Tag Archives: COVID-19

Master Drilling posts record annual profit as non-explosive tech gains traction

Master Drilling Group Limited, a provider of drilling services to the mining, civil engineering and building construction sectors, has reported a strong set of annual results for the year to December 31, 2021, as well as making progress in several key technology areas.

In the period in question, the company made significant gains across key regions, including the award of its first project in Spain to shotcrete a 560 m ventilation shaft, boosting its joint venture work under the Master Drilling Besalco Consortium with Codelco in Chile and making plans to employ its North American entity on a project in Saudi Arabia.

On top of this, the company’s technology team made strides with its Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB), confirming that a project to sink an exploration decline at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena PGM operation in South Africa was scheduled to move into the tunnelling phase this quarter. The company has previously said it would sink one of two exploration declines for Mogalakwena using the MTB, a modular horizontal cutting machine equipped with full-face cutter head with disc cutters adapted from traditional tunnel boring machines.

At the same time, in order to spread its risk and lighten funding requirements, the company says it has entered into a joint venture called Master Sinkers with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) with a view to pursuing promising business cases involving blind sinking shafts. The company has previously been working on a Shaft Boring System (SBS), designed to sink 4.5 m diameter shafts in hard rock down to 1,500 m depths, to carry out this process.

In the results, Master Drilling said Master Sinkers has now signed letter of intent with a client to blind bore a ventilation shaft, with investigative work on scoping and detailed design and procurement of resources for the shafts having commenced.

On this project specifically, the company said: “The project is progressing well and by the second half of 2022, we hope to commission the service and start executing on the project. We are positioning ourselves as a specialised mining contractor, as opposed to a mainstream one.”

The company added on these technology developments: “Non-explosives mining is still an uncharted area and we are looking to provide solutions for clients that are not bound by the requirement of explosives approvals, while at the same time shielding personnel against hazards by offering the flexibility to operate remotely. We have engaged with four different clients where we are able to develop these technologies and provide bespoke solutions that cater to their specific needs. By doing so, we hope to build relationships with these clients in a phased approach, thereby ensuring gradual progress and minimising large exposure or risk. All these projects are progressing well. These technologies all relate to providing a safer, higher productivity, cost-competitive and efficient solution.”

This technology progress was made against a backdrop of increased revenues and profitability, with revenue coming in at a record $178.1 million – up 40% from 2020 – and operating profit growing 126% to a record $27.8 million.

“These represent record results, achieved despite difficult global market and operating conditions,” the company said. “Cost savings initiatives implemented to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic assisted in this.”

Widespread demand for truck trays and buckets boost Austin’s order book

Austin Engineering Limited says it has received A$82 million ($61 million) of new orders across its business in the three months until end-February 2022, as orders for its specialist truck trays and buckets continue to come in.

This boost represents a 100% increase in its order book level compared with the same period of its last financial year.

Austin says it is now confident it has received sufficient orders to cover its 2022 financial year revenue guidance. In addition, Austin has also received a very encouraging level of orders for its 2023 financial year pipeline. Overall, enquiry levels and contract win rates remain strong in all home markets, it noted.

The new contract wins have resulted in a significant order book lift from December 2021, when Austin reported an increase in orders of 35% year-on-year.

The order book improvement is across all of Austin’s home markets but dominated by the US, Chile and Indonesia.

Austin explained: “The truck tray business has remained strong but is now widespread across more jurisdictions and has been supported by a much stronger level sales of buckets and other equipment. Austin’s new JEC High performance bucket range has attracted considerable attention and, with four months to go in the current financial year, the company has already achieved a record level of sales of mine buckets compared to recent years.”

Austin has previously announced a series of measures aimed at improving its competitiveness by sharpening its focus on the needs of its customers, both in Australia and overseas. As an example, this approach has led to an update to its core Ultima truck trays to meet increased demands around safety and weight carrying capacity.

The design updates have been coupled with cost efficiencies from the advanced manufacturing approach and the hub-and-spoke build strategy, increasing Austin’s product quality and cost competitiveness in the market, it said. This action has already delivered a material level of new order wins, strengthening the current financial year order book, and driving momentum into the next financial year.

