Tag Archives: drilling

Zinnwald striving for battery-electric circularity with lithium project development

The development of the integrated Zinnwald lithium project in Germany could see the incorporation of a battery-electric fleet of LHDs and the return of metal production to a region of saxony with mining history dating back to the Middle Ages.

The London-listed owner of the project, Zinnwald Lithium Plc, has just released a preliminary economic study on its namesake project focused on supplying battery-grade lithium hydroxide to the European battery sector.

As with any responsible battery metal project being developed today, the project’s ‘green credentials’ are being considered even at this early stage.

Zinnwald Lithium has been keen to flag these, mentioning the project is located close to the German chemical industry, a fact that should enable it to draw on a well trained and experienced workforce with well-developed infrastructure, plus reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of the final end-use product.

This focus will see all aspects of the project – from mining through to production of the end product – located near to the deposit itself.

Zinnwald Lithium also said the project has the potential to be a low- or ‘zero-waste’ project, as the vast majority of both its mined product and co-products have their own large-scale end-markets.

This could see it produce not only battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate products, but sulphate of potash (SOP) for the fertiliser market and precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) – the latter being a key filling material in the paper manufacturing process.

The project now includes an underground mine with a nominal output of approximately 880,000 t/y of ore at an estimated 3,004 ppm Li and 75,000 t/y of barren rock. Processing, including mechanical separation, lithium activation and lithium fabrication, will be carried out at an industrial facility near the village of Bärenstein, near the existing underground mine access and an existing site for tailings deposition with significant remaining capacity.

With a 7-km partly-existing network of underground drives and adits from the ‘Zinnerz Altenberg’ tin mine, which closed in 1991, already mapped out, the bulk of ore haulage is expected to be via either conveyor or rail

The nominal output capacity of the project is targeted at circa-12,000 t/y LiOH with circa-56,900 t/y of SOP, 16,000 t/y of PCC, circa-75,000 t/y of granite and 100,000 t/y of sand as by-products.

The company is looking to complete the ‘circularity’ dynamic in its fleet and equipment selection, according to CEO, Anton Du Plessis, who mentioned that electric LHDs could be used to load and haul ore to an ore pass in the envisaged operation.

He said the cost estimates to use such equipment – which are factored into the project’s $336.5 million initial construction capital expenditure bill – have come from Epiroc, which has a variety of battery-operated mobile equipment.

“The base case is battery-operated loaders,” he told IM. “The final selection will be based on an optimisation study where, in particular, partly trolley-fed haulage systems will be investigated.”

Forms of automation are also being studied, Du Plessis said, with the caveat that “only select technologies we consider proven” will be evaluated.

Zinnwald Lithium is also looking at electric options for long-hole drilling underground, with both battery-based units and cabled versions under consideration and requiring firming up in the optimisation study.

With a 7-km partly-existing network of underground drives and adits from the ‘Zinnerz Altenberg’ tin mine, which closed in 1991, already mapped out, the bulk of ore haulage is expected to be via either conveyor or rail. The former, of course, will be powered by electricity, but the company is also considering potential battery-electric options for the latter, according to Du Plessis.

The company is blessed with existing infrastructure at the mine, which should help it in advancing the project at the pace its potential end-use manufacturing suppliers would like. It is already evaluating options for the construction stage – with an engineering, procurement and construction management contract the most likely option – and it has plans to conclude a feasibility study by the end of next year.

Du Plessis said while most of the fixed assets have been removed or were deemed outdated a long time ago from the former operating underground mine, other infrastructure was in good shape.

“The excavations, main level, underground workshop, ventilation shafts and, particularly, 2020 refurbished access tunnel provide a very good starting point for our project,” he said. “The access tunnel was originally constructed for dewatering the old mine and, therefore, the mine and the tunnel have been maintained very well.”

The company is now shifting to the bankable feasibility study and currently selecting partners for the project.

With what it calls a “simple, five-stage processing” route confirmed by test work for the extracted material at Zinnwald, the company is looking to select OEMs with the optimal concept for the project, Du Plessis said.

“In the PEA, mineral processing equipment cost is based on Metso Outotec estimates, pyrometallurgy is based on Cemtec technology, and hydrometallurgy is based on various providers’ technology,” he clarified.

Geomagnetic Design looks to revolutionise RC and diamond drilling with GM1 rig

Emerging drill rig manufacturer, Geomagnetic Design has announced results from field trials on its specialty, patented RC and diamond GM1 drill rig.

