodies.”

Mine planners use the information from the magnetic tracking devices placed by the Major Drilling team to understand the direction of intended failure the stone is moving.

Shaun Hogan, Major Drilling’s Project Manager at Oyu Tolgoi, said: “We are nearing the completion of the cave tracking system installation at Oyu Tolgoi. Over the past two years, we have worked very closely with our client and various stakeholders; this partnership has achieved a successful deep tracking network.”

In addition to block cave tracking, Major Drilling also performs seismic monitoring to help predict rock mass instabilities. Seismic monitoring is another specialised drilling service that makes large-scale block cave work safer and more productive.

Major Drilling was awarded the Rio Tinto Growth & Innovation Group Award for the successful seismic drilling program at Oyu Tolgoi in 2017.