Tag Archives: DRC

FLSmidth high density thickeners optimise recoveries at DRC copper-cobalt mine

FLSmidth says it has delivered a thickener solution to help double production rates at one of the world’s largest copper and cobalt producers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The order for the solution, which included six of FLSmidth’s high density thickeners, was placed in 2020, with delivery now completed.

The mine already had FLSmidth thickeners on site, with the company’s proposal for the mine’s expanded requirements  based on test work to confirm the characteristics of the material to be treated, according to FLSmidth General Manager Projects and Account Sales, Howard Areington.

“The tests confirmed that we could use a similar design to what we had installed on the mine some years previously,” he says. “This solution included six counter current decantation (CCD) thickeners and one pre-leach thickener, each measuring 31 m in diameter.”

These units deliver high solids underflow to optimise the recovery of dissolved metals, according to FLSmidth. In addition to the steeper floor slope, these thickeners were designed with a high torque ring gear drive design, with high tolerances that make for minimal maintenance over long periods of time, the company says.

“Our high density thickener design ensures consistently high underflow densities which allows the operator to sustain high production rates and better recoveries,” Areington says.

These CCD thickeners are manufactured from LDX2101 duplex stainless steel. This provides mechanical benefits without compromising chemical resistance, allowing the mass of each unit to be reduced, the company explained. The pre-leach thickener, which was not exposed to corrosive conditions, is constructed from carbon steel.

“We also designed and supplied five impurities removal thickeners, which are high rate thickeners, also in LDX2101 stainless steel,” Areington says. “The sizes of these units ranged from 20 to 30 m in diameter.”

Fabrication of the equipment was carried out in South Africa while accommodating the demands of the COVID-19 lockdown, which required careful planning and flexibility. With components and platework delivered to site, the welding and construction was conducted by the mine with installation assistance from FLSmidth and its agent in the region.

SRK Consulting helps DRC miner with social development ‘first’

A large mining company in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has – with assistance from SRK Consulting Congo – become the first to have its Cahier de Charge (Social Term Sheet) approved, the mining consultant says.

Regulations introduced in the DRC in 2018 require mines to set out a clear and financially-provisioned five-year plan for local social development – a Cahier de Charge – in consultation with local communities and stakeholders. According to Susa Maleba, Country Manager at SRK Consulting Congo, the key aspect of the new requirement was that effective consultation be conducted.

“Mines generally have community development plans but these are often designed by the mine, which historically had little formalised input from local communities or other stakeholders,” said Maleba. “This compulsory consultative process – as part of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment – ensures that mine initiatives align with the real needs and preferences of those affected by the mine.”

The mining company contracted SRK Consulting Congo to work with its DRC mine on planning and implementing the consultation. This process began in 2018 and lasted four months. The final agreement between the communities and the company was signed off in March 2019.

Established a decade ago in Lubumbashi, the local SRK office appointed its stakeholder engagement specialist, Philippe Katuta, to guide the process.

Susa Maleba, Country Manager at SRK Consulting Congo

“As an experienced local expert who is well regarded by the mining communities, Phillipe supervised the process with the client – facilitating contact between the mine, three local communities, the ‘chefferies’ tribal structure and provincial government,” Maleba said.

He highlighted the importance of having the trust of all parties in the consultation, to ensure frank engagement and effective buy-in. This, in turn, helped ensure proper implementation of the agreed plan, so that the intended benefits would be achieved, according to SRK.

“Essential factors in the success of the process included our experience in stakeholder engagement and our local knowledge – from local language communication to the traditions and customs to be observed,” Maleba said. “Working with mining companies, we emphasise the social licence aspect of their strategy and operations – which prioritises close working relationships with partners, communities and government. It means applying the spirit – not just the letter – of the law.”

Among the social development imperatives highlighted by communities during the engagements were transformers to link with the country’s power grid, boreholes for access to water, agricultural extension programs and trade training for local youth.

Maleba acknowledged that it was seldom easy to balance the expectations of communities with the financial resources of the mining company, but this made the relationship of trust a vital foundation for collaboration.

He also noted that the new regulations provided for ongoing monitoring of mines’ community development plans – to ensure that what was promised was in fact delivered, in line with a predetermined schedule.

