Tag Archives: copper

Boliden to become EU automation FrontRunner with help of Komatsu AHS

Boliden has decided to introduce Komatu’s FrontRunner Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) on 11 haul trucks at its Aitik copper mine in northern Sweden, in the process becoming the first company to introduce AHS in the European Union.

The investment is for a total of SEK218 million ($25 million) and will be fully implemented during 2024.

While the production rate at Boliden Aitik remains constant, the required transport work is increasing with the size and depth of the mine, Boliden explained. Automation of the haul truck fleet will increase productivity and asset utilisation in order to meet increased transportation demands in the mine while retaining world leading cost competitiveness, according to the company.

Stefan Romedahl, President Business Area Mines, Boliden, said: “Haul truck automation in Aitik is securing that the mine will stay in the position as the world’s most productive copper mine, while continuing to deliver copper with industry leading climate performance.”

Apart from the technical aspects, the project will include in-depth training of mine staff, both for current and new roles. The expectation is that the work environment will become safer and more attractive with the introduction of automation, Boliden added.

In September, Komatsu announced that mining companies had hauled more than four billion metric tonnes of materials leveraging its FrontRunner AHS, with the milestone achieved just in advance of MINExpo 2021.

First deployed in 2008 at Codelco’s Gabriela Mistral (Gaby) copper mine in Chile, AHS brings together Komatsu ultra-class dump trucks with Modular Mining’s DISPATCH Fleet Management System. Since start-up, zero system-related injuries have been reported, according to Komatsu.

Alongside automation, Boliden is also investing in trolley assist operations at Aitik where it has plans to deploy more than 10 trucks on around 3.5 km of electric trolley line.

ERM on executing the mining sector’s sustainability strategies

With sustainability close to the number one topic shaping the business landscape, the mining industry faces perhaps more scrutiny today than ever before. From stakeholder engagement to employee welfare and the emissions generated from using mined commodities, there is a spectrum of issues on which mining companies are judged. Not just by traditional critics such as NGOs, but increasingly by policymakers, investors and consumers themselves.

As a result, mining companies are seeking the advice of consultants that live and breathe environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to adapt to this evolving backdrop (see the mining consultants focus in IM October 2021 for more on this).

In this regard, they don’t come much bigger than ERM, which calls itself the largest global pure play sustainability consultancy. With a remit that goes into strategic, operational and tactical challenges, the company’s services have been in serious demand of late.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead; Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead; Peter Rawlings, Low Carbon Economy Transition Lead; and Geraint Bowden, Regional Client Director – Mining, were happy to go into some detail about how the company is serving the industry across multiple disciplines.

In demand

According to the four, there is increasing demand for services from miners interested in energy/battery minerals (lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, platinum, palladium and rhodium (PGMs)) on the back of rising numbers of new mines coming onto the scene, “shorter supply chains to customers”, the perceived need to secure domestic supply of these minerals, and requirements of “evidence of responsibly-produced certifications from industry organisations such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)”.

Such trends have been underwritten by a shift in both the requirements and considerations around the extraction of these minerals, according to Molyneux.

“In the last five to seven years, the main ESG incentives for change have come from access to capital (ie investor ESG preferences, especially in relation to catastrophic incidents),” he said.

“Over the last three years, we have seen a strong rise in expectations from downstream customers, particularly leading brands.”

Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead

Automotive original equipment manufacturers like BMW and Daimler are placing sustainability at the centre of their brands, according to ERM. Their initial focus has been on ‘net-zero’ driving/electrification – and they have made progress on this with several major electric car launches. They then shifted to examining the carbon emissions and ESG, or responsible practices, of tier-one and tier-two component manufacturers. The last step has been a full analysis of the ESG credentials of input materials right back to source, ie the mine.

“We see a shift from the historic lens of customers managing supply risk by sourcing from organisations which ‘do little/no harm’ (eg human rights compliance, catastrophic incident avoidance) to supply partners that can contribute to the ‘do net good’ or ‘create value for all stakeholders’ (ie communities, workforce, nature positive),” Pearce said.

