Tag Archives: decarbonisation

Wiluna Mining lays renewable energy groundwork with Contract Power extension

Wiluna Mining Corp has signed a 10-year contract extension with Contract Power Group that will see the power provider charge up the Wiluna Mining Operation in Western Australia until at least 2031.

The contract is geared towards meeting the forward needs of the Stage 1 development project at Wiluna, to provide a total rated power output of the power station of 14.1 MW. It will also re-configure the power station to increase gas generation and add a 2 MW battery energy storage unit to significantly reduce the need for back-up diesel generation, with four diesel generators being removed.

The new pact will also allow amortisation of costs over a longer period, therefore reducing Wiluna’s overall operating power charges; the company said.

And, when it comes to the Stage 2 development expansion project in 2023 at Wiluna, the contract will provide a solid base for a future mixed renewables power station, the company said.

Back in October, Wiluna Mining’s board gave the thumbs up to the Stage 1 development, which will see the company transition from its current production profile of producing 62,000 oz/y from mining free milling ore through the current 2.1 Mt/y carbon-in-leach processing facility, to initially producing 100,000-120,000 oz/y of gold and gold in concentrate. This will be implemented using the current, recently refurbished crushing circuit, the previously expanded mill circuit and a new 750,000 t/y concentrator by October 2021, the company said.

Wiluna then intends to increase production of gold and gold in concentrate by, at a minimum, doubling the mining rate and the concentrator to produce circa-250,000 oz/y by the end of 2023/early 2024 as part of Stage 2.

Contract Power, a subsidiary of Pacific Energy, has provided Wiluna’s power – a mix of natural gas and diesel power backup – since June 2016.

“Contract Power Group are experts in efficient generation of electrical power and in decarbonisation by harnessing off-grid wind or solar power,” Wiluna said. “Wiluna are refining its plans with Contract Power Group to include decarbonisation within our methods of power generation at site. This may also moderate our exposure to future volatility in the cost of hydrocarbon fuels.”

Wiluna will now focus on renewable power studies and options during 2021 and 2022 to:

  • Assess the right mix of renewables including solar, wind or pumped storage options;
  • Determine how best to integrate renewables into the total power delivery for an expanded operation; and
  • Optimise the decarbonisation of power generation with reliability and cost effectiveness.

Milan Jerkovic, Wiluna Mining’s Executive Chair, said: “We look forward to working with Contract Power to not only transitioning the Wiluna Mine once again into one of Australia’s biggest and most profitable gold mines, but to helping it become one of Australia’s cleanest mines.”

EY addresses Americas mining and metals company needs with new Centre of Excellence

EY Canada has announced the launch of an EY Americas Mining and Metals Centre of Excellence that, it says, will offer companies across the Americas access to cutting-edge services and innovation-led solutions that meet the most pressing needs of mining and metals businesses, today and in the future.

“Post-COVID-19 investments in infrastructure, combined with demand to sustain the energy transition, will drive significant growth in the mining and metals sector over the next three to five years,” Theo Yameogo, EY Americas Mining and Metals Leader and the man leading the centre’s charge, said. “But capitalising on these opportunities is going to require a major pivot – and we want to be there to support companies as they navigate the path forward. While working cross-collaboratively with our colleagues in the Americas to combine our business and technical expertise with emerging technologies, the centre will ground us under one unified vision to help companies drive meaningful and long-term growth.”

Powered by EY wavespaceTM, the centre’s integrated, business-led and technology-enabled approach will, EY says, support the growth ambitions of mining and metals companies by focusing on four key areas:

  • Technical expertise: bringing advanced knowledge and understanding of the unique business landscape, including reserves and resources, mine planning and tailings management;
  • Digital transformation: connecting the dots to link investments to value realisation through strategic roadmaps, prioritisation of initiatives and disciplined execution;
  • Operations management: improving efficiency and productivity in operations through data-driven diagnostics, culture uplift and integrated planning and execution; and
  • Decarbonisation and ESG: supporting adoption of carbon footprint analytics, greater energy optimisation and increased health and safety.

Jad Shimaly, EY Canada Chairman and CEO, said: “The mining and metals industry is an integral part of our Canadian fabric, and is poised to be an increasing contributor to job and economic recovery moving forward.