FLSmidth’s global thickener collaboration hits the right notes in Africa

The use of FLSmidth thickeners in African mining operations has continued to grow, supported by, the company says, global collaboration across the FLSmidth organisation’s offices in South Africa, China and the USA.

According to Alistair McKay, FLSmidth’s Vice President for Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, the company is set to deliver six substantial thickener contracts to mines in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2020. McKay highlights that Chinese companies have been driving much of the growth in the continent’s mining sector.

“In our work in Africa with Chinese customers, we have found that our Beijing office plays a valuable role in ensuring streamlined communication and efficiency,” he says. “This allows a constructive combination of our local knowledge with the ability of our Chinese colleagues to facilitate relationships with our customers in China.”

This differentiator has enhanced FLSmidth’s acknowledged leadership in thickener technology in the region. The company will deliver 25 new thickeners, including high rate, high density and counter-current decantation thickeners, in southern and central Africa this year.

“The design work for these contracts was conducted by FLSmidth’s centre of excellence in the USA,” McKay says. “Given our established local infrastructure and experience in this product range, the thickeners were cost-effectively manufactured in South Africa and China.”

While the fabrication and platework was completed using local skills, the FLSmidth on-site technical support presence to construct and commission the thickeners at Chinese-owned mines in the DRC will integrate staff from the Beijing office.

“This improved communication between FLSmidth and the customer has negated the risk of any misalignment that could slow the process down,” McKay says. “In fact, our Beijing office has become increasingly involved in the full delivery process, fulfilling the role of the project manager. This is significant as the building of relationships across east-west contracts becomes increasingly important.”

FLSmidth offers full-service capabilities in thickener technology, McKay says, starting with bench or pilot scale test work to characterise customers’ material. This informs the customer’s flowsheet and equipment selection and sizing, and the right technology application for cost-effective, optimised operation, the company says.

Protea Mining Chemicals develops world first copper-cobalt processing solution

Diversified chemicals group, Omnia Holdings, reports its Protea Mining Chemicals division has become the first in its field – globally – to develop a solution that helps copper and cobalt mines reduce product contamination (improving metal purity levels) and maximise throughput in the solvent extraction (SX) process.

This pioneering solution took six years to develop and was carried out in partnership with chemicals manufacturers and copper and cobalt mining customers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Omnia said.

“Finding safer, more efficient ways to extract valuable resources and enhance profitability continues to be a priority in the mining sector – which has been particularly constrained by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company said.

“This discovery will extend the life of copper and cobalt mines and assist profitability. Protea Mining Chemicals is working closely with other mines to replicate this success in other regions.”

Michael Smith, Managing Director at Protea Mining Chemicals (pictured), said: “Over the past few decades, many unsuccessful attempts have been made by mining houses, global chemical manufacturers, as well as SX equipment and process engineers to address this issue of contamination. Needless to say, this has been a very challenging journey and we are delighted by what we have been able to achieve.”

The news comes hot on the heels of Omnia’s BME breaking the South African record for the largest electronic detonator blast.

Latest Kamoa-Kakula copper studies reaffirm project’s world-class status

The latest economic studies on Ivanhoe Mines and Zijin Mining Group’s majority-owned Kamoa-Kakula project in the Democratic Republic of Congo have indicated the asset could become the world’s second largest copper mining complex.

First production at Kamoa-Kakula is less than a year away, but the project partners have continued with a series of economic studies that emphasise the world-class nature of the orebodies within their control.

The headline maker is the results of a preliminary economic assessment that has evaluated an integrated, multi-staged development to achieve a 19 Mt/y production rate at the mine, with peak annual copper production of more than 800,000 t.

At the same time, a prefeasibility study (PFS) has been carried out to look at mining 1.6 Mt/y from the Kansoko mine, in addition to 6 Mt/y already planned to be mined from Kakula, to fill a 7.6 Mt/y processing plant at Kakula.

A definitive feasibility study (DFS) has also evaluated the stage-one, 6 Mt/y plan at Kakula, which is currently being constructed and is less than a year away from producing first copper, according to Ivanhoe Co-Chair, Robert Friedland.

While the operation looks to have the scale of a world-class asset, it will also have top ranking ‘green’ credentials, according to Friedland.

“The Kakula mine has been designed to produce the world’s most environmentally-responsible copper, which is crucial for today’s new generation of environmentally- and socially-focused investors,” he said.