Austin is now rolling out the initial phase of its advanced manufacturing plan, following an intensive design phase, which aims to increase production efficiency, safety and quality, thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity. The company is now initially rolling out the new production system in Batam, Indonesia, because that facility is running at an elevated level of throughput in a trend that is expected to continue.

The company flagged in its first half 2022 financial year results that it was entering a challenging period in Western Australia, which is currently under Level 2 Government restrictions due to rising COVID-19 cases in the state. Potential risks, which to a limited extent are now being experienced, include loss of productivity due to staff shortages and shipping delays, which could impact scheduling and deliveries for Austin and its suppliers. The current level of restrictions is not anticipated to remain in place for long, with Western Australia’s COVID-19 caseload peak expected in the next few weeks. Contingency planning continues to reduce risks where possible.

Hindustan Zinc accelerates growth plans as it partners with industry leaders

Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL), a Vedanta Group Company and the world’s second largest integrated producer of zinc and lead, is in acceleration mode, embarking on aggressive expansion and collaboration plans with technology and innovation partners from across the globe.

One of the first mining companies to commit to going “Net Zero” by 2050, it has a strong focus on ESG reinforced by plans to deploy battery-electric vehicles, tap into more solar and wind power potential and recycle waste heat from its captive power plants. Such ambitions are being delivered with up to $1 billion of finance in the next five years to “go green” and, by 2025, achieve focused sustainability goals.

At the same time as it is looking to become an ESG leader, it is boosting its mine and metal production by leveraging “smart mining” and an extensive resource and reserve base.

IM put some questions to Arun Misra, Hindustan Zinc CEO, to find out how the company intends to deliver on its lofty ambitions.

IM: HZL’s 2021 financial year to March 31, 2021, was characterised by record production volumes and profitability; how were you able to achieve such results given the COVID-19-affected constraints on your operations?

AM: The uncertainty has evolved continuously. If I give you an example, we started the year with the uncertainty of COVID only; that is people getting infected leading to absenteeism. It was so contagious, it spread so fast, half of our workforce were down. So, that struck us heavily, but, nevertheless, because we had experience of last year, and this time there was no lockdown of industry, we were able to figure out how to manage and we did manage well, compared to last year’s same quarter, which was also COVID-affected. We had introduced various measures to change the way of working to ensure a safer working environment for the employees. We also got our workforce vaccinated along with their families to further minimise the risks associated with the pandemic.

Hindustan Zinc CEO, Arun Misra, says Hindustan Zinc has been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of its employees or local communities

Furthermore, the automation and digitalisation efforts at Hindustan Zinc are equipped to better withstand these testing times while ensuring quick revival to a normal level of operations.

IM: During the height of the pandemic, HZL – like other socially responsible mining companies – supported communities within or close by to its operations. Can you highlight some of the actions you took over this period and what impact they had?

AM: We at Hindustan Zinc have been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of our employees or local communities. We have gone beyond and extended our support to the state of Rajasthan and the nation at large by contributing significantly to the PM Cares Fund and Rajasthan Chief Minister Relief Fund.

To meet the requirement of oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic, we had set up an oxygen bottling plant at our Dariba unit (Rajsamand district) in a record time of five days and had supplied over 14,000 cylinders of medical oxygen. We even arranged 500 oxygen concentrators to be imported and distributed for use across the state.

We had provided an insulated vaccine van to the Udaipur district medical health office to support a smooth vaccination drive and extended support to the local health administrations, by disinfecting villages by spraying and fumigating with sodium hypochlorite solution and providing medical gear like masks, sanitisers and PPE to local communities.

We even constructed an 8,000 sq.m air-conditioning dome hospital, based on German technology, which has a capacity of 100 beds – including 20 ICU beds – to accommodate patients and provide them with essential COVID treatment and medical facilities.

IM: ESG is obviously a major focus area for HZL, as these examples illustrate. Where specifically are you investing in your mining, power and smelting operations to make them more environmentally friendly?

AM: As a COP26 business leader, we have always been active in tackling the repercussions of climate change and have a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions. We are pioneers in India, declaring our ambition to convert all our mining equipment to battery-operated electric vehicles and will invest $1 billion over the next five years to make our mining operations environmentally friendly.