Such a shift has resulted in more clients considering “circular thinking” in their operational strategy, as well as carrying out risk reviews and transformation projects focused on a company’s social or cultural heritage. Tied to this, these same companies have been evaluating their water use, biodiversity requirements and, of course, decarbonisation efforts.

It is the latter on which the steel raw materials companies predominantly have been looking for advice, according to ERM.

The focus has been on ‘green’ iron ore, low-carbon steel and ‘circular’ steel, according to Molyneux and Bowden, with ERM providing input on how companies in this supply chain can integrate sustainability into their strategy and operations.

On the thermal coal side, meanwhile, it is a very different type of ERM service in demand: mine retirements, closure/local/regional regeneration transitions and responsible disposals.

Delivering on decarbonisation

The mining industry decarbonisation targets have come thick and fast in the last 18-24 months, with the latest announcement from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) seeing all 28 mining and metals members sign up to a goal of net zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 or sooner, in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

Many have gone further than Scope 1 (direct emissions from owned or controlled sources) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company) emissions, looking at including Scope 3 (all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain) targets.

Fortescue Metals Group, this month, announced what it said is an industry-leading target to achieve net zero Scope 3 emissions by 2040, for example.

These are essential goals – and ones that all interested parties are calling for – in order to deliver on the Paris Agreement, yet many miners are not yet in the position to deliver on them, according to Pearce, Molyneux, Rawlings and Bowden.

“Miners need to look at decarbonisation at a holistic level across their operations and value chain, and cannot just delegate the net zero requirements to individual assets,” Rawlings said. “The solutions needed require investment and are often at a scale well beyond individual assets/sites.”

Much of this decarbonisation effort mirrors other industries, with the use of alternative fuels for plant and equipment, accessing renewable electricity supplies, etc, they said.

Process-specific activities can present challenges and is where innovation is required.

“These hard to abate areas are where a lot of efforts are currently focused,” Rawlings said.

Tied into this discussion is the allowance and estimates made for carbon.

There has been anecdotal evidence of miners taking account of carbon in annual and technical reports – a recent standout example being OZ Minerals inclusion of a carbon price in determining the valuation of its Prominent Hill shaft expansion project in South Australia – but there is no current legislation in place.

“We are seeing a broad spectrum of price and sophistication (targeted audience, knowledge level), but it is an active board level discussion for most clients,” Bowden said on this subject. “Most clients view this as market-driven requirements as opposed to a voluntary disclosure.”

This has been driven, in part, from the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, which many miners – including all the majors – are aligning their reporting with.

Some clients are also looking into scenarios to work around carbon regimes such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which proposes a carbon-based levy on imports of specific products.

Having acquired several companies in recent months focused on the low carbon economy transition – such as E4tech, Element Energy and RCG – ERM feels best placed to provide the technical expertise and experience to deliver the sustainable energy solutions miners require to decarbonise their operations.

“With these companies, combined with ERM’s expertise, it means we can support clients on the decarbonisation journeys from the initial strategy and ambition development through to implementation and delivery of their roadmaps,” Rawlings said. “We can support clients from boots to boardroom as they assess decarbonisation options and technologies; help them understand the financial, policy and practical aspects linked to deployment of solutions; and access the financing necessary to support deployment.”

ESG dilemmas

There is more to this evolving backdrop than setting and meeting ambitious environmental goals, yet, in ERM’s experience, the advice provided by consultants – and requested by miners – has historically been focused on individual ESG domains.

“This has often been driven by their realisation that their (miner’s) in-house policies and standards require updating,” Pearce said.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead

A siloed or disaggregated approach to ESG strategy development often reduces risk, but rarely generates value for the enterprise at hand, according to Pearce.

“What we have learned is that in order for organisations to create value, they need to focus on value drivers for the corporation,” she said. “These value levers are typically influenced by an integrated suite of ESG dimensions. For example, this could be looking at carbon emissions, connected with water use and nature, connected with local socio-economic development.”

“Sustainability and ESG are about understanding the inter-relationships between our social, natural and economic environments over the longer term. It cannot be about addressing one topic at a time or responding to the loudest voices.”

This is where ERM’s ‘second-generation’ ESG advice, which is driven by data and opportunities to create value as well as manage risk, is fit for the task.

