Tag Archives: De Beers

De Beers taps Sandvik expertise for Venetia underground diamond mine transition

De Beers Group has ordered 19 units of high-tech equipment from Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology for its Venetia Underground Project (VUP), in South Africa.

According to Simon Andrews, Managing Director at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Southern Africa, the company will supply a range of intelligent equipment including LHDs, ADTs, twin-boom drill rigs, roof bolters and cable bolters. Amongst the advanced models are the 17 t LH517i and 21 t LH621i LHDs, 51 t TH551i ADTs, DD422i face drills, DS412i roof bolters and DS422i cable bolters.

Partnership will be the watchword in the technological collaboration between the global diamond leader and mining OEM.

South Africa’s largest diamond mine, Venetia has been mined as an open pit since 1992. De Beers Group is investing circa-$2 billion to start mining underground from 2022, extending the mine’s life beyond 2045. The VUP represents the biggest single investment in South Africa’s diamond industry in decades, according to the company.

Allan Rodel, Project Director of the VUP, says the use of new technology is critical in building the mine of the future and will ensure the safety of its people, as well as create unique employment opportunities.

He adds that the successful implementation of this technology holds the key to further improve the mine’s productivity and cost effectiveness, enabling the quality and accuracy required for precision mining. This will also provide real-time geospatially referenced data that supports digitalisation of processes and provide a wealth of data for analysis and continuous improvement.

The underground mine will use sublevel caving to extract material from its K01 and K02 orebodies. Initially the ore will be hauled to surface using a combination of underground and surface haul trucks. As the operation matures, the hauling systems will transition to an automated truck loop in combination with vertical shafts for steady state production.

Sandvik’s Andrews said: “As important as the equipment itself is, De Beers Group was looking to partner with a company who would support them through the VUP journey. Taking a mine from surface to underground has many challenges, including the change in operational philosophy.”

Andrews highlighted that change management processes are as crucial to success as the capacity and performance of the mining equipment. The implementation of the new technology is seldom a straightforward process, and always requires a collaborative effort.

“The expectation of the customer is for a strong relationship with a technology partner who will help them to apply, develop and fine-tune the systems they need, over a period of time,” he says. “This way, the technology is assured to deliver the safety, efficiency and other positive results that the new mine will demand.”

Andrews believes Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology leads the pack from a technology point of view, having introduced its intelligent i-Series machines to enhance remote operation capability. This advanced range combines automation with data management capacity, aligning with the philosophy that De Beers Group has applied to this world-class operation, which prioritises the safety of its people.

Also included in the package for VUP is the Sandvik OptiMine® control system which enables continuous process management and optimisation, focusing on key areas such as face utilisation and visualisation of the operation in near real time. Using data generated by the i Series machines, OptiMine helps mining operations to achieve the lowest operating costs and highest levels of productivity.

Andrews noted that Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is not new to the Venetia site, having worked with Venetia’s surface operations for some years, providing tools for drilling as part of a performance contract.

“We’ve been following the VUP with great interest and were ideally placed to contribute as we have extensive South African experience with mining customers in transitioning from opencast to underground,” he said. “This has involved providing equipment, implementing the systems and getting a full operation running with the latest equipment.”

He added: “Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has successfully completed numerous large and ambitious projects, and it reflects our experience in applying automation technologies from first principles. The learnings from these projects will be seen in the VUP as the mining systems are rolled out. We will take the very latest technology and assist the mine to implement it in an underground environment through a collaborative approach using local skills and supporting it from a local base of expertise.”

He emphasises that the automation will be applied through a phased approach, beginning with manual operation and closely monitoring performance through data analytics. Automation can be gradually introduced with the necessary training and experience, ensuring consistency of operation which is the key to success.

“This will allow costs to be driven steadily lower, using the data from the operation of the fleet to guide the transition to automation,” he says. “We will work with the mine to introduce automation and further data management as work progresses deeper into the mine, and as mine employees become more comfortable with this way of working.”

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology (soon to be Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions) is geared to support the trackless systems implemented at the mine through the full lifecycle of the machines by supplying spare parts, tooling and components from an on-site Vendor Managed Inventory stockroom and its other South African based facilities.

De Beers contracts Redpath for mining services at Venetia diamond mine

Redpath Australia and Redpath Mining Africa have announced the award of the mining services contract at the Venetia Mine, in South Africa, from De Beers Group.

Venetia is South Africa’s largest producer of diamonds, and is situated close to the town of Alldays in the Limpopo province.