We are continuously expanding our renewable power of 274 MW of wind and 40 MW of solar under our greenhouse gas reduction goals by converting 50% of our total power to renewable forms in the next five years. We are among the only two metal and mining companies globally – and among four Indian companies – to be part of the coveted CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) ‘A List’ 2020.

Furthermore, we have even published our first Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) Report this year and have also joined the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) forum to understand nature-related risks and opportunities and accelerate the transition towards a nature-positive and carbon-neutral future.

We have set Sustainability Development Goals to 2025 for ourselves where we are aiming towards sustainable operations for a greener tomorrow.

Hindustan Zinc has embarked on a major growth push at its mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access

IM: At the same time as this, HZL has embarked on a major growth push at your mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access. How are you able to balance your sustainable expansion plans with pledges to reduce your overall footprint?

AM: We strive for operational excellence and cost efficiencies and continue to stay on the growth track while being equally cognisant of our environmental, social and governance commitments, as well as our sustainability goals. We are leveraging more digitalisation and automation than we ever have, as well as engaging with technology leaders to do ‘more with less’.

The SmartDrive equipment we plan to use enables higher productivity, lower operating costs and, most importantly, zero local emissions, featuring in-built energy recuperation technology to make the most of regenerative braking energy during downhill driving and deceleration.

Being a power-intensive business, our key focus is always on reducing dependence on non-renewable sources of energy and enhancing our renewable power base.

IM: How important has it been to partner with like-minded technology and solution providers to ensure you meet these ambitious goals? Can you provide some examples here?

AM: We always look for partners who align with our philosophy of running sustainable operations to achieve company goals. We don’t need one-off solutions from companies to meet our targets; we need companies that will engage throughout our medium- and long-term projects and provide an element of customisation that factors in the realities of operating in our underground mines. We look for global partners to work with us where we exchange ideas, insights and knowledge with them in our growth journey.

We believe in providing opportunities to our business partners to leverage collaboration on technology, innovation and digitalisation, for long-term value creation and mutual growth.

To support our expansion plan, it is crucial for Hindustan Zinc to collaborate with mine development and operation partners who share a similar vision to ours, which is to leverage cutting-edge technology to create a positive impact on the entire mining fraternity. We are currently working with companies like Sandvik, Epiroc, Normet, Barminco, RCT, Siemens, etc as our global partners. We have engaged with them to provide end-to-end solutions rather than sourcing a specific supply or service.

Hindustan Zinc has given an equal platform for women engineers in its mining operations, appointing India’s first female underground mine manager in 2021

IM: You have already stated a goal of 1.5 Mt/y of zinc production in the upcoming years and extending your lead as India’s largest integrated zinc-lead producer; what is your vision for the company to 2030 and beyond?

AM: We are excited about our next phase of expansion to take mining capacity from 1.2 Mt per annum to 1.35 Mt/a. We will surely cross 1 Mt and we should be above our guidance if we achieve the desired run rates in our third and fourth quarters.

While our growth plans are a key part of the company’s future, we are also focused on becoming the leading zinc-lead-silver producer from an environmental, social and governance point of view. Our DJSI Ranking of being among the Top 5 companies in the metal and mining sector is testament to this. We are already winning significant awards for our ESG and CSR efforts, and expect this recognition to continue and grow as we head towards mapping out our 2025 sustainability goals.

Also, the mining value chain is changing across the globe and more consumers are becoming aware of the origins of the products they buy and the emissions that come with their production.

To collaborate with Hindustan Zinc on its green growth mission, email [email protected]

Orica sets out to transform mine-site used oil explosive utilisation with Cyclo

Orica’s Cyclo™, a solution combining the company’s emulsifier technology with used oil processing technology to transform mine-site used oil for application in explosives, is off to a fast start with the first automated containerised system recently successfully commissioned in Ghana.

Cyclo is an example of Orica’s strategic focus on optimised resource use through circularity, it said in its recently released annual report.

While used oil/diesel blends have been utilised in process fuels for more than 15 years, the technique requires tight quality control and regular testing when used to manufacture emulsions, the company said. “As a result, it has only been feasible at sites with access to external laboratory services.”

To service a broader range of customers, Orica has partnered with CreatEnergy to develop a standalone, on-site solution to treat used oil to the quality required for emulsion manufacture.