Now in advanced stages of research and development (R&D), field testing in Western Australia’s Pilbara Region has confirmed the drill rig’s ability to halve the carbon footprint of traditional exploration drilling programs, with exceptional operational and environmental outcomes, according to the company.

Of note, the GM1’s performance across exploration drilling programs at six separate sites across the state showed a significant reduction in fuel consumption of up to 400 litres per 11-hour shift at RC configurations, and 60 litres per 11-hour shift at diamond configurations, as well as reducing ambient noise emissions.

The GM1 can also commence drilling in RC mode, and change to diamond coring within three hours, a significant reduction compared with current market changeover configurations, which typically take between 1-3 days, Geomagnetic Design says.

Commenting on the driving factors for innovation, Geomagnetic Design Founder and General Manager, Darren Papst, said: “Drillers are facing growing scrutiny and pressure from governments, investors and communities to exceed environmental considerations in their program design. We made it our business to address a multitude of performance factors that have never been achieved in one drill rig.

Once our R&D is complete later this year, our solution will be the first of its kind, an ‘all-in-one’ RC and diamond rig that delivers reduced fuel consumption, carbon output and noise emissions all while covering more ground, with less holes and less metres.”

Designed and manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Perth, the patented blueprint for the GM1 uses a hydraulic system, enabling the rig to operate with a drastically reduced carbon output (from 59 kg/h down to 29 kg/h) while still retaining the same operational capacity as competitor rigs, the company says.

As well as halving carbon emissions, the physical machine footprint is substantially less than other drill rigs – measuring just 2.5 m x 3 m. The GM1 rig requires support from only one air truck, where competitor rigs are normally accompanied by two to three large trucks, it says.

Unique to the GM1 drill rig is its ability to conduct shallow angle RC drilling on 2 axes. This capability has been addressed during R&D and, if successful in future trials, will provide a cheaper form of drilling that allows clients to cover more ground with less holes and less metres, the company said.

The concept of a magnetically-driven drill rig has been a long-time plan of Papst’s.

“I began ideating the GM1 drill rig years ago when I noticed a gap in the market between having a superior-functioning rig versus having a sustainable, environmentally-designed rig.

This current drill rig that we aim to go to market with has phenomenal fuel efficiencies, but we don’t plan on stopping there. Phase two of our engineering process will involve removing the need for diesel altogether with the use of a magnetic drive in its place.”

If the project continues to move at the expected timeline, Geomagnetic Design’s GM1 rig could be commercially available as soon as December 2022, the company says.

BHP reaches autonomous drilling milestone at WA iron ore operations

BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore division has reached a significant milestone, with its drills operating autonomously for more than 479,607 hours, drilling more than 25 million metres, the company said.

WAIO’s remotely operated drilling program commenced at Yandi in late 2016 and has since expanded to a total of 26 rigs across five Pilbara mine sites.

The rigs are all controlled remotely from the Integrated Remote Operations Centre (IROC) in Perth, Western Australia.

WAIO Asset President, Brandon Craig, said: “This is an exciting milestone in WAIO’s autonomous journey and one we should all be proud of.

“The autonomous drilling program sought to eliminate the risk of safety incidents and serious injuries to our people and, by removing them from the drilling frontline, we’ve also seen an increase in overall drill productivity.”

WAIO now has one of the biggest autonomous drill fleets in the world – which is managed by 32 crew members and one engineer all based at IROC.

IPRO Control Operations Manager, Clayton Hanrahan, added: “This achievement was made possible by a huge team of stakeholders, including the original Project Team, Technology, our vendor Epiroc, IPRO, IROC Drill and Control, all of our site partners in the Pilbara Drill and Blast teams and many more.”

Congratulations to everyone involved on reaching the milestone of autonomously drilling more than 25 million metres.

The automation journey begain with Yandi completing a successful 18-month trial of three autonomous drill rigs, paving the way for a staged approach across other WAIO mine sites.

Mining Area C introduced autonomous drilling in January 2017 before, in October 2017, the technology was implemented at Newman’s Eastern Ridge mine. In December of that year, Jimblebar introduced autonomous drilling and, in March 2018, Newman’s Whaleback mine implemented autonomous drill rigs. The journey has been rounded out by, in 2020, the introduction of autonomous drill rigs at South Flank, making WAIO’s drill rig program fully autonomous.

Sandvik helping facilitate Rocksure’s mining services growth in Ghana

Rapidly growing mining services provider Rocksure International in Ghana, Africa, has had a 100% Sandvik drill rig fleet since it was established and, according to the OEM, the partnership has been delivering spectacular results.