The contract comprises Redpath providing skilled management, operational and maintenance personnel to form part of the Integrated Operations Team at Venetia. The Venetia Underground project involves the transition from an open-pit mine to an underground mine. Open-pit mining at Venetia is likely to run until 2021, with the underground mine set to extend the life of the mine to 2046 and provide an estimated 94 Mct of diamonds.

Redpath Australia Managing Director, Gavin Ramage, said: “We are excited to be working with De Beers Group in transferring our safe and efficient operating processes to the South African workforce. Together with Redpath Mining South Africa, we will utilise the skillsets of both our Australian and African business units.

“Redpath have been successful in doing this at other major projects across the globe so we look forward to providing another successful outcome for De Beers at Venetia.”

Work on-site will commence in February 2021, with recruitment to commence shortly, Redpath said.

Worley out to help miners on their open pit to underground mining transition

As open-pit mines reach their economic end of life, mine owners are considering the viability of transitioning their open-pit operations to underground.

Drawing on its deep level mining expertise in South Africa, Worley helps mine owners around the world to explore the feasibility of underground life of mine extensions and identify the most efficient and safe underground mining methods.

Among the driving factors in the transition to underground mining are declining ore grades, deeper ore deposits, and an increase in demand for minerals required for the global energy transition, such as copper, lithium, manganese and nickel, Worley says.

“Worley’s centre of excellence for copper in Chile has been supporting open-pit copper mine customers for nearly three decades,” the company said. “The company is gearing up its underground capability as these mines shift their operations to below surface to access deeper ore reserves.”

Going deep in South Africa

Worley’s South Africa operations is one of the company’s mining centres of excellence with niche experience in deep level mining.

Mining has been the mainstay of South Africa’s economy for well over a century, and a major source of employment as well as foreign investment. Consequently, Worley has grown its South Africa mining team in one of the best mining environments in the world, with a collective experience of over 120 years in deep level mining and process expertise.

Robert Hull, Vice President for Mining, Minerals & Metals in Africa, says Worley’s South African operation is recognised for its deep level shaft experience, and the company also has experience across most commodities including base metals, coal, platinum, gold, diamonds and ferrous metals.

Hull says Worley has a strong global workshare philosophy and culture of collaboration. The specialist skills in South Africa gained from working on some of the biggest underground projects in the world are an integral part of Worley’s mining, minerals and metals global project delivery offering.

Deep level mine skills

Some of South Africa’s specialist deep underground skills include shaft design, ventilation and refrigeration shafts, high pressure pumping, and deep level hoisting.

Worley says it is one of the few companies in the world that has the expertise to design hoisting systems for mass hoisting, such as at the Venetia Underground Project, which will hoist approximately 6 Mt/y of rock.

The De Beers Venetia Mine in South Africa is the biggest source of rough diamonds in the country, according to Worley. The mine is in the process of transitioning from open pit to underground, to extend its life by some 25 years.

As engineering procurement and construction management contractor for South Africa’s largest mining execution project, Worley is using 3D designs for the project infrastructure to provide 3D models for the entire project’s surface and underground infrastructure, it said.

Intelligent mines

Hull says Worley is leading the way in developing digital solutions for the planning, design and execution of mining projects, with the South Africa office having played a key role in the design and development of much of the group’s digital technology in mining and minerals processing.

Hull (pictured) cites the Wafi-Golpu (owned by Harmony Gold Mining and Newcrest Mining) feasibility study update, in Papua New Guinea, where the South Africa team drew on SmartPlant design technology, which uses rapid prototyping and Building Information Modelling. The technology allowed the entire project team to visualise project objectives as never before, greatly improving operational efficiency in a dynamic time and cost-saving environment, according to Worley.

The Wafi-Golpu project is ranked as a world-class deposit in terms of its size and the grade of gold and copper within it. If developed, it will be the largest, deepest and most complex underground mine in Papua New Guinea, with a mine life of 28 years, Worley says.

Integrated project delivery teams

Worley’s South Africa team is also supporting its Australia counterparts to project manage the delivery of the deepening and expansion of an underground gold mine. This includes construction of a 1,460 m shaft, additional capacity in the processing plant, and supporting infrastructure to enable profitable recovery of ore at depth to 2 140m below surface. IM understands the project in question is the Newmont-owned Tanami Expansion 2 project, in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Mega machines for mega mines

Hull says every underground project Worley has executed has drawn on the company’s large material handling capabilities.

“In South Africa, we have a dedicated materials handling department that has the latest tools including discrete element modelling and finite element analysis, and advanced simulation tools for conveyer design,” he said.