“We’re excited the centre will allow us to play a role in enabling Canada’s journey in the energy transition, while supporting mining and metals companies as they look to develop innovative and sustainable solutions that deliver long-term value for stakeholders.”

The first Americas Mining and Metals Centre of Excellence will be hosted in Canada, with an additional location operating in Latin America later this year, according to the company.

OZ Minerals partners with Unearthed to encourage hydrogen innovations for mining

OZ Minerals has partnered with Unearthed to encourage innovators to come up with safe ways of applying hydrogen in the mining value chain and help decarbonise its operations.

Hydrogen Hypothesis is a Think & Act Differently™ (TAD) initiative powered by OZ Minerals, the companies said. It is underlined by the miner’s strategic aspiration to eliminate Scope 1 emissions and strive to systematically reduce Scope 2 and 3 emissions across its value chain.

OZ Minerals explained: “The use of hydrogen as a green, low carbon energy source is one of the most widely explored subjects on the planet today. In our journey towards zero carbon emissions, OZ Minerals recognises the importance of hydrogen and we want to better understand the potential uses cases.”

This challenge invites innovators from inside and outside the mining sector, across the globe to propose safe experiments to demonstrate the role hydrogen could play in the mining value chain and help OZ Minerals learn how it can support a transition to low carbon emission operations, OZ Minerals said.

The challenge, open to companies, teams and individuals from any industry including mining, energy, aerospace, transportation and others, is looking for mature or early-stage hydrogen technologies and concepts that can be applied to mining.

Launched today, it has a final submission deadline of May 28.

OZ Minerals’ TAD incubator is a process and ecosystem designed to facilitate novel and challenging ideas that will accelerate the implementation of its strategy, the miner said.

“Our challenges are focused on themes aligned with our aspirations, namely Clean Products, Energy & Emissions, Waste & Water, Scalable & Adaptable Assets and Data & Technology,” it said. “The TAD process involves framing opportunities, diverging in our thinking to generate ideas, converging on experiments that we can use to test the best ideas, and then accelerating these experiments by providing funding, access to sites and support in developing ideas.”

As the challenge closes, select teams will be invited to participate in the TAD incubator’s Convergence and Accelerator phases, with the latter expected to run from June 28 onwards.

The Axora take on crushing and comminution

As we are continually told, comminution is one of the most energy intensive single steps in the resource extraction business.

One estimate is that it accounts for 36% of all the energy used in the extraction of copper and gold, which is only a shade over the 30% proposed as an average by another industry expert for all mining and mineral processing industries.

It also accounts for an estimated 3% of the global energy requirement for metal production.

These energy requirements are shocking from a sustainability and greenhouse gas emission perspective; they are also extremely costly regarding operating expenses on site.

It is with this in mind that IM touched base with Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director of Mining at Axora.

A spinoff from the Boston Consulting Group, Axora has emerged as a business-to-business digital solutions marketplace and community for industrial innovators. It says it allows industrial companies to discover, buy and sell digital innovations and share knowledge in its community, powered by an advanced marketplace.

“We exist to transform industries to be digital, safer, more sustainable and efficient,” the company states on its website.

Having recently gone to press with the annual crushing and comminution feature (to be published in the IM April 2021 issue), IM spoke with Carr to find out what the Axora marketplace has to offer on the comminution and crushing front.

IM: What are the main issues/concerns you continuously hear from your mining clients when it comes to designing and maintaining comminution circuits? How many of these problems/issues can already be solved with existing technology/solutions?

JC: One of key issues in this area we hear from our customers at Axora is the blending quality of the input ores.

Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director of Mining at Axora

This could be particularly relevant in the sulphide space, for instance.

I did some work years ago on Pueblo Viejo for Barrick. When I was there, one of the things we were working on was blending the sulphides as we were feeding the mill from numerous satellite pits with very different sulphide grades. Because we were processing the ore with an autoclave, high-grade sulphides would cause a temperature spike and the low-grade sulphides would lower the temperature. This constant yo-yoing of the feed into the autoclave was terrible for the recovery of metals against the plan.

Generally, the old school way of blending is setting up stockpiles of ore based on whatever variable you want to manage at your operation. You would put a defined amount of each into the primary crusher on the understanding this would create a ‘blended’ feed for the processing plant.

With the information we have at our fingertips today, this process seems outdated.