With drill rigs used in mining applications, the secret to success is to keep them in tip top condition throughout their working lives.

So, parts – who makes them and the service that comes with them – is of critical importance for these machines, Sandvik says.

By adopting the best work practices and latest premium equipment, Rocksure has gone from two drill rigs and eight employees when it was established in 2009, to today’s fleet of over 20 rigs and 1,200 workers. In the process, the company has been winning work that was once the preserve of Western multinationals.

In 2020 Rocksure delivered some 50 Mt of material to its customers in Ghana’s gold fields and is soon to be working on a major bauxite project in the West African country.

Partnership is the new leadership

Part of Rocksure’s strategy is to partner with leading equipment brands – and its fleet now includes 123 pieces of heavy equipment, all from the biggest names in the mining industry.

All of its drill rigs are from Sandvik, all of which have been supplied with comprehensive parts, service and training support bundles, the OEM says.

The predominant machine used by Rocksure is the Sandvik Pantera DP1500i. It is a hydraulic top hammer drill rig designed for production or pre-split drilling in open-pit mines, drilling holes with a diameter of 89-152 mm. The company also has a Sandvik DE881 multipurpose exploration rig.

“We work closely with clients like Rocksure to understand their needs,” Daniel Korsah, Sandvik Business Line Manager for Surface Drilling in West Africa, says. “We look at a long list of site variables, including blast efficiency, hole depth, length, type of rock, etc – and that helps inform the type of equipment we recommend. But that is only half of the story – the aftermarket support package is also vital to customer success.”

Fellow Business Line Manager Parts & Services, Ricus Terblanche, added: “It’s our job to make sure the rigs maintain their productivity targets, reduce costs and help the customer be more profitable. To ensure this, we look at the site data and use it to build a comprehensive parts list of the supplies that are likely to be needed. These parts are then ordered in conjunction with the machine sale, and both delivered to site at the same time. For major projects we can put large parts stocks in place, from which Rocksure can draw using a vendor-managed inventory approach. But our support bundles are much more than parts and include machine operation and safety training.

“We would never sell a machine unless we were sure the customer could operate it effectively and safely and had the skills and resources to support it.”

A recent sale of Sandvik Pantera DP1500i machines saw Sandvik support Rocksure with a four-week intensive classroom and practical operator and technical (maintenance) training, along with three months of asset support. This involved technicians being on site 100% of the full time, providing on-the-job coaching and inspections to ensure the rigs are operating to their highest potential, Sandvik explained.

Predictive parts replacement

Using Smart Inspections supported by years of accumulated analysis on component lifespan, Sandvik can calculate predictive operating costs and recommend a parts replacement service policy before parts fail.

Typically, when the machine has reached 14,000 hours of operation, the Sandvik Pantera DP1500i’s operated by Rocksure undergo a comprehensive overhaul, which can include the installation of new engines, pumps, track frames and undercarriage parts. Adding new technology can bring the machines to a better-than-new condition, with a significant reduction in fuel consumption, according to Sandvik. The fitting of new monitoring systems also helps to give much greater visibility of drilling performance – data that can further help boost productivity.

Terblanche said: “Rocksure is the perfect customer. They are professional, experts in their local market and loyal towards Sandvik – as well as growing at a fantastic rate. We do our best to support them with all the tools at our disposal to maximise their production performance. It’s a great partnership – when Rocksure is successful, Sandvik is too.

“A local mining services supplier supported by a global equipment manufacturer is a winning combination.”

Exploration drill rig use on the up, IMDEX says

New mineral exploration rig use figures released today by IMDEX show continued strong activity in most major mining regions internationally.

The combined Australia/New Zealand region continued to be a standout, with rig use at 82% of capacity despite the number of rigs available increasing by 13% over the past year.

Reflecting that growth, IMDEX says March-quarter revenue for its Asia Pacific region including Australia is up 28% on the same time last year.

The rig use snapshot, contained in an IMDEX presentation to the Macquarie Australia Conference on May 4, examines the state of rig use in April this year and updates a similar assessment conducted by IMDEX at the same time last year.

IMDEX used the Macquarie presentation to reveal an overall March-quarter revenue increase of 29% compared with the same time last year.

A further regional breakdown showed revenue in the Americas was up 35%, and Africa and Europe was up 20%.

The rig count figures, of surface and underground coring and RC rigs, showed that rig use was at 62% of capacity in Canada, up from 46% at the same time last year, South America was at 50% (39%), Africa 73% (54%), Europe and the Middle East 48% (39%), and Asia 46% (37%).