Orica initially scheduled Cyclo for market introduction in late 2022, but it scaled and sped up development and production plans to support customers’ operations and curtail material supply disruptions brought about by COVID-19.

“Our first automated containerised used oil recycling system, Cyclo, was successfully commissioned recently in Ghana, Africa,” Adam Mooney, Vice President of Blasting Technology, said. “We are working to gradually commission further units across more customer sites in the coming months, including in Papua New Guinea and Senegal.”

Bulk emulsion manufactured with Cyclo™ processed used oil

Over 33,000 litres of used oil has been processed to date through the initial Cyclo service, according to Mooney, who explained: “This is a modest quantity as the Cyclo unit was only commissioned remotely in recent months due to COVID-19. In a year, this mine is forecast to reduce their diesel consumption by approximately 250,000 litres.”

Mooney told IM that its used oil recycling technology is designed to support customers’ remote operations where Orica’s site-based emulsion plants are available.

“The key difference in the Cyclo service with existing offers in the market is that the containerised processing system is fully integrated into our on-site emulsion plants, enabling the used oil from the mine to be directly recycled without leaving the site,” he said. “The processing unit guarantees used oil quality to the standard required for emulsion manufacture by removing potential contaminants and, when combined with proprietary Orica emulsifier technology, guarantees finished bulk product quality.”

These installations will, the company said, reduce the annual diesel consumption for explosives manufacture for customers, depending on bulk product consumption, by some 250,000-800,000 litres per year per site when operational, delivering an environmental and commercial benefit to customers. On top of the obvious diesel consumption benefits, the solution will reduce truck movements through local communities and the associated logistical challenges and risks, particularly for remote operations.

A version of the Cyclo system to suit Arctic conditions (eg in Russia and parts of Asia) is currently being designed and will be operational in 2022, Mooney added.

TNG brings Clough into Mount Peake Peake vanadium-titanium-iron project fold

TNG Ltd has appointed a subsidiary of engineering and construction company, Clough, to work with TNG’s project development team and the SMS Group on its flagship Mount Peake vanadium-titanium-iron project in the Northern Territory of Australia.

TNG announced in September that it had decided to progress development of the project with a fully-integrated mining and processing operation within its existing mining leases. As part of this strategy, it was considered by the TNG team important to have a suitable Australian-based engineering group on board.

Following a tender process, Clough Projects Australia Pty Ltd was selected to work with TNG’s team to initially develop an optimised plant layout for the integration of the TIVAN® processing facility (TPF) and beneficiation plant at the mine site, on the basis of the deliverables prepared under the front-end engineering and design (FEED) study completed by SMS group.

Clough, TNG says, will work with SMS and TNG’s team given the severe restrictions on travel between Europe and Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic that have impacted SMS’ ability to deliver a team in Australia.

TNG previously engaged Clough to assess the definitive feasibility study for the project and this new contract expands on this early work to progress the overall mine development, it says.

The optimised layout will be unconstrained compared with the size and shape requirements at the former Darwin site. This offers the potential to capitalise on improving constructability, operability and maintenance for the project, as well as further cost optimisations from integrated infrastructure, the company says.

The integrated plants will be positioned within the company’s existing Mining Lease 29855, which has a size of 1,460 ha. This area is capable of hosting a fully-integrated operation encompassing mining activities and waste storage, the beneficiation plant, the TPF and non-process infrastructure, according to TNG.

TNG’s Managing Director & CEO, Paul Burton, said: “From a strategic and logistical perspective given the continued global COVID-19-related travel restrictions, it is an advantage to have a locally-based engineering group working on this phase of the Mount Peake project with TNG and SMS.

“We expect the integrated plant layout will pave the way for further optimisation work that will tie back into the recently completed FEED study. These work programs are already underway. We look forward to working closely with Clough and our other engineering partners to rapidly advance the Mount Peake project.”

Located 235 km north of Alice Springs, Mount Peake is expected to be a long-life project producing a suite of high-quality, high-purity strategic products for global markets including vanadium pentoxide, titanium dioxide pigment and iron ore fines. The project, which is expected to be a top-10 global producer, has received Major Project Status from the Northern Territory and Federal Governments.