“We are also finding that, at its heart, the central issue to second-generation ESG performance delivery/improvement for our clients is not just the strategy, but a willingness of organisations to reflect on their core values, how these have driven their traditional approaches and decisions and how they will need to evolve these if they want to achieve a genuine brand and reputation for ESG and achieve impact on the value drivers they have selected,” she added.

Such thinking is proving definitive in ERM’s mining sector mergers and acquisition due diligence.

“We have multiple experiences where clients have asked us to carry out an ESG review of a target portfolio, only to find that there is too great a gap between the target’s ESG asset footprint to align them with the client’s standard – or, that the carbon, water, closure or tailings profile of the target carries a too high-risk profile,” Molyneux said.

This is presenting clients with a dilemma as they want to increase their exposure to certain minerals, but are, in some instances, finding M&A is a too high-risk route. At the same time, the lead time to find and develop their own new assets is longer than they would wish for building market share.

Such a market dynamic opens the door for juniors looking for assets early in their lifecycles, yet it places a high load on the management teams of these companies to think strategically about the ESG profile of the asset they are setting the foundations for to eventually appeal to a potential acquirer.

“This is, in itself, a dilemma because, typically, the cash scarcity at the junior stage leads management teams to focus on the immediate technical challenges, sometimes at the cost of also addressing the priority non-technical challenges,” Bowden said.

Those companies who can take a strategic view on the ESG requirements of the future – rooted in a deep understanding of how to deliver change on the ground – will be best placed in such a market, and ERM says it is on hand to provide the tools to develop such an appropriate approach.

(Lead photo credit: @Talaat Bakri, ERM)

Thiess set to operate and maintain two mining fleets at Austral’s Anthill copper project

Thiess says it has been selected as preferred mining services contractor for Austral Resources’ Anthill copper project, near Mount Isa in Queensland, Australia.

Austral has notified Thiess of its intention to enter exclusive negotiations to finalise the terms of a three-year mining services contract. Under the scope of works, Thiess will operate and maintain two mining fleets, undertaking mining services to support Austral’s copper production requirements.

Thiess CEO and Executive Chairman, Michael Wright, said: “Thiess has a long history operating in the Mount Isa region dating back to the early 1960s, and we’re very pleased to be back. With our selection as preferred contractor, Austral Resources has recognised our team’s specialist mining capability and our flexible approach to meet the needs of their mine.

“This project is very important to Thiess as we continue to diversify our business across commodities, mining regions and services. We are positioned well to support Austral Resources and the local community, with the right equipment, technical capability and operations team.”

The Anthill project is around 80 km northwest of Mount Isa and will extend copper production from the existing Lady Annie Operations.

Austral says CSA Global completed an updated mining study in April 2021 on Anthill resulting in a JORC 2012 compliant ore reserve of 5.1 Mt grading 0.94% Cu containing 47,700 t of copper. This study outlined that ore will be mined from two pits over a 40-month period. Total recovered copper from the heap leach process will be 40,400 t over a 44-month period.

Vast sees path forward at Manaila with help of TOMRA’s XRT ore sorting solution

Vast Resources says it is continuing to evaluate the recommencement of production at its Manaila polymetallic mine in Romania and, as part of this process, has been working with TOMRA to assess the suitability of X-ray Transmission (XRT) ore sorting technology to optimise the mine’s production profile.

The assessment has demonstrated, to date, that by installing an XRT machine at the plant to pre concentrate ore at the pit, the technology would be highly effective for three main reasons:

  • A reduction in transportation costs as improved mass reduction would significantly reduce the material being transported from the mine to the processing plant;
  • A reduction in processing costs due to reducing the throughput at the plant; and
  • Higher-grade product being delivered to the plant.

It is anticipated that processing and transportation costs could be reduced by up to 55%, according to Vast.

“This cost reduction could have a dramatic impact on the mine’s financial performance,” the company says.