Rig use was down in the US at 57%, compared with 72% last year, and Mexico and Central America 42% (44%).

Globally, the rig use figure stood at 56%, up from 46%.

IMDEX Chief Executive Officer, Paul House, said the size of the global rig fleet had decreased from April 2021, as older rigs were retired and new, safer rigs were being commissioned, but resource companies had committed to more exploration and higher standards of HSE, and drillers had committed to buying more rigs.

He said a skilled labour shortage, the replacement trend, rig transfers and a lag between purchase and delivery were responsible for a decrease in the overall size of the global fleet, but these were short-term constraints.

Drillers were buying more rigs as the industry continued to grow, he added.

“The pleasing aspect of our business activity to date is that even in this period of transition of the rig fleet, IMDEX has recorded a 29 per cent increase in third quarter revenue — a result which has outperformed the market,” House said.

The fundamentals driving the sector remain unchanged, he said.

Strong commodity prices were being driven by increasing demand and decreasing reserves, there was an increasing demand for battery metals, strong capital raising across all commodities, and an increasing demand for secure, real-time rock knowledge data and solutions to support remote and automated operations.

“The commitment to growth in exploration by all participants in the resource sector is high and reflects both the positive underlying fundamentals and the sense of urgency required,” House said.

“Execution, however, is likely to take place over a longer period of time than planned, leading to a longer growth cycle.”

Boart Longyear helps drillers recover more core with LF 160 drill rig updates

Boart Longyear is updating its LF™160 surface coring drill rig with, among other things, an inner tube that will allow drillers to retrieve a full 6-m inner tube out of the rod string using the wireline winch.

In addition, Boart is adding foldable walkways and Cummins Tier 3 engines to add efficiency and safety to its LF 160. When paired with the FL262 FREEDOM™ Loader, the LF 160 combination is, the company says, ideal for contractors who want to target sophisticated surface drilling exploration contracts that stipulate some of the highest safety standards, without compromising on productivity. The FL262 Freedom Loader is an innovative rod loading system that requires no intervention from the driller’s assistant to trip and align rods or connect to the top drive head.

The company introduced its LF 160 and FREEDOM™ Loader during MINExpo 2016.

The 6-m inner tube, coupled with the capability of handling full PQ inner tubes, means the LF 160 delivers more operating efficiency, reducing the frequency of retrieving the inner tube, which in turn decreases downtime, the company said.

Erik Gaugh, Product Manager – Capital Equipment, said: “Compared to a standard 3-m system, the 6-m inner tube system can deliver efficiencies of up to 50% for deeper holes. We anticipate the 6-m system to be a game changer for many of our customers.”

Foldable walkways are available on the LF 160T (truck) and are integrated on both sides of the rig with railings and kick plates, the company explained. The walkways provide safe access to the elevated rig platform on the truck chassis and eliminates the need for fall arrest protection. The walkways hydraulically fold in and out without the need for manual manipulation to further reduce the potential for hand injuries, Boart explained.

The company concluded: “Boart Longyear is committed to providing the safest, most productive, and most reliable rigs in the industry. The foldable platforms, 6-m inner tube system and Cummins Tier 3 engines are continued proof of that commitment.”

Capital captures surface production drilling gig at AngloGold’s Geita

Capital’s Tanzania-based subsidiary, CMS (Tanzania) Limited, has been successfully awarded a surface production drilling contract with AngloGold Ashanti at the Geita gold mine in Tanzania.

The three-year contract will use five rigs from the mining service company’s existing fleet, together with the acquisition of one new rig during 2022, to continue provision of blasthole drilling services at the Geita mine, bringing the total number of rigs operating on site to 25.

CMS is an 80:20 joint venture between the mining services company and local company CK Washirika Limited. The joint venture, which is fully compliant with the local content law in Tanzania, demonstrates Capital’s commitment to building capabilities and supporting local communities, it said.

The new contract supplements the two existing three-year contracts, a surface drilling contract for exploration and grade control services and an underground contract for grade control and exploration drilling services, both of which were renewed in the first half of 2021 and are also fully compliant to local content laws in Tanzania.

This contract further cements Capital’s long-term relationship with AngloGold Ashanti, which started with the provision of grade control drilling services at the Geita site in 2006 and will now extend to 2025.

The production drilling contract started in December and is anticipated to generate revenues of $33 million over the contract term.

Jamie Boyton, Capital Executive Chairman, said: “The contract continues Capital’s delivery of production drilling to the site and reflects the team’s excellent operational and safety performance in providing drilling services to the Geita mine for more than 15 years. Importantly, the contract award also supports our strategy of building the sustainability of the business by maintaining the portfolio of long-term mine-site based clients.”