Inmarsat research notes COVID-19-inspired uptick in mining’s use of IoT

New research by Inmarsat, a leader in global mobile satellite communications, reveals a rapid increase in the maturity level of industrial Internet of Things (IoT) adoption across the mining sector since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Respondents from the sector reported that COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of IoT to their businesses, with many accelerating IoT deployments in response to the pandemic.

According to the research, adoption has seen huge progress from 2020 to 2021. Some 82% of mining respondents have now fully deployed at least one IoT project, with 37% having achieved this in the 12-month period from the June quarter of 2020. Of the remaining 18% of mining respondents that have not yet adopted IoT in any form, all of them are either currently trialling it, or plan to deploy or trial at least one IoT project in the next two years, according to the research.

A further 81% of mining respondents indicated they have or they intend to accelerate the adoption of IoT in response to challenges related to COVID-19. This figure includes 40% who have already accelerated IoT adoption to respond to COVID-19, versus 21% who will accelerate over the next 12 months and 20% who will accelerate beyond the next 12 months.

The 40 per cent that have already accelerated IoT adoption are less likely to state that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their ability to operate, demonstrating a link between IoT and business continuity during the pandemic. Additionally, nearly half (47%) of respondents in the sector indicated that business and operational challenges related to COVID-19 have underlined the importance of IoT.

Commenting on this acceleration of IoT in the mining sector, Nicholas Prevost, Director of Mining Innovation at Inmarsat, said: “While the mining sector has, historically, lagged behind other industries in its adoption of radical ideas and new technologies, our latest research reveals that the sector has made considerable progress in terms of IoT adoption and development over the last few years and is very upbeat about its potential. The COVID-19 crisis has only served to accelerate the rate of IoT adoption in many mining businesses and we are now seeing evidence that those companies that are increasing the speed of adoption of IoT and associated technologies are gaining an advantage, through their ability to keep operations going autonomously and with greater insight.”

Mike Carter, President of Inmarsat Enterprise, added: “The rapid increase in IoT deployments over the last few years highlights the considerable progress global industry has made to overcome some of the world’s most challenging forces. It is particularly interesting, though logical, that COVID-19 has further catalysed businesses to increase their reliance on Industry 4.0 technologies, and particularly the industrial Internet of Things, in order to maintain business continuity. Those businesses implementing IoT technologies ahead of their competition and across their value chains are those who stand to win in the long-term.

“While our findings point to IoT driving significant uplifts in efficiency, sustainability and safety across global supply chains, there are areas where organisations can make improvements to draw the optimum benefits from the technology. Connectivity, data management, skills shortages, security threats and investment levels remain challenges as the world’s production and supply chains become increasingly digitalised and intertwined.

“Inmarsat’s global ELERA network is inspiring new possibilities and enabling organisations from all sectors to access IoT anywhere. Ideally suited to the rapidly evolving world of IoT, our industry-leading narrowband network provides global reach, extraordinary resilience, and the fastest speeds, along with the smallest, low cost terminals in their class.”

Ecolab uses mixed reality to troubleshoot process water problem at phosphate mine

Ecolab’s Remote Assist program has leveraged mixed-reality technology to overcome COVID-19 restrictions and provide critical, speedy customer support to a mining company in the Middle East.

The company, a customer of Nalco Water, an Ecolab company, was suffering from an unknown mechanical issue, which impacted chemical dosing for process water treatment. As a result, the phosphate mine was facing a potentially costly disruption of its activities.

“Not too long ago, the mine’s remote location of approximately 1,400 km away from the nearest technician might have led to operations being curtailed for several days,” Ecolab said. “Challenges created by the pandemic further hindering the technician’s ability to travel could have made the outcome even more bleak. However, by leveraging mixed-reality tools that combine elements of virtual reality and augmented reality to create a blend of the physical and digital world – in this case, a hands-free tablet-class wearable computer – Ecolab’s mining division was able to come to the rescue in a timeframe that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.”

Connecting with a senior engineer at the treatment plant, the Nalco Water technician was able to communicate in real time, inspecting the equipment to gain an understanding of the operational challenges on site. Safely working together in a virtual environment, the two associates were able to quickly diagnose the issue and replace the component that was ultimately behind the problem.

“Service that would otherwise have required two days of travel was completed in just one hour, saving travel costs, maintaining social distancing and reducing the carbon footprint,” Ecolab said.