Coenie Mynhardt, Winder Engineering at Worley, adds that mine payloads have increased dramatically in the last two decades in pursuit of higher productivity rates. Mines such as Impala and Phalaborwa, in South Africa, with an approximate 12-t per skipload, were considered ‘mega mines’ in their day. The mines of the future are more than double that size.

“The mega mines of the future need mega machines to be able to handle such big payloads,” Mynhardt says. “Materials handling technology for such deep, high tonnage operations will test current technology for capacity and reliability to bring the ore from the production levels to surface. We have the skills and expertise to find the solutions to these challenges.”

Global project delivery

“Countries such as Chile have immense potential for transitioning from open pit to underground if the geology supports it,” commented Hull. “With the wealth of experience across locations and over 4,000 staff in our mining, minerals and metals business line, we can safely and successfully deliver our customers’ underground mine assets through collaborative development of the mine and associated infrastructure anywhere in the world.”

ABB to energise world’s largest advanced diamond recovery vessel

ABB has won a contract from Damen Shipyards Group to deliver an advanced power system for Debmarine Namibia’s custom-built diamond recovery vessel.

The Switzerland-based company will supply an integrated power system package that will ensure the world’s largest and most technologically advanced diamond recovery vessel meets exceptional safety, efficiency and availability requirements, it said. The vessel is being built by Damen at Damen Shipyards Mangalia on the Black Sea, in Romania.

With a total cost of $468 million, the vessel is the largest single investment ever made in the marine diamond industry, according to Debmarine. It deploys advanced subsea crawling – a technique for recovering diamonds from the seabed. The new build will be delivered to Debmarine Namibia, a joint venture between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers Group, in 2022.

Debmarine Namibia extracts some of the highest quality diamonds available anywhere from water of between 90-150 m deep off the south west coast of the country.

The new 177 m ship has been designed by Norway-based naval architects, Marin Teknikk. It will become the largest ship in the owner’s fleet, exceeding the size of Debmarine Namibia’s current largest vessel, the Mafuta, by 8,000 t displacement (vessel weight based on the amount of water displaced by the hull). It is expected to increase the shipowner’s annual production by 35%, contributing an additional 500,000 ct to today’s production levels.

The offshore mining specialist previously installed ABB’s power systems on board the SS Nujoma (SSN), Debmarine Namibia’s deep-water diamond exploration and sampling vessel.

Michael Curtis, who is heading the new build project for Debmarine Namibia, said: “The success of the SSN, with high reliability, efficient positioning and low fuel consumption coupled with safe operation, was instrumental in selecting the same systems for the new diamond recovery vessel, with ABB’s power systems being an integral part of the solution.”

The latest ABB technology will ensure the vessel achieves unsurpassed uptime, according to the company.

In addition to the advanced system for power generation, distribution and variable speed drive propulsion systems, the solution includes a large online double-conversion marine uninterruptible power supply (MUPS) to support the ship’s control processes, significantly reducing the risk of critical power loss and downtime.

“ABB’s MUPS is designed for undisrupted availability, ensuring power backup for the vessel’s on-board control systems of the subsea-crawler and processing plant that sorts through sediment lifted from the seabed to extract diamonds,” ABB said. “ABB’s advanced and tightly integrated power system will help optimise engine loading, as well as reduce running hours and fuel costs, and decrease maintenance needs.”

Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports, said: “This is a truly special ship, packed with sophisticated technology, and a project demanding an especially close relationship with the customer to ensure that optimal solutions were delivered for exact specifications.

“We are thrilled to see that the team behind this advanced vessel recognises the benefits of efficiency, safety and uptime available through integration. This success is also consistent with growing traction for ABB’s electric, digital and connected solutions across an increasing number of vessel types and operational profiles.”

Metso equipment to rough up diamonds at De Beers Venetia mine

Metso is to install high-performance crushing and material handling equipment underground at the De Beers Group’s Venetia diamond mine, in South Africa, as part of an order booked in the September quarter.

In the throes of a transition from open-pit mining to underground operations, Venetia is reported to produce around 4 Mct/y, making it one of South Africa’s biggest diamond mines.

In 2013, an underground extension project commenced with plans to start producing carats in 2022, climbing to full production in 2025 and extending the mine life to 2046.

Metso said Venetia approached Metso to deliver two primary jaw crushers and a number of feeders. All the equipment will be installed underground, which is a very challenging installation, especially given the shaft constraints (dimensions) and weight limitations for transportation underground, the company added.

Venetia decided on Metso’s Nordberg® C Series™ jaw crusher range as the pinned and bolted design of the crusher allowed for the extensive disassembly, Metso said. “This enhances ease of transportation and installation, especially where there are critical space constraints such as an underground installation – as is the case with this project.”