Kati makes biofuel drilling switch at Keliber lithium project

Oy Kati Ab, a drilling contractor, has started to use biofuel in the drill rig operating at Keliber’s lithium exploration site in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland.

Tapani Niskakangas, Acting Managing Director at Kati, said: “Taking the environment into consideration and minimising the negative impacts is a guiding principle for us at Kati as well as Keliber. When we learned that Neste MY Non Road Diesel™ was available also in northern Finland this autumn, Keliber was the first company we proposed to introduce it, and we received a positive answer right away.”

According to calculations made at Kati, the switch from regular fuel oil to biofuel makes it possible to reduce emissions by at least 50%. It is estimated that, during 2020, drilling at the Keliber work site generated emissions of 78.04 t of CO2e, of which 95.2% was caused by fuel usage. If biofuel had been used, the estimated emissions would have been 37.90 t CO2e or 51% less. The emission reduction (40.14 t CO2e) is equivalent to a 286,714.3 km journey by car.

Keliber’s CEO, Hannu Hautala, regards the fuel switch as a good example of sustainable operation, which Keliber is committed to: “We are continuously looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact and improve our operations when new possibilities emerge. I am happy about this opportunity to switch to renewable energy at the drilling site.”

Kati started to use biofuel at the Keliber site during the second week of December. According to Niskakangas, the switch was easy: the machines run on biofuel as smoothly as they do on fossil fuels. And there is an added safety benefit as biofuels do not endanger water organisms or human health. This more than offsets the additional 25% price tag for biofuel over fossil fuels, which translates into an increase of about 2% in the total drilling cost.

Niskakangas said: “Keliber is the first of our customers to use biofuel. We are interested in expanding its use, but its popularity has a lot to do with logistics. Today, we transport the MY renewable fuel from Kemi harbour to our storage tank in Kalajoki.”

Kati has been working with Keliber on its lithium project for some 20 years. In recent years, Keliber has had continuous exploration and resource drilling operations, and the annual total drilling has varied from 10-20 km.

The planned Keliber operations include lithium mine sites and a concentrator plant in Kaustinen, Kokkola and Kruunupyy, and a lithium hydroxide plant in Kokkola.

VDMA anticipates Germany mining tech sales drop in 2021

While demand for metals and minerals has boosted order intake for many original equipment manufacturers, the sales of Germany mining technology companies have lagged so far in 2021, according to the VDMA.

In 2020, the industry generated total sales of €3.38 billion ($3.83 billion), the organisation, which represents around 3,300 German and European mechanical and plant engineering companies, said. From January to September 2021, sales were down 18% year-on-year at €2.8 billion, while exports in the January-August 2021 period were down 10.4% year-on-year at just under €960 million. Notable drops in export sales were observed in the EU27+UK, China, Russia and Australia, with increases in the USA and NM East unable to make up for that shortfall.

The industry expects sales to pick up by the end of 2021 and anticipates only a moderate decline of 5-10% overall, the VDMA said.

The most common export goods to all markets are, in descending order: crushing and grinding technology, deep drilling technology, mining and roadheaders and tunnel boring machines, the organisation noted.

Michael Schulte Strathaus, Chairman of VDMA Mining (pictured in the centre), expects sales numbers to improve, going forward, as the ‘green mining’ revolution continued to take hold.

“Without mining technology, nothing works in industry now and in the future,” he said at a press conference. “If we want to maintain our current standard of living, we need the corresponding raw materials.

“Only smart mining will lead to green mining. We see our opportunities in offering the best technology worldwide that contributes to resource-saving, efficient, ‘green’ extraction and processing of raw materials.”

Orica acquires Wallis Drilling’s RIG Technologies RC logging while drilling business

Wallis Drilling says it has sold its RIG Technologies Reverse Circulation Logging While Drilling (LWD) business to explosives and blasting systems leader, Orica.

The RIG Technologies business includes, downhole behind-the-hammer geophysics sensors (gamma-ray and gyro), drill rig-based sensor platforms and a cloud-based data management system.

Wallis and RIG Technologies commenced as a joint venture in 2016, with Wallis acquiring the entire business in 2019.

Wallis says it successfully grown RIG Technologies and invested in the ongoing development of its LWD capabilities and associated products. At this point, the product suite is in the early phase of commercialisation and is being used by large resource companies, the company added.

The transaction delivers Wallis a solid return on its investment and provides significant