As well as offering mining and mineral processing programs that combine chemistry, automation and control technology to help plants optimise production, Nalco Water’s proprietary 3D TRASAR™ smart water treatment system has enabled the company to offer the benefits of remote monitoring and troubleshooting on over 40,000 units installed worldwide, Ecolab said.

Arjan Boogaards, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global Mining & Mineral Processing, Nalco Water, said: “We have greatly optimised productivity for our customers with these innovations, but, inevitably, the occasional mechanical issue will call for service and support that is outside of the scope of smart controllers and automation on site. That’s where we can apply mixed-reality technology and continue to transform the future of service and support by enabling expedient, accessible issue resolution. We can help connect our customers to a global infrastructure of research, innovation, engineering and digital experts in a faster and more efficient way.”

Ecolab’s Remote Assist program incorporates mobile applications that can connect to a remote collaborator. Through live video calling, annotations and sharing high-resolution snapshots with the remote collaborator, users can co-operate to troubleshoot problems quickly, according to the company.

Use of the latest mixed-reality technology enables Ecolab to gain remote access to its customers’ facilities in several beneficial ways. Its sales and technical representatives in the field can wear mixed reality devices for a “digital focus first, real-world focus second” approach to basic digital training in safe environments, Ecolab said.

Mixed reality also enables them to virtually connect to Ecolab’s scientists, engineers and cross-functional teams for support. This enables them to remotely diagnose and troubleshoot issues around contamination, oversee chemistry usage, guide the installation of new equipment, monitor water and process conditions and, ultimately, implement solutions that maximise customer productivity.

“This is most definitely an approach both we and our clients will continue with, even after COVID-19 has become a bad memory,” Boogaards said. “The pandemic has sped up the process for many companies to adopt digital tools, and they are dramatically improving their operations. The time and money savings are undeniable, so companies that do not make use of these tools could place themselves at a competitive disadvantage. We’re clearly entering a new era.”

UMS to start pre-sinking work at Lucara’s Karowe Underground Expansion project

Lucara Diamond Corp’s Karowe Underground Expansion project (UGP) in Botswana is moving ahead with mobilisation of shaft sinking teams commencing late in June, and pre-sinking activities scheduled in the September quarter.

The Karowe UGP, which is expected to extend the operation’s mine life to 2040, is in a fully-financed position, with the latest schedule expected to see underground production hit full production by the end of 2026.

The 2019 feasibility study for the project envisaged life of mine production of 7.8 Mct, a payback period of 2.8 years and an after-tax NPV (5% discount) of $718 million; all from $514 million in pre-production capital.

COVID-19 delays have pushed the project off the original schedule – both in terms of timeline and cost – but the company says it is now making headway towards a 2026 start to underground production.

Lucara said no “material variances” between the 2019 feasibility study and the current execution plan have resulted, despite the delays.

“Rather, during this period in 2020 and 2021, all critical path items were addressed and a concerted effort was placed on detailed design, engineering and procurement which have helped to significantly de-risk the project,” it said.

Out of the total capital budget, the company has spent $51.4 million on project execution activities through 2020 until the end of June 2021, including shaft and geotechnical engineering, procurement of long lead time and essential shaft sinking items, surface infrastructure and construction activities, bulk power supply power line engineering and procurement.

Mobilisation of the shaft pre-sink team has commenced with shaft pre-sinking on track to commence in the middle of the current quarter.

Detailed engineering and design of the underground infrastructure and layouts will commence this quarter and are expected to be competed in the September quarter of 2022, with no major changes from the 2019 study plan anticipated.

Underground mine development is scheduled to commence in the second half of 2024 with underground production ramp up starting in 2026. Full production is scheduled for the end of 2026.

At the same time, open-pit mining operations have been adjusted to limit the risk of production shortfalls during the ramp up of the underground mine operations commencing in the first half of 2026. The open-pit mine is expected to terminate in mid-2026, Lucara said.

Access to the underground mine will be via two vertical shafts, the production and ventilation shafts. The shafts will be concrete lined with the production shaft acting as the main air intake and the ventilation shaft as the exhaust.

The number of shaft stations and nominal elevations remain the same as the feasibility study, with the planned depth of the production shaft still at around 767 m. The final planned depth of the ventilation shaft has, however, increased marginally to 733 m, from 716 m.