The Metso apron feeders, meanwhile, are used for extracting or feeding ores that are wet, sticky, dry or even frozen.

Metal and mining companies collaborate with WEF on blockchain solutions

Seven leading mining and metals companies have partnered with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to experiment, design and deploy blockchain solutions that will accelerate responsible sourcing and sustainability practices, the WEF reports.

The Mining and Metals Blockchain Initiative will pool resources and cost, increase speed-to-market and improve industry-wide trust that cannot be achieved by acting individually, according to the forum.

“It aims to be a neutral enabler for the industry, addressing the lack of standardisation and improving efficiency,” WEF said, adding that the intention was to send out a signal of inclusivity and collaboration across the industry.

Among the seven companies represented in this initiative are Antofagasta Minerals, Eurasian Resources Group, Glencore, Tata Steel Limited, De Beers and Anglo American.

The group will look to develop joint proof-of-concepts for an inclusive blockchain platform, which, over time, could help the industry collectively increase “transparency, efficiency or improve reporting of carbon emissions”, it said.

The WEF explained: “In many cases, blockchain projects to support responsible sourcing have been bilateral. The result has been a fractured system that leaves behind parts of the ecosystem and lacks interoperability.”

The new initiative is owned and driven by the industry, for the industry, according to the WEF, with members examining issues related to governance, developing case studies and establishing a working group. Key areas of collaboration and development could include carbon emissions tracking and supply chain transparency.

“They will work to use blockchain technology to increase trust between upstream and downstream partners, to address the lack of industry standardisation and to track provenance, chain of custody and production methods,” it said.

Jörgen Sandström, Head of the Mining and Metals Industry at the WEF, said material value chains are undergoing profound change and disruption. “The industry needs to respond to the increasing demands of minerals and materials while responding to increasing demands by consumers, shareholders and regulators for a higher degree of sustainability and traceability of the products.”

The WEF has offered its platform and expertise to help industry leaders better understand the impact and potential of blockchain technology, it said. “It will provide guidance on governance issues related to the delivery of a neutral industry platform and the expansion of members.”

The move was welcomed by industry partners, including Ivan Arriagada, CEO of Antofagasta Minerals: “We hope this collaboration and pilot will give us practical examples of how blockchain can increase efficiency of the supply chain management and improve interoperability; address certain supply chain management risks such as transparency and consumer trust; and unlock opportunities including integration of key data such on environmental impact such carbon emissions.”

Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group, meanwhile, said the collaboration around blockchain technology would help industry efforts to enhance responsible sourcing. “By working together, our goal is to develop solutions that can be adopted across the industry and value chain,” he added.

Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore, said the development of this technology can facilitate industry reporting to improve compliance across the supply chain.

TV Narendran, CEO of Tata Steel, said: “As a responsible player in the mining and metals industry, we are committed to build a sustainable future.”

Jim Duffy, CEO of Tracr (representing Anglo American/De Beers), said the company looked forward to collaborating with the consortium as Tracr begins to roll-out its connected supply chain platform for the diamond industry. “Lessons learned creating Tracr are highly relevant to the sustainable sourcing of all mining and metals,” he added.

ALE powers up De Beers offshore diamond mining vessel

De Beers recently turned to ALE to replace two engines on its Debmar Pacific mining vessel, in use at its offshore diamond operations in Namibia.

Since 2002, diamond mining operations in Namibia have taken place in larger volume offshore than onshore, as gemstones washed into the Atlantic Ocean over millions of years are dredged and processed. It’s an expanding market, generating over a 100 Mct/y, according to ALE.

When, as part of routine maintenance operations the Debmar Pacific mining vessel required removal and replacement of two engines, De Beers turned to ALE to ensure a swift and efficient job, the company said.

The company said: “As time in port at Cape Town was limited to just a few weeks, several other similar procedures were taking place at the same time, meaning this work had to take place under strict space limitations.”

Prior to the lift operation, ALE installed two custom-designed gantries on either side of the vessel parallel with the floor of its engine rooms. These gantries were enlarged at the client’s request, in order to provide better access to the engines, ALE said.

Each engine was then jacked-up to a height of around 1 m, using four 60 t jacks. A medium skid track measuring 25 m was then laid, from a position underneath the engine to the custom-designed gantry at the vessel’s exterior.

Each 38 t GE engine was then skidded the length of this track, where it was uplifted using a 400 t crawler crane and set down in a nearby storage area, ALE said. This procedure was completed in reverse in order to install both 80 t Wartsilla engines.