You could, for example, use HoloLens or another VR system in tandem with the shovel operator to be able to see exactly what material he or she is excavating. That can then be linked back to the geological block model, with this material then tracked in the trucks and onto the run of mine stockpile, before heading to the plant.

This is where something like Machine Max comes in. Machine Max is a bolt-on IoT sensor that tracks where your trucks are in real time – where they have been and where they are going. The processing piece requires block model integration into a mine plan system. If you have the building blocks in place – the networking, sensors, additional infrastructure, etc – Machine Max could, when integrated with this model, allow you to attempt real-time ore tracking.

“If you have the building blocks in place…Machine Max could, when integrated with this geological block model, allow you to attempt real-time ore tracking,” Joe Carr says

The issue is not that the technology doesn’t exist, but that the mining industry hasn’t yet cracked putting all of this together at an industry-wide scale, available to all miners.

You can carry out a project like this or go totally the other way and have a machine-learning or artificial intelligence algorithm in the plant that is constantly reading the incoming feed. These could be based around the block model inputs, or a digital XRF solution, which is able to constantly tweak or adjust the plant settings to the feed specifications. Process plants are generally setup to handle one type of feed. This is usually only tweaked in retrospect or for short periods of time when the mine plan moves into a different mining horizon.

We also have a comminution solution that understands the feed coming in and optimises the mill and power settings to get the optimal grind for flotation, maximising recovery at the back end. While the input is typically set up to be grind quality and hardness for optimal flotation, there is no reason why you couldn’t configure it for, say, sulphides going into an autoclave, tweaking the autoclave heat settings dependent on the feed.

Once that system is set up, it becomes a self-learning algorithm.

Saving operational costs is another pain point for mining companies we always hear about.

We have a solution on our marketplace from Opex Group, which is looking to optimise production while reducing power. Coming from the oil & gas space, this AI algorithm, X-PAS™, offers the operator an opportunity to adjust the settings while still achieving the same required outputs. This is tied to CO2 reduction, as well as power cost reductions.

Opex Group’s AI algorithm, X-PAS, offers the operator an opportunity to adjust the plant settings while still achieving the same required outputs

In mining, the plant is your largest drawer of power, hands down. Generally, if it is not powered on the grid, it is powered by diesel. Opex Group’s solution can save up to 10% of power, which is a significant amount of fuel and CO2.

The solution reads information from your pumps and motors, analyses the planned output of your plant using all the sensor feeds, and tweaks the variables while sustaining the required output. The algorithm slowly learns how you can change configurations to reduce power, while sustaining throughput. This results in lower power costs, without impacting the output.

Importantly, instead of automating the process, it offers the saving to the operator sat in the control room. Operators, in general, are incredibly reluctant to pass over control to an AI algorithm, but when faced with such power saving opportunities, they will often elect to accept such a change.

And, of course, plant maintenance is always on the agenda.

This is where Senseye, which has been used in the car industry by Nissan and the aluminium sector by Alcoa, is useful.

Essentially, this provides predictive maintenance analytics. It is also a no-risk solution with Senseye backed by an insurance guarantee. It is sold on the basis that if you do not earn your money back within the first 12 months, you get an insurance-backed refund.

There could also be openings in the plant for Razor Labs’ predictive maintenance solution, which is currently increasing the uptime of stackers, reclaimers and car dumpers for iron ore miners in the Pilbara.

IM: When it comes to future comminution equipment design, do you expect digitalisation, wear liner innovations, or equipment design to have more of a bearing on operational improvements at mine sites? Phrased another way; is more emphasis being given to refining and extending the life of existing products with digital technologies and wear solutions, than the design of brand-new equipment?

JC: We believe there is always going to be a focus on retrofit and extensions. Once a mill is built, changing the equipment, upgrading, etc is very hard and time consuming. The logistics of getting a new SAG mill to site, for example, are mind boggling. New technology will always come for new sites, but most of the world’s mining capacity is already in place. I would expect most digitalisation to focus on two areas:

  1. Getting more and longer life from all the assets. For example, extending liner life, reducing operating costs and shortening downtime between refits; and
  2. Drawing insights from the existing asset with a view to sweating it. No mill ever stays at nameplate; there is always an increase in production. One or two percent more throughput can put millions onto the bottom line of a company. No mill wants to be a bottleneck in the cycle. In a mine there are always two goals: the mine wants to produce as much ore as possible to put the pressure on the mill, and the mill wants to run as fast as possible to put pressure on the mine.