A 7,200 t/d shaft operation using long hole shrinkage (LHS) mining will provide an additional 13 years of mine life to the Karowe operation after a five-year construction period. The 767-m-deep production shaft will be equipped with two 21 t skips for production hoisting and a service cage for man and material movement through the mine. This shaft will also serve as the main fresh air intake to the mine.

The pre-sink construction contract and shaft sinking equipment procurement were awarded to UMS Botswana and UMS South Africa, respectively. METS International Ltd, a subsidiary of UMS, was awarded the shaft engineering contract.

The company explained: “Detailed design and engineering work on the production and ventilation shafts is now 90% complete, and has resulted in the following changes to the 2019 feasibility study: i) production shaft diameter has increased from 8 m to 8.5 m, ii) ventilation shaft permanent headframe, hoists and internal conveyances have been removed, iii) parallel pre-sinking of both shafts, iv) ventilation fans and coolers to be located on surface, v) in-shaft grouting of water strikes changed from grout curtain installation from surface, vi) planned development of an additional sublevel to assist in drilling of drawbells, and vii) removal of 670L de-watering galleries.”

Increased schedule time related to shaft sinking has been a result of the increased production shaft diameter, time allowances for in-shaft grouting during sinking operations planned at known water strike horizons, holing through all shaft stations between shafts and additional ground support for underground stations/level breakouts, the company said.

UMS is in the process of mobilising crews to Karowe to initiate pre-sink works. Pre-sinking of the two shafts will run in parallel and start with mobile cranes and then transition to Scott Derrick cranes with the final depth of pre-sink at around 40 m below surface.

With the exception of an additional sublevel (340L) to assist with drill and blast of drawbells, the design, layout and infrastructure of the underground mine all remain aligned with the 2019 feasibility study, the company noted.

Temporary power for shaft sinking is required until such time as the upgrade bulk power supply infrastructure is commissioned in the December quarter of 2022. A three-phased ramp up of the generator capacity is planned to support the increasing power requirements related to the shaft sinking activities.

A power supply and services contract for the temporary generators has been signed with Aggreko International Projects Ltd. Mobilisation has been initiated with the generator pad established. Commissioning of Phase 1 is scheduled during the September quarter to support the start of pre-sink activities.

The Karowe UGP is targeting the substantial resources remaining below the economic extents of the open pit in the South Lobe.

The LHS method is planned to systematically drill and blast the entire lobe on a vertical retreat basis. In LHS, a significant proportion of the blasted muck is left in the stope during blasting and stoping to stabilise the host rock with only the swell extracted during the drill and blast phase. Mucking will take place from draw points from the 310L extraction level. Once the column is fully blasted, the stope will be drawn empty by mucking the draw points.

The bottom-up approach of the LHS mining method takes advantage of the higher value EM/PK(S) kimberlite unit at depth in the South Lobe at Karowe, and balances high initial capital costs with low operating costs while de-risking the project with respect to the geotechnical and hydrogeological aspects of the host rocks, according to Lucara.

A revised project cost and schedule has been developed that captures the detailed engineering and design work through 2020 until May 2021, incorporating all changes, improvements, and COVID-19 related delays. Overall capital expenditures, including contingency, have increased marginally by some 4%, to $534 million, driven by the increase to the production shaft diameter and additional mine development.

The schedule to 75% of full production has increased by 1.3 years, driven mainly by COVID-19-related delays to commence the shaft pre-sinking and additional planned time for shaft station break-outs and ground support, Lucara added.

During 2020, Lucara negotiated and signed a self-build agreement with the Botswana Power Corp (BPC) for the construction of two substations and a 29-km-long 132 kV transmission line from BPC’s newly established Letlhakane substation to the Karowe mine. The planned route follows an existing regional 400 kV line and then runs parallel to the existing 11 kV transmission line currently supplying bulk power to the Karowe mine.

The new power infrastructure will provide the required power for the current open pit, processing plant and the underground mine expansion. Commissioning of and handover to BPC is scheduled for the December quarter of 2022. Construction of substations is scheduled to commence this quarter and power line construction in the March quarter of 2022, the company said.