Samples from both types of mineralisation at Manaila, massive sulphide and disseminated sulphide, were sent to the TOMRA Test Centre in Wedel, Germany, to ascertain improved mass reduction and grade upgrade potential. Both mineralisation types showed amenability to the XRT process with metal content recovery on the massive sulphides at 95.4% for copper, 93.6% for lead and 95.2% for zinc in 71% of the mass, the company explains. The disseminated sulphides returned a metal content recovery of 84.2% for copper, 67.2% for lead and 84.4% for zinc in 35% of the mass.

The combined results show that 93.1% of copper, 82.2% of lead and 92.4% of zinc metal could be recovered in 45% of the mass when mining the polymetallic ore on a ratio of three tonnes disseminated sulphide to one tonne of massive sulphide, being the typical historical ratio of mining at Manaila.

Andrew Prelea, Chief Executive Officer of the Vast Resources, says: “These results clearly underpin our view that Manaila is economically viable, and the management team are considering various mine plan scenarios of bringing Manaila back into production.”

The 138.6 ha Manaila-Carlibaba exploration licence contains a JORC 2012 compliant measured and indicated resource of 3.6 Mt at 0.93% Cu, 0.29% Pb, 0.63% Zn, 0.23 g/t Au and 24.9 g/t Ag with inferred resources of 1 Mt at 1.1% Cu, 0.4% Pb, 0.84% Zn, 0.24 g/t Au and 29.2 g/t Ag. Comprising the Manaila polymetallic mine (currently on care and maintenance) and the Carlibaba extension project, Vast intends to establish a larger mining and processing facility at Manaila-Carlibaba which would eliminate the need for costly road transport of mined ore to the existing processing facility located at Iacobeni, around 30 km away.

Preliminary studies by the company indicate the potential for a new open-pit mine to exploit mineral resources to a depth of some 125 m below surface, and to simultaneously develop a smaller higher-grade underground mine below the open-pit mineral resources.

TOMRA XRT ore sorting test work delivers the goods at Kutcho’s copper-zinc project

Higher head grades and recoveries, a reduction in run-of-mine material reporting to the milling and flotation circuit, a smaller tailings management facility, and lower power and water demand are just some of the benefits to have come out of ore sorting test work at Kutcho Copper’s copper-zinc project in British Columbia, Canada.

Recent bulk sample test work was conducted to determine the effectiveness of using ore sorting technology from TOMRA Sorting Mining to improve the processed grade and reduce the mill feed tonnage of mineral resources at the project.

ABH Engineering Inc and TOMRA were commissioned to undertake this work to establish the amenability of Kutcho’s Main and Esso deposits to ore sorting using an X-ray Transmission (XRT) sensor. Two phases of test work, including a representative 0.75 t bulk sample derived from drill core, were undertaken at TOMRA Sorting Mining in Germany under the supervision of ABH Engineering.

“The ore sorting process helps concentrate the metals of commercial interest from the Kutcho deposit, which are principally associated with high density sulphide minerals,” Kutcho explained. “Rocks are individually scanned, and low grade (low density) waste material is selectively diverted away from downstream processing using compressed air jets. Preliminary test work on the sensitivity of the ore to a XRF sensor was also undertaken.”

The bulk sample tests conducted on a production-scale XRT ore sorter indicate that approximately 17% of the ROM material will be <12.5 mm in size and would therefore bypass the ore sorter and report directly to the milling and flotation circuit. Of the >12.5 mm feed, some 15% of the material reporting to the ore sorter was detected by the XRT sensors as being low grade or waste and will be rejected by the ore sorter, thereby reducing run-of-mine material reporting to the milling and flotation circuit by 13%. The overall recovery of metal (copper, zinc, silver and gold) reporting to the ore sorter is in the order of 99% (ie less than 1% of the metals of interest will be rejected by the ore sorter), Kutcho said.

Pre-sorting of the run-of-mine material by the ore sorter has the potential to reduce milling and flotation operating costs corresponding with the 13% rejection of low-grade material, it says. The commensurate increase in the head grade of the ore reporting to the flotation circuit has the potential to also result in improved metallurgical recoveries in the flotation circuit.

Additionally, it is anticipated that potential savings in capital and operating costs related to the smaller milling and flotation circuit will offset the costs associated with the ore sorter, according to the company. Savings will also be achieved by a reduction in the size of the tailings management facility. The optimally sized ore sorter reject waste material could be used as cemented rock backfill in the underground mines at both the Main and Esso deposits, resulting in further potential cost savings, Kutcho said.