When it comes to extending liner life, we have a solution worth looking at.

One of the companies we work with out of Australia has an IIoT sensor all tied to wear and liner plates. It is a sensor that is embedded into a wear plate and wears at the same time as the wear plate itself wears. It provides this feedback in real time.

So, instead of the standard routine changeout, it gives you real-time knowledge of what it is happening to these wear parts.

We have a great case study from Glencore where they installed the sensors for around A$200,000 ($152,220) and it saved several million dollars. The payback period was just weeks.

Where I want to take it to the next level is pairing the wear plate monitoring technology on chutes and ore bins and looking into SAG mills and crushers. Relining your SAG mill or primary gyratory crusher is a massive job, which takes a lot of time and cuts your productivity and output by a huge amount. Wear plates are made as consumables, so if you can use 5% less over the space of a year, for instance, there are huge cost and sustainability benefits. You can also more accurately schedule in maintenance, as opposed to reacting to problems or sticking to a set routine.

IM: When compared with the rest of the mine site, how well ‘connected’ is the comminution line? For instance, are gyratory crushers regularly receiving particle size distribution info for the material about to be fed into it so they can ‘tailor’ their operations to the properties of the incoming feed?

JC: Generally, not really. The newer, better financed operations tend to have this. Taking the example above, when designing a plant flowsheet, the close side settings are used. But are they updated on the fly to optimise the plant? Not really. Most processes are designed with a set number of conditions to operate at their maximum.

Most plants dislike, and are not set up to handle, variation in their system, according to Carr

Most plants dislike, and are not set up to handle, variation in their system. They like consistent feed quality and grade to achieve maximum recoveries. Over the next few years, the companies that develop the best machine learning or AI models to run plants in a more real time, reactive way will see the biggest growth. A mill will always say it’s the mine that needs to be consistent, but the nature of geology means that you can never rely on this. As one geologist I knew said, “geology, she is a fickle mistress”.

IM: Where within the comminution section of the process flowsheet do you see most opportunity to achieve mining company sustainability and emission goals related to energy reductions, water use and emissions?

JC: In terms of emissions, at Axora we are actively looking at technology that can help across the entire plant. There was a great paper published in 2016 around this specific topic ‘Energy Consumption in Mining Comminution’ (J Jeswiet & A Szekeres). The authors found that the average mine used 21 kWh per tonne of ore processed. Given diesel produces 270 g per kWh, this means a plant produces 5.6 kg of CO2 per tonne of ore processed, on average. For a 90,000 t/day site, this might represent 510 t of CO2 per day (186,000 t/y), just for processing. To put that into context, you would need 9.3 million trees to offset that level of carbon.

If the industry is serious about lowering its carbon footprint, especially Scope 1 and 2 emissions, then the focus has to come into the process. There are easy wins available from proven solutions in other sectors for companies that want to take them.

Rio Tinto investigates Heliogen’s AI-backed solar technology to decarbonise Boron ops

Rio Tinto and renewable energy technology company, Heliogen, have announced an agreement to explore the deployment of Heliogen’s solar technology at Rio Tinto’s borates mine in Boron, California.

Under a memorandum of understanding, Heliogen will deploy its proprietary, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology at the Boron operation, where it will use heat from the sun to generate and store carbon-free energy to power the mine’s industrial processes.

The two companies will begin detailed planning and securing government permits for the project, with the aim of starting operations from 2022. They will also use the Boron installation to begin exploring the potential for deployments of Heliogen’s technology at Rio Tinto’s other operations around the world to supply process heat, which accounted for 14% of Scope 1 & 2 emissions from the group’s managed operations in 2020.

Heliogen’s high-temperature solar technology is designed to cost-effectively replace fossil fuels with sunlight for a range of industrial processes, including those used in mining. At Rio Tinto’s Boron mine, the company’s proprietary technology will use AI to control a network of mirrors that concentrate sunlight to capture energy used to make steam, the companies said. Heliogen’s system will also store the captured energy in the form of heat, allowing it to power night-time operations and provide the same uninterrupted energy stream offered by legacy fuels.