JDS Energy & Mining Inc is the engineering procurement and construction manager for the execution of the Karowe UGP and is currently building up the on-site project team in conjunction with Lucara’s owners team and working in close cooperation with the Karowe Diamond Mine operations team.

Murray & Roberts’ Cementation Americas business wins Rio and BHP contracts

Murray & Roberts’ Cementation Americas business has confirmed two new mining contracts with Rio Tinto and BHP.

Cementation USA secured the Underground Characterisation Development and Infrastructure project in Utah for Rio Tinto’s Kennecott copper operations (open pit, pictured). The value of this agreement is circa-$70 million, with the initial scope including lateral development and associated infrastructure works.

Rio, only last month, approved a $108 million investment in underground development to enable early orebody access and undertake orebody characterisation studies for underground mining at the Kennecott copper operations.

The contract award positions Cementation USA well for the potential significant scope growth on this project, Murray & Roberts said.

Cementation Canada Inc has secured the completion of Phase 1 of the Jansen potash project in the province of Saskatchewan for BHP. This scope includes the post liner excavation, steel and equipping of the shaft.

The value of the complete project award, subject to a sanction decision for the project, is around $170 million. Cementation Canada has, in the interim, received a works order to proceed with the first work package to the value of $12 million.

BHP said last month that it expected to make a decision on whether to move forward with Jansen, which is expected to produce 4.4 Mt/y of potash in its first phase, in the next two months.

Cementation Canada will apply to also deliver the following phases of the Jansen project, Murray & Roberts noted.

Murray & Roberts said: “During the past year, mining companies in the Americas have experienced prolonged COVID-19 impact, creating short-term order book pressure for engineering and contracting companies. These awards are evidence of new mining investments returning to the region.

“The forecast improvement in capital investment in the mining industry is encouraging and, considering the platform’s leading global position and growing near term project pipeline, there is good potential for accelerated growth for the group’s mining platform.”

Siemens looks at the future of mining in Africa as it launches SIDRIVE IQ

Siemens has launched its SIDRIVE IQ industrial IoT monitoring solution for drive systems at its Virtual Smart Mining Forum, seeking to showcase how the solution can increase drive uptime to improve mine site productivity.

The SIDRIVE IQ Suite has a powerful dashboard to minimise unplanned downtime with automated failure notifications, improve data transparency with easy access to recent and historical data, and troubleshoot faults.

The Virtual Smart Mining Forum the company is using to launch SIDRIVE IQ will explore new trends and the impact of technology on the African mining sector.

Taking place from August 3-5, the event brings together the mining community, industry experts, decision makers, thought leaders, technology providers, consumers, users, engineers and designers to discuss topics affecting the mining industry, with all participants exploring ways in which technology can drive effective change in the sector, Siemens says.

“COVID-19 has prevented the industry from having progressive conversations about how to move the mining sector forward,” Tim Walwyn – Head of Mineral Solutions, Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa, said. “This three-day event is an opportunity for us to bring the mining community together to reignite the dialogue and share knowledge to help us sustainably transform the future of mining in Africa. As a partner to African mines, our electrification, automation and digitalisation portfolio offers a combination of deep understanding of the mining industry with state-of-the-art technologies.”

Sabine Dall’Omo, Siemens CEO for Southern and Eastern Africa, says: “Our main objective with this event was to initiate a forum for knowledge transfer to the industry and raise awareness of the opportunities created by technology. We’re excited to bring this collaborative forum, where we can showcase the latest technological innovations for the industry and explore their effects on the African mining landscape.”

Siemens has invited various South African universities and will introduce them to Mendix, a low-code rapid application development platform that enables users to build and continuously improve mobile and web applications at scale. During the forum, Siemens will launch a hackathon using the Mendix platform.

As part of the company’s commitment to enterprise and supplier development, Siemens will also provide 10 industrious SMMEs that deliver solutions and services to the mining industry a chance to showcase their companies and expertise in a separate virtual showroom.

Dall’Omo said: “The future of mining and the transformation of the mining industry depends highly on staying abreast of advancing technology and industry trends. It also depends on the sustainable development of new enterprises, collaborations, and ongoing conversations among relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector and educational institutions. Now is the time to contribute to small business growth, promote job creation and develop critical job skills required for the transformation in the mining industry.”