Environmental benefits accruing to the project because of the introduction of ore sorting technology include a lower power and water demand, and a smaller tailings management facility, the company concluded.

Earlier this month, Kutcho said in a feasibility study progress report that it was considering open-pit mining for the majority of the Main deposit at Kutcho, allowing the company to capitalise on the high-grade, near-surface mineralisation, resulting in lower operating costs than underground mining. The remainder of the Main deposit and all the Esso deposit will continue to be evaluated assuming underground extraction by longitudinal longhole open stoping, it said.

The ore sorting test work was also being incorporated into the feasibility study design.

Boliden invests $160 million in leaching plant, underground repository at Rönnskär

Boliden has opened a new leaching plant and underground repository at its Rönnskär operations in Sweden as it looks to extract additional metal from residual materials at the smelter and store any remaining waste in a sustainable way.

For many years, residual materials from smelting processes containing copper, zinc and lead, among other elements, have been stored temporarily at the Rönnskär site.

These residual materials, together with future residues from production, will from this point pass through the newly built leaching plant where further metal extraction will take place. The remaining material will then be transported straight down to the underground repository, which is located about 350 m below the site.

This will see Rönnskär become the only copper smelter in the world with a long-term, sustainable on-site storage solution, according to Boliden.

Investments in the two facilities have amounted to SEK 1.4 billion ($160 million), Boliden says.

Daniel Peltonen, President Boliden Smelters, says: “Our aim is to extract as much metal as possible from our raw materials while ensuring the best achievable environmental and climate performance. The investments we have now made represent a new chapter in Rönnskär’s history in both of these areas.”

Rönnskär produced 226,000 t of copper, along with 33,000 of zinc clinker, 28,000 t of lead, 506,000 t of sulphuric acid, 524,000 kg of silver and 14,000 kg of gold last year, according to Boliden.

Capstone Mining to modernise IT infrastructure, lower costs with SAP solution

SAP SE has announced that Canada-based Capstone Mining has selected the RISE with SAP offering as part of a company-wide enterprise resource planning (ERP) consolidation initiative.

Capstone, a base metal producer, is committed to responsible mining practices, including its approach to sustainability, which embraces technological innovations, SAP says. Through the implementation of RISE with SAP, Capstone aims to modernise its IT infrastructure and lower costs.

The company plans to implement SAP S/4HANA Cloud on Microsoft Azure, moving from SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) by the end of 2021. Capstone selected RISE with SAP not only for consolidation but also for improved flexibility and ability to scale, according to the company.

Capstone’s CFO, Raman Randhawa, said: “As commodity prices soar, we need to keep our operations competitive to maximise our output and opportunities. Consolidating our IT platforms and moving to a more secure, low-cost cloud option will allow us to modernise and streamline our business.”

Capstone chose to implement RISE with SAP, SAP’s business transformation as a service, to leverage the success it enjoyed with its legacy SAP software that was active at its Pinto Valley mine in USA (pictured), SAP says. The implementation will help to smooth the transition of SAP services across its other mining operations and will provide Capstone with a unified view of its overall business operations.

Austin wins three-year truck body/bucket support contract from KGHM Sierra Gorda mine

Austin Engineering says it has strengthened its partnership with KGHM’s Sierra Gorda Mining (SGM) by securing a three-year truck body and bucket support contract with the operation in Chile.

Austin said: “Winning the competitive contract exemplifies the high level of confidence SGM has in Austin as their long-term partner of choice to support such critical mining assets.

“Our ongoing transformation from Austin 1.0 to 2.0 and the efficiencies being delivered as a result, was key to improving our South American team, to not only compete, but win such a long-term contract.”

Austin Engineering recently concluded a strategic review of its business that identified opportunities to cut “significant costs from the business while increasing output through adopting more advanced manufacturing techniques”, Austin CEO and Managing Director, David Singleton, said.

The Sierra Gorda copper-molybdenum mine is in the Atacama Desert, in the Antofagasta region, of Chile. It is located at an altitude of around 1,700 m and has a minimum annual average daily ore processing figure of 130,000 t.