The Boron operation mines and refines borates into products ranging from fertilisers to construction materials and is producing lithium carbonate from a demonstration plant. The site currently generates steam using a natural gas co-generation plant and natural gas fired boilers. Heliogen’s installation will supplement these energy sources by generating up to 35,000 pounds per hour (15.9 t/h) of steam to power operations, with the potential to reduce carbon emissions at the Boron site by around 7% – equivalent to taking more than 5,000 cars off the road. Rio Tinto will also be assessing the potential for larger scale use of the Heliogen technology at Boron to reduce the site’s carbon footprint by up to 24%.

Heliogen’s mission of slashing global carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels with sunlight, as well as its focus on industrial sectors, made it an ideal partner for Rio Tinto, which is committed to decarbonising its global operations, it said.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jakob Stausholm, said: “This partnership with Heliogen has the potential to significantly reduce our emissions at Boron by using this ground-breaking solar technology, and we look forward to exploring opportunities across our global portfolio.

“Addressing climate change effectively will require businesses, governments and society to work together through partnerships like this one, to explore innovative new solutions throughout the entire value chain. Our work with Heliogen is part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to spend approximately $1 billion on emissions reduction initiatives through to 2025 and our commitment to work with world-leading technology providers to achieve this goal.”

Heliogen CEO and Founder, Bill Gross, said: “Since its founding, Heliogen has been laser-focused on decarbonising industrial sectors, including mining. As a result, this agreement with Rio Tinto is incredibly gratifying.

“We’re pleased to find a partner committed to cutting its contributions to climate change. We’re also pleased that Rio Tinto is exploring our technology to play an important role in helping reach its sustainability goals while dramatically reducing its energy costs. More broadly, we’re excited to take this important step as we pursue Heliogen’s goal of avoiding more than 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions – 5% of the world’s annual total – from the global economy by turning sunlight into an industrial energy source.”

Nickel 28 claims industry ‘first’ carbon neutral status

Nickel 28 Capital Corp has become what it believes is the first carbon neutral refined nickel-cobalt producer in the world through a transaction involving the purchase of 52,500 carbon offsets on the Verra Registry.

The carbon offsets will, it says, fully offset Nickel 28’s anticipated 2021 attributable greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Ramu integrated nickel-cobalt mine and refinery in Papua New Guinea (pictured), an asset it owns 8.56% of.

Anthony Milewski, Chairman of Nickel 28, said: “We are incredibly excited to be one of the first, if not the first, producers of refined nickel and cobalt in the world to fully offset its carbon footprint.

“We feel strongly that each of us has an obligation to do our part personally and professionally to help stave off the negative impacts of climate change. As the world pivots to electric vehicles and other means of decarbonisation, it is imperative that the critical basic materials fuelling the transition have the minimum possible impact on the environment.”

On February 9, Nickel 28 announced it had completed an independent analysis on GHG intensity for the Ramu nickel-cobalt operation, confirming the operation is one of the lower GHG emitters in the nickel industry. Ramu’s average GHG intensity has been calculated at 15.6 t of carbon dioxide equivalent per tonne of nickel (15.6 tCO2e/t Ni) in mixed hydroxide product. This compared favourably with a nickel industry average GHG intensity of 36.6 tCO2e/t Ni as calculated by Wood Mackenzie, Nickel 28 said.

The company says it will continue to introduce greater environmental, social and governance transparency with respect to its assets in response to investor and industry trends.

“In addition to GHG emission reporting, Nickel 28 will be providing further clarity with respect to other key measures such as health and safety statistics, community investment, energy and water usage, rehabilitation, and land reclamation,” it said.

Nickel 28 currently holds an 8.56% joint-venture interest in the Ramu operation, with Ramu operated by the Metallurgical Corporation of China, which, along with its partners, owns an 85% interest in Ramu.

Ramu produced 33,659 t of contained nickel in mixed hydroxide product in 2020, compared with 32,722 t in 2019.

BHP, JFE Steel to scrutinise Australian steel raw materials emissions in latest study

BHP has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with leading Japanese steel producer, JFE Steel, to jointly study technologies and pathways capable of making material reductions to greenhouse gas emissions from the integrated steelmaking process.

BHP is prepared to invest up to $15 million over the five-year partnership, which, it says, builds on the strong history of technical research and collaboration between the two companies.

The company’s investment will be funded under its $400 million Climate Investment Program, set up in 2019 to coordinate and prioritise projects, partnerships, R&D and venture investments to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, invest in offsets and support development of technologies with the highest potential to impact change.

The JFE-BHP partnership will focus on the role of Australian raw materials to help to increase efficiency and reduce emissions from the blast furnace and direct reduced iron (DRI) steelmaking routes, it said. The partnership intends to study the properties of raw materials, with focus on specific areas such as iron ore pre-treatment, use of enhanced iron ore lump, high quality coke and DRI, required to decrease iron and steelmaking emissions and support a transition to a low carbon future. Throughout the collaboration, the two companies will also share knowledge on reducing carbon emissions across the steel value chain.

This JFE-BHP partnership follows other BHP investments to support the reduction of value chain emissions, including up to $35 million for the collaboration with China’s largest steelmaker, China Baowu, and awarding BHP’s first LNG-fuelled Newcastlemax bulk carriers contract, with the aim to reduce CO2-e emissions by 30% per voyage.

BHP’s Chief Commercial Officer, Vandita Pant, said: “This partnership with JFE demonstrates a joint commitment to make our activities more sustainable through collaboration and technological improvement. This work will support and help progress Japan’s carbon neutral ambitions by 2050.”

As outlined in BHP’s decarbonisation framework, the steel industry is expected to move through stages of optimisation and transition for the existing integrated steelmaking route before reaching an end state of low or no carbon intensity.

“Our investments are focused on actions that can create real change, and we continue to take positive steps on our climate agenda and in collaborating with others to help reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals,” Pant said.

JFE’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Yoshihisa Kitano, said: “We understand that raw material processing technology is extremely important in the research and development towards carbon neutrality. We have a long history working closely together with BHP collaborating to study raw material utilisation technology and mine development. It is very significant for us to be able to work together with BHP towards reduction of CO2 emissions, which is an extremely important agenda for the steel making sector.”

Vale after ‘change agents’ to solve decarbonisation, circular economy, H&S challenges

Vale is teaming up with the MIT Professional Education, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, SENAI CIMATEC and start-up accelerator The Bakery to help solve challenges related to decarbonisation, the circular economy, and health and safety.

The MINE (Mining Innovation for a New Environment) program is offering 30 professionals the opportunity to help develop and build the future of mining – safer, more sustainable, and more efficient – through open innovation, Vale said.

Applications for the MINE Program 2.0 edition are being accepted from February 5.

“The MINE Program seeks to solve Vale’s strategic problems, develop people and generate a positive impact on society,” it said. “For nine months, between April and December, participants will develop solutions to solve 10 current challenges of the company in the areas of decarbonisation, circular economy, and health and safety.”

These topics were chosen due to their importance to Vale’s strategy of being recognised as a reference in safety, a leader in low-carbon mining and a company that creates and shares value. Fostering development in these fields has the potential to generate a positive impact for society, as they are relevant for everyone and not just for the company, Vale said.

Alexandre Salomão, Manager of PowerShift, a decarbonisation program at Vale, said: “MINE Program was designed to make us rethink the way we work, combining talent, technology and knowledge to solve the biggest mining challenges.”

Marcos Calderon, from Vale’s Open Innovation team, added: “Our goal is to invite the external public to contribute to overcoming global obstacles, forming agents of change capable of helping us to build the mining of the future.”

Vale is responsible for selecting the challenges, mentoring and technical monitoring of the proposed solutions, opening its operations to collaboration from external participants and financing scholarships. Faculty and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed and developed the program content; SENAI CIMATEC will support and tutor the participants, while the Bakery will be responsible for accelerating the challenges.

To apply for the program it is necessary to have an agile and entrepreneurial mindset, technical knowledge in the area of the challenge, be fluent in English and have a college degree in any subject, Vale said.

“The program is looking for innovative people who know how to work collaboratively to solve problems based on new ideas and approaches,” it added. “The participants must not have any employment commitments, since they will be receiving scholarships in order to be dedicated exclusively to the program.”

The first edition of the MINE Program (pictured before the COVID-19 pandemic) was held between November 2019 and June 2020. Ten challenges were solved in the areas of digital transformation and decarbonisation. Solutions that prove to be viable in the 2.0 edition may be implemented in Vale’s operation.

Fortescue’s Forrest opens up about iron ore miner’s ‘green steel’ ambitions

Fortescue Metals Group Chairman and founder, Dr Andrew Forrest (pictured), has revealed the iron ore miner has plans to build Australia’s first “green steel” pilot plant this year.