The company said: “ALE needed to liaise with several onsite authorities and contractors during the project, in particular during the construction of both access gantries. Having executed a large number of vessel upgrade procedures in the past, ALE was well-placed to advise on the lift procedure that would deliver the best value whilst upholding the highest standards of safety.”

The Debmar Pacific was built in 1977 and converted into a mining vessel during 1997. It will return to active service mining gemstones 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, once all maintenance operations on it are completed.

Drones continue to make mining activities safer, Anglo American says

Anglo American, in its 2018 annual report, says its use of drones for safety, surveying and security is continuing to expand as it looks to remote-control more of its mining activities.

The company has used drones attached to manned aerial-reconnaissance planes for many years and, today, considers itself an industry leader when it comes to drone use.

Anglo said it has an expanding fleet of drones, from fixed-wing aircraft to quadcopters, with about 50 skilled operators and another 30 people working in drone maintenance across the group. This is spread across its platinum group metal operations in South Africa, the Kumba iron ore mines (also in South Africa), and at De Beers diamond asset sites in Canada, Namibia and South Africa.

“Drones are an important part of our drive to remote-control many of our mining activities while gathering enhanced data and real-time operational performance metrics,” Anglo said. “They provide rapid visual access and multiple views, with smaller drones being used to inspect confined spaces on mines and in processing plants, while bigger aircraft are able to fly at night and stay aloft for up to eight hours.”

Drones are being used in varied tasks such as exploration, mine mapping and calculating the volume of stockpiles, Anglo said, adding that they are proving to be cost effective.

“The deployment of drones is assisting in making our activities safer. Crucially, their use avoids the need for people in potentially hazardous areas,” the company said.

Drones are now being used to inspect and monitor high-risk areas, including stockpiles, mine slopes, ore passes, tailings dams and chemical-storage facilities, Anglo said. They can check for the presence of personnel in a blast area, and measure fragmentation or the direction of dust movement after a blast. By employing them in such applications, it removes the possibility of Anglo personnel entering dangerous areas.

Other applications the company is using them on include traffic management at operations, as well as monitoring rehabilitation activity, including in areas where it can be difficult and risky for people on the ground to gain access.

Frans Kruger, Anglo American’s Global Aviation Safety Principal, said: “Drones increase our safety and efficiency, and they let us take human beings out of potentially dangerous environments.”

Anglo concluded: “Drone technology is evolving fast and, as a responsible operator, we are working closely with other drone operators and South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority, for example, to develop appropriate standards, while also serving with other mining companies on the technical advisory committee of the Flight Safety Foundation.”

De Beers to add Chidliak project to growing Canada diamond base

De Beers has signed a pact to acquire Vancouver-based junior Peregrine Diamonds as the major looks to expand its Canadian business with the addition of the Chidliak project in Nunavut.

The C$107 million deal has been unanimously recommended by Peregrine’s board of directors to Peregrine shareholders with some 44 % of investors already agreeing to vote ‘for’ the transaction.

The Chidliak resource was discovered in 2008 and is located around 120 km northeast of Iqaluit, Baffin Island. A total of 74 kimberlite pipes have been identified, including the CH-6 and CH-7 pipes, which are the current focus of Peregrine’s Chidliak phase one development programme. This programme has an inferred resource in excess of 22 million carats.

Peregrine’s recent Chidliak preliminary economic assessment pointed to the high quality of the CH-6 deposit, in particular, according to De Beers.

“An estimated grade of 2.41 carats per tonne and a diamond valuation of US$151 per carat (equating to approximately US$360 per tonne) make CH-6 one of the most attractive undeveloped diamond resources in Canada,” De Beers said.

Peregrine also has exploration properties in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers Group, said: “The Chidliak resource holds significant development potential and will be an exciting addition to our portfolio.”

A strong outlook for consumer demand is leading the company to look at opportunities to invest in its future supply potential and boost its Canada portfolio, he added.

Kim Truter, CEO of De Beers Canada, said: “With the transformation of our company in Canada over the past two years, our focused investment in new and innovative mining methods, and our expertise in Canada’s arctic environments, we believe we are very well positioned to now develop the resource further.”

De Beers already operates the Gahcho Kué diamond mine in the NWT, which started commerical production last year and is expected to produce 54 million carats of rough diamonds over its lifetime.

The company, also, in March, signed an agreement with Mountain Province Diamonds (MPD) to incorporate all of properties owned by Kennady Diamonds – and purchased by MPD via a takeover of Kennady –into the Gahcho Kué joint venture, currently owned 51:49 by De Beers and MPD.

Completion of the deal is expected in September, subject to several conditions.