Mastermyne looks for hard-rock exposure with PYBAR Mining buy

Mastermyne has accelerated its hard-rock mining strategy with an agreement to acquire PYBAR Mining Services in a cash and share deal that comes with an expected equity purchase price of A$47 million ($35 million).

The acquisition for PYBAR Holdings, owner of PYBAR Mining Services, will see Mastermyne, a metallurgical coal-focused contractor, exposed to PYBAR’s gold, copper, zinc and lead-related revenues, it said.

The deal is expected to create a leading Australia-based diversified mining services business with material scale, it said, adding that the combined group will have a A$1.7 billion-plus order book and an active tender pipeline of A$2.7 billion-plus after completion.

To reflect the changing make up of revenues, Mastermyne is proposing to change its name to Metarock Group Ltd.

Mastermyne MD and CEO, Tony Caruso, said: “The PYBAR acquisition is highly complementary to Mastermyne’s existing underground business and expands the combined group’s addressable markets to support ongoing growth, in addition to increasing the earnings resilience of the group by diversifying our commodity exposure.”

PYBAR Mining Services was established in 1993 and has gone on to become one of Australia’s largest underground mining contractors, serving the likes of Glencore (Black Rock mine), Diversified Minerals (Dargues gold mine), Gold Fields (Hamlet North mine), Evolution Mining (Cowal gold mine), OZ Minerals (Carrapateena) and more.

It has a large fleet of equipment, which includes Sandvik DD421 and DD421i series drills, a fleet of Cat R1300, R1700, R2900 and Sandvik LH621i LHDs, Cat AD45V-AD60 sized trucks and several Sandvik TH663s haul trucks. It provides services such as mine development, raiseboring, mine production, shotcreting, cable bolting and production drilling.

Mastermyne says PYBAR will continue to operate as an independent business unit within the group with the existing management team should the deal go through.

Subject to Mastermyne shareholder approval and the satisfaction or waiver of other conditions associated with the transaction, Mastermyne anticipates the deal completing by the end of the year.

Speedcast makes new connections in the DRC with Mining Company Katanga contract

Speedcast, a communications and IT services provider, says it has been selected by Mining Company Katanga (MCK Sarl) for a three-year contract to deliver satellite connectivity services to its headquarters and a major mine complex in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As part of the agreement with the mining contractor, Speedcast will serve MCK’s Lubumbashi headquarters and the Ruashi open-pit copper and cobalt mine under contract with MCK, delivering “optimised wide-area networking over high-throughput, very small aperture terminal (VSAT), C-band satellite service and content filtering”, it said. The solution will enable internet access, cloud-based applications, IoT and crew welfare applications across their operations, according to Speedcast. All services will be fully supported by its global Customer Support Centers.

James Trevelyan, Senior Vice President of Enterprise and Emerging Markets at Speedcast, said: “We are thrilled that MCK has placed its trust in Speedcast to deliver critical, remote connectivity and network optimisation to its headquarters and contracted mining site. We have the highest-powered Cband network in Sub-Saharan Africa, which means we can enable the customer’s digitalisation agenda while delivering the highest performance primary or back-up communications solution.”

Hubert Nkonkosha, IT Manager at MCK, said: “Our Ruashi project is one of our largest refined copper and cobalt production sites with more than 2,000 people and suppliers employed. It’s vital to our headquarters and operations to have seamless communications and network management as we prioritise efficiency and digital transformation, now and in the future, while still operating cost-consciously. Speedcast was a clear choice for our needs, and we look forward to leaning on their team for support and expert guidance, building a strong working partnership for years to come.”

Speedcast recently augmented its Tier 1 satellite network across the Sub-Saharan African region with the addition of a new high-throughput satellite, offering ultra-high signal availability – even into 1.8 m terminals. The satellite’s look angle across Africa is around 60° elevation, making it ideal for steep-sided open-pit mines and resilient to equatorial weather patterns, according to Speedcast. It also incorporates the latest VSAT technology and a selection of bandwidth packages, from high-speed to gigabyte-only plans.