“Zijin shares our commitment to build the new mines at Kamoa-Kakula to industry-leading standards in terms of resource efficiency, water and energy usage, and minimising emissions. We are blessed with ultra-high copper grades in thick, shallow and flat-lying orebodies – allowing for large-scale, highly-productive, mechanised underground mining operations; and access to abundant clean, sustainable hydro electricity to power our mines – providing us with a distinct advantage in our goal to become the world’s ‘greenest’ copper miner and be among the world’s lowest greenhouse gas emitters per unit of copper produced.”

The project recently retained Hatch of Mississauga, Canada, to independently audit the greenhouse gas intensity metrics for the copper that will be produced at Kamoa-Kakula.

The Kamoa-Kakula Integrated Development Plan (IDP) 2020, as the companies refer to it, builds on the results of the previous studies announced in February 2019.

DFS to 6 Mt/y

The new DFS incorporates the advancement of development and construction activities to date, and has once again confirmed the outstanding economics of the first phase Kakula Mine, Ivanhoe said.

It evaluates the development of a stage one, 6 Mtpa underground mine and surface processing complex at the Kakula deposit with a capacity of 7.6 Mt/y, built in two modules of 3.8 Mt/y, with the first already under advanced construction (see photo). It comes with an internal rate of return of 77% and project payback period of 2.3 years.

The first module of 3.8 Mt/y commences production in the September quarter of 2021, and the second in the March quarter of 2023. The life-of-mine production scenario provides for 110 Mt to be mined at an average grade of 5.22% Cu, producing 8.5 Mt of high-grade copper concentrate.

The Kakula 2020 DFS mine access is via twin declines on the north side and a single decline on the south side of the deposit. One of the north declines will serve as the primary mine access, while the other decline is for the conveyor haulage system, which was recently commissioned.

The primary ore handling system will include a perimeter conveyor system connected to truck load-out points along the north side of the deposit. The perimeter conveyor system will terminate at the main conveyor decline.

The mining method for the Kakula deposit is primarily drift-and-fill using paste backfill (around 99%); with the exception of a room-and-pillar area close to the north declines, which will be mined in the early years of production. The paste backfill system will use a paste plant located on surface connected to a distribution system that includes a surface pipe network connected to bore holes located at each connection drive on the north side of the orebody, the company says.

The Kakula concentrator design incorporates a run-of-mine stockpile, followed by primary cone crushers operating in closed circuit with vibrating screens to produce 100% passing 50 mm material that is stockpiled.

At the end of August, the project’s pre-production surface ore stockpiles totalled an estimated 671,000 t grading 3.36% Cu, including 116,000 t of high-grade ore grading 6.08% Cu.

The crushed ore is fed to the high pressure grinding rolls operating in closed circuit with wet screening, at a product size of 80% (P80) passing 4.5 mm, which is gravity fed to the milling circuit.

The milling circuit incorporates two stages of ball milling in series in closed circuit with cyclone clusters for further size reduction and classification to a target grind size of 80% passing 53 micrometres (µm).

The milled slurry is pumped to the rougher and scavenger flotation circuit where the high-grade, or fast-floating rougher concentrate, and medium-grade, or slow-floating scavenger concentrate, are separated for further upgrading. The rougher concentrate is upgraded in the low entrainment high-grade cleaner stage to produce a high-grade concentrate.

The medium-grade or scavenger concentrate together with the tailings from the high-grade cleaner stage and the recycled scavenger recleaner tailings are combined and further upgraded in the scavenger cleaner circuit. The concentrate produced from the scavenger cleaner circuit, representing roughly 12% of the mill feed, is re-ground to a P80 of 10 µm prior to final cleaning in the low entrainment scavenger recleaner stage.

The scavenger recleaner concentrate is then combined with the high-grade cleaner concentrate to form final concentrate. The final concentrate is then thickened and pumped to the concentrate filter. Final filtered concentrate is then bagged for shipment to market.

The scavenger tailings and scavenger cleaner tailings are combined and thickened prior to being pumped to the backfill plant and/or to the tailings storage facility. Backfill will use approximately half of the tailings, with the remaining amount pumped to the tailings storage facility.