A commercial plant, powered entirely by wind and solar, could be constructed in the next few years he said in the first Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Boyer Lecture for 2021, entitled: ‘Oil vs Water: Confessions of a Carbon Emitter’.

In a wide-ranging talk, he acknowledge that Fortescue was trialling both known methods of making “zero-carbon-steel” without the use of coal in Australia: replacing coal in the furnace with ‘green hydrogen’ and adding carbon separately to strengthen the steel, and “zap[ping] the ore with renewable electricity”.

On the development of such an industry, Forrest said: “We could look at losing our coal industry as a national disaster – yet, I’ve always believed, out of every setback, is the seed of equal or greater opportunity.

“We produce over 40% of the world’s iron ore. And our potential green energy and hydrogen resources are immeasurable.

“If Australia were to capture just 10% of the world’s steel market, we could generate well over 40,000 jobs – more than what’s required to replace every job in the coal industry.”

Fortescue, through its Fortescue Future Industries company, has been signing agreements to leverage hydro-electric power and geothermal energy to become one of the “world’s largest green energy and product businesses”, Forrest said.

“We’re now undertaking feasibility studies that could lead to some 300 GW of power – more than four times what Australia can produce,” he explained.

Forrest also mentioned some of the decarbonisation work Fortescue is currently working on.

Back in December, Fortescue Chief Operating Officer, Greg Lilleyman, announced the company was working on developing an in-house, non-diesel 240 t haul truck prototype that will test both battery-electric and fuel-cell electric drivetrain technology in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

Seemingly referencing this project, Forrest said: “By the end of the decade, our trucks will run on renewable energy. Imagine that: a fleet of vehicles that produces nothing more than steam as exhaust.”

He also said the company was aiming to develop “green iron ore trains” powered by either renewable electricity or “green ammonia”.

Looking at the company’s shipping operations, he said 2021 would see the company “begin to settle designs” that allow its ships to run on “zero-pollution, green ammonia”.

He added: “And we’re willing to share that knowledge, to help our competitors go green too – including Vale, one of the largest mining companies in the world.”

Rio Tinto and Nippon Steel examine ways to decarbonise steel value chain

Rio Tinto and Nippon Steel Corp have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly explore, develop and demonstrate technologies to transition to a low-carbon emission steel value chain.

The two companies share a long history of working together, with the first shipment of iron ore from Australia to Japan coming from Rio’s Pilbara operations in 1966 and going to Yawata Works in Kitakyushu, now part of Nippon Steel.

With this MoU, Rio Tinto and Nippon Steel are looking to enhance this relationship by extending it into new areas in support of the shared goal of significantly reducing carbon emissions across the entire steel value chain, Rio said.

“Japan’s recent announcement of its commitment to realise a carbon-neutral society by 2050 has given Japanese companies even greater impetus to accelerate their decarbonisation activities,” the miner said. “The intent of this partnership is in line with Japan’s climate ambition.”

The purpose of this partnership is to explore a breadth of technologies for decarbonisation of the entire steel value chain from iron ore mining to steelmaking, including integrating Rio Tinto’s iron ore processing technology and Nippon Steel’s steelmaking technology to establish an innovative steel manufacturing process with low carbon emissions, according to Rio.

The partners have agreed on a partnership model in line with the long-term and complex nature of the transition to carbon neutrality for the steel industry. This model allows the partners to take a long-term view to enable the pursuit of new and promising technologies as the global steel transition evolves, Rio explained.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jean-Sebastien Jacques, said: “One of Rio Tinto’s four pillars in addressing climate change is to partner with customers to reduce the carbon footprint across our value chain. Nippon Steel has been an important partner for our business with a very long history and we are delighted to be able to extend our partnership to work together to reduce carbon emissions across the steel value chain.”

Eiji Hashimoto, Representative Director and President of Nippon Steel Corporation, said: “To further advance toward realising our ambitious vision on decarbonisation, we began examining our CO2 reduction scenarios that had set goals for 2030 and 2050. Rio Tinto and our company have had a long and deep trusting relationship, and we are pleased to start this partnership on the basis of that trust. We are confident that it will be a powerful lever for our company to realise the ambitious vision of decarbonisation.”