Based on extensive test work, the concentrator is expected to achieve an overall recovery of 85%, producing a very high-grade concentrate grading 57% copper. Kakula also benefits from having very low deleterious elements, including arsenic levels of 0.02%.

7.6 Mt/y PFS

The PFS evaluating mining 1.6 Mt/y from the Kansoko mine envisages an average annual production rate of 331,000 t of copper at a total cash cost of $1.23/lb copper for the first 10 years of operations, and annual copper production of up to 427,000 t by year four. This comes with an internal rate of return of 69% and project payback period of 2.5 years, according to Ivanhoe.

Development would see Kakula-Kansoko benefit from an ultra-high, average feed grade of 6.2% Cu over the first five years of operations, and 4.5% Cu on average over a 37-year mine life.

There are currently two mining crews at Kansoko, in addition to the 10 mining crews (three owner crews and seven contractor crews) currently at Kakula, with the ability to increase this number to fast-track the development of Kansoko, Ivanhoe said.

19 Mt/y option

The Kamoa-Kakula 2020 PEA presents initial production from Kakula at a rate of 6 Mt/y, followed by subsequent, separate underground mining operations at the nearby Kansoko, Kakula West and Kamoa North mines, along with the construction of a 1 Mt/y of concentrate direct-to-blister smelter. The smelter section of the study saw China Nerin Engineering act as the main engineering consultant with Outotec providing design and costing for propriety equipment.

The Kamoa North Area comprises five separate mines that will be developed as resources are mined out elsewhere to maintain the production rate at up to 19 Mt/y, with an overall life in excess of 40 years, Ivanhoe says.

For this integrated 19 Mt/y option, the PEA envisages $700 million in remaining initial capital costs, with future expansion at Kansoko, Kakula West and Kamoa North funded by cash flows from the Kakula mine, resulting in an internal rate of return of 56.2% and a payback period of 3.6 years.

This shows the potential for average annual production of 501,000 t of copper at a total cash cost of $1.07/lb copper during the first 10 years of operations and production of 805,000 t/y of copper by year eight, Ivanhoe said.

“At this future production rate, Kamoa-Kakula would rank as the world’s second largest copper mine,” the company said.

Clean TeQ DESALX plant up and running at Kirkland Lake’s Fosterville gold mine

Clean TeQ Holdings Limited has formally handed over a Continuous Ion Exchange Desalination (DESALX®) plant to Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville gold mine in Victoria, Australia.

Clean TeQ says it was engaged to design, supply and commission a two million litre-per-day Clean TeQ DESALX mine water treatment plant, with the plant designed to deliver a sustainable water management solution by treating mine process water.

The plant construction was completed in late 2019, with commissioning and operations commencing in early 2020. Now, Clean TeQ has confirmed the plant has passed the performance tests specified in the engineering, procurement and construction contract and the customer has issued a formal notice of acceptance and completion, it said.

Sam Riggall, Clean TeQ CEO, said: “After successfully demonstrating the world’s first ever commercial scale CIF plant in Oman late last year, this is yet another moment of great significance for Clean TeQ.

“Confirmation of the successful deployment of our innovative DESALX solution for this application, designed and delivered by Clean TeQ, is strong validation of our proprietary continuous ion exchange technology, and provides us with a firm foothold in the mining waste water treatment market from which we can continue to grow the business.”

The DESALX technology consists of two continuous ionic filtration (CIF®) modules in series removing divalent cations and anions present in the water through complementary processes. The modules contain ion exchange resins that are cycled between columns using air lifts, allowing for continuous operation and regeneration of the system. This system increases impurity removal efficiency, reduces chemical use, and provides protection against fouling, according to Clean TeQ.

The DESALX solution is well suited to purification of difficult to treat waste waters with high hardness, sulphate, and heavy metals as well as suspended solids which can foul reverse osmosis membranes. These types of waste waters are common in the mining industry, including acid mine drainage water, the company explained.

At Fosterville, the equipment provided by Clean TeQ includes a precipitation package to remove antimony and arsenic. The effluent from the clarifiers is treated by the DESALX plant to remove sulphate, calcium and magnesium with gypsum as the only by-product. The DESALX effluent is then further treated by reverse osmosis to produce water for re-use.

“The Clean TeQ system is a key enabling component of the customer’s overall water management strategy which includes a medium-term target of creating a true ‘zero liquid discharge’ solution that does not produce any saline brine and includes aquifer reinjection,” Clean TeQ said.

Clean TeQ Water is now focused on completing one additional key project at a copper-cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a number of pilot programs in China.

“This Clean TeQ system, as well as the plants recently completed in Oman and Australia, are the first of their type anywhere in the world and have been deployed as part of three different technical solutions,” the company said. “The successful delivery and commissioning of these plants provides strong demonstration of the efficacy of Clean TeQ’s suite of proprietary ion exchange technologies and their versatility for metal extraction and wastewater treatment. As commercial scale plants, the facilities provide a valuable platform from which to now rapidly grow Clean TeQ Water.”

MacLean Engineering up to the Africa mining challenge

MacLean Engineering’s investment in Africa is paying off, with multiple production support vehicle sales recently secured on the back of an increased presence in South Africa.

Having last month bolstered its largest single fleet in Africa to 11 vehicles at the Kibali gold mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the company is now busy assembling equipment for delivery at an underground mine in Namibia, while making manufacturing and delivery plans for a successful tender for five units that will head to a underground gold mine in Mali.

John-Paul Theunissen, MacLean’s General Manager for Africa, says recent sales could be put down to the company boosting its manufacturing and service capacity on the continent close to two years ago.

“We are now manufacturing for Africa out of South Africa,” he told IM. “Towards the end of 2018/beginning of 2019, we commissioned another 900 sq.m of manufacturing space at our South Africa facility. This means we now have 1,000 sq.m of workshop and assembly space.”

The Free State facility, the first international branch MacLean set up back in the 1990s, also offers maintenance and service support.

These attributes, plus the ability to access MacLean engineers across the globe for equipment troubleshooting, have allowed Africa-based mining companies to get comfortable with the Canada-based brand, according to Theunissen.

“We have really started to build momentum in Africa, increasing the level of service and support closer to home,” he said.

“It is this local aspect that really sells fleets, as opposed to individual machines.”

MacLean now has 1,000 sq.m of workshop and assembly space, Theunissen says

This increased local offering has arrived at just the right time.

While the stricter lockdown measures in South Africa have been lifted – the country has moved from Level 5 to Level 3, allowing mines to return to full capacity (with COVID-safe procedures in place) – companies procuring equipment for Africa are conscious intercontinental deliveries could face upheaval again if a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 hits.

Some mining companies influenced by recent lockdowns are also making longer-term pledges to adjust their supply chains to take advantage of local expertise, at the same time reducing potential risks that come with buying machines and solutions from overseas suppliers.

This recently enlarged presence in Africa could see MacLean benefit from such moves.

Recent orders

The latest orders Theunissen mentioned could reflect this reality.

In securing a contract to supply three MacLean 3-Series Cassette Trucks (CS3) and four cassettes to the Murray & Roberts Cementation and Lewcor Mining joint venture set to establish the underground stoping horizon at the Wolfshag zone at B2Gold’s Otjikoto mine, in Namibia, the company achieved several ‘firsts’, he said.

“It’s a new customer, Murray & Roberts; a new country, Namibia; and a new miner, B2Gold,” he said.

These units will be assembled in South Africa – another MacLean first – and are due to be delivered to the mine by the end of the last quarter of the year, according to Theunissen.

And, as mentioned before, the company recently bolstered the fleet at the Barrick Gold/AngloGold Ashanti majority owned Kibali gold mine in the DRC.

The latest piece of equipment for the mine – which arrived at the end of July – was one of the company’s personnel carriers.

This adds to the three EC3 Emulsion Chargers, a WS3 Water Sprayer, a FL3 Fuel Lube Truck, and a BT3 Boom Truck – all from MacLean’s trusted Mine-Mate™ Series – that Byrnecut, the original mining contractor at Kibali, brought in from 2013 onwards.

When the Kibali mining model changed to ‘owner-operator’ under the management of Randgold (now Barrick), the fleet got bigger, with the miner adding four new rigs: another EC3, another BT3, an SL3 Scissor Lift with pipe handler attachment, and a TM2 Mobile Concrete Mixer.

MacLean says its expanding presence at Kibali, from the development phase all the way back in 2013 up to achieving record production numbers in 2019 and 2020, illustrates the “MacLean Advantage in action”.

It explained: “MacLean’s dedicated team in South Africa has worked closely with mine management and operators to provide the training, maintenance and support needed to keep Kibali running smoothly. With operations forecast to continue at Kibali through 2036, MacLean looks forward to providing dependable support for years to come.”

Tech take-up

Mines like Kibali – one of the most technologically advanced in Africa – are gradually becoming more and more automated in an effort to increase productivity and safety.

Already one of the world’s most highly automated underground gold mines, Kibali’s backbone is Sandvik’s AutoMine Multi Fleet system, supervised on surface by a single operator. This system, in a world first, allows a fleet of up to five LHDs to be operated autonomously, 750 m below the surface, within the same 6 m x 6 m production drive while using designated passing bays to maintain traffic flow, Barrick says. A similar system is used in the production levels to feed the ore passes, according to the company.

While MacLean’s production support vehicles often interact with these autonomous loaders, for the time being they are still manned by operators.

This is set to change into the future, according to Theunissen.

“The Advanced Vehicle Technology Team (AVT) in Canada is moving into the automation space,” he said. “We’re looking to integrate our own digitalised systems into those of OEMs such as Sandvik and Epiroc to ensure fully interoperable autonomous operation.”

Within the AVT, the Advanced Vehicle Technology group embedded at the MacLean Research and Demonstration Facility, in Sudbury, Ontario (pictured below), has over 20 engineering staff working on remotely controlled to fully autonomous vehicle operation, using radar, LiDAR, and vehicle monitoring technology, according to MacLean.

This team has already come up with vehicle telemetry hardware and software, and virtual reality training tools. It is also transitioning to a cloud-based platform for documentation, parts ordering, and training content called Documoto.

The Advanced Vehicle Technology group is embedded at the MacLean Research and Demonstration Facility, in Sudbury, Ontario (photo: James Hodgins)

While these technology developments will, in the future, underwrite the company’s transition to offering machines capable of fully autonomous operation, MacLean is already at the front of the pack when it comes to facilitating the industry’s electrification movement.

In Canada, it has more than 30 battery electric mining vehicles (BEVs) working underground – at 10 mine sites, across four provinces, with more than 50,000 operating hours amassed.

While Africa as a whole might not yet have the energy infrastructure in place to fully leverage these ‘green’ BEVs – many mines remain off grid and reliant on diesel power – Theunissen has seen grid-connected miners in South Africa show interest in taking on these machines.

“In South Africa there is already appetite for BEVs,” he said. “We see it coming through in the RFIs (request for information) we get on projects.”

MacLean has an advantage over some of its competitors when it comes to converting these RFIs into sales.

Not only has it got thousands of operating hours under its belt, it also has engineers in place that can calculate the total cost of ownership savings a specific mine will achieve should they bring BEVs into their fleets. Due to the increase in upfront cost currently seen when comparing diesel- with battery-powered vehicles, this type of analysis is crucial to securing orders.

“We can show them how the machine will fit into the mining cycle and provide in-house calculations on ventilation and mine design savings,” Theunissen said. “This helps assist end users when it comes to long-term decision making for the mine.”

For countries in Africa to get on board the electrification train like those mines in Canada have, Theunissen thinks governments will need to introduce incentives for mines to change their energy inputs and adopt BEVs.

Should this happen, MacLean will be equipped both within the continent and internationally to take on that challenge.

AVZ readies infrastructure tenders for Manono lithium project

AVZ Minerals has issued a raft of ‘pre-mining’ infrastructure package tenders for its Manono lithium-tin project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The tenders, which will be awarded once AVZ makes a final investment decision on Manono, are estimated to be collectively worth about $300 million.

Included are the process plants engineering procurement and construction package, the Kabondo Dianda intermodal staging station, diesel storage facilities and supply package, site buildings and enterprise resource systems.

AVZ’s Managing Director, Nigel Ferguson, said: “We will have final pricings on our various tenders back in July and August and then expect to be in a position to award these contracts, pending COVID-19 travel restrictions being lifted and a financial investment decision being reached.”

The Manono project is owned by AVZ (60%), La Congolaise d’Exploitation Minière SA (30%) and Dathomir Mining Resources SARL (10%).

An April feasibility study highlighted a 20-year mine open-pit mine life producing 700,000 t/y of high-grade spodumene concentrate lithium and 45,375 t/y of primary lithium sulphate. Within this plan, the pre-production capital expenditure of $545.5 million included transport upgrade and rehabilitation of the Mpiana Mwanga Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Zest WEG signs up Panaco to grow footprint in key DRC mining hub

Zest WEG, in an effort to strengthen its Africa footprint, has appointed Panaco as its value-added reseller (VAR) in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to Zest WEG’s Africa Business Development Executive, Taylor Milan, Panaco is a 100% locally-owned business that has successfully serviced the region, known for mining, for over 40 years.

“Panaco is a well-established and respected company with strong business relationships with nearly all of our current clients,” Milan said. “Its business methodology and culture are closely aligned with ours, and this synergy will aid us in supporting our current installed base, client network and growth expectations.”

Milan highlighted the increasing importance of local content in the supply of equipment and services across the continent. Therefore, Zest WEG has prioritised closer partnerships with local firms as a key element of its sustainable growth strategy in Africa, a strategy Zest WEG Group CEO, Siegfried Kreutzfeld, mentioned shortly after being appointed to the role in 2019.

Milan also emphasised the importance of VARs in this strategy.

“Going beyond the role of just a distributor, a VAR is a local business chosen to promote and support the wide range of Zest WEG’s offering,” he said. “It carries the whole Zest WEG brand into local markets.

“Panaco has the ability to assist us in growing the comprehensive WEG product portfolio well beyond our traditional low-voltage motor and drive business,” he said. “It has business facilities in Lubumbashi, Kolwezi and Kinshasa – bringing our services and support closer to customers in this fast-growing region.”

The VAR partnership will provide locally accessible support and skills, substantial stockholding, and quality products at competitive pricing, the company said. It will also build strong and service-oriented customer relationships, according to Milan.

Zest WEG has also appointed DRC firm AEMI as a WEG-accredited repair facility, after AEMI successfully met its OEM standards. The company has a full repair facility in Likasi, and another in Kinshasa.

Zest WEG keeps DRC mining project on track in face of COVID-19 restrictions

The Zest WEG Group, a subsidiary of leading Brazilian motor and controls manufacturer WEG, is intent on keeping its customers’ projects on track despite COVID-19-related travel restrictions and has devised a way to complete the final step in the manufacturing process remotely.

In an innovative first to keep a customer’s mining project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on schedule, Zest WEG successfully conducted a remote witness test of medium voltage (MV) variable speed drives (VSDs) in WEG’s Brazil factory.

David Spohr, Business Development Executive for high-voltage equipment at South Africa-based Zest WEG, said these extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.

“With the restrictions on international travel, we had to think creatively about how to complete this final step in the manufacturing process – the witnessed factory acceptance test (FAT) – before the equipment could be shipped to the DRC site,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, these tests would require the customer to travel to Brazil and spend a week at the factory witnessing and signing off a range of detailed test and equipment requirements.

This order comprised two 7 MW, 3,300 V WEG MVW01 VSDs for the ball and SAG mill drive application and two 1.2 MW, 3,300 V WEG MVW01 VSDs for the high pressure grinding roll (HPGR) mill application. Both applications required non-standard features, according to the company, namely “frozen charge protection” software on the ball and SAG mill application and a “master and follower” configuration on the HPGR mill application, it said.

Spohr said: “It was essential that we did not delay the customer’s project, so we arranged to conduct the witness test using web-based communication software. This allowed the participation of Zest WEG experts, the engineering contractor and the end user, all from the safety of their homes in Johannesburg – communicating with five testing technicians in the WEG factory in Brazil.”

Using a high-definition camera and web-based communication software, the factory technicians were able to walk the contractor and end user through each element of the FAT, with clear and real-time visual images of the test results and equipment on the factory floor, according to the company.

The tests continued for three days, beginning at 13:00 and ending at 19:00 to account for time zone differences. Testing covered three key areas – PLC communication software integration, full functional testing and full load testing, according to the company.

“As with any other witnessed FAT, the customer was provided with a comprehensive results report by WEG,” Spohr said. “This enabled the customer to check, in exactly the same way, that the remote FAT results were within the required tolerances.”

Spohr noted that this pioneering step is likely to influence the way these tests are done in future.
“It has shown that the testing can be done to the same standards, but with significant savings in time and cost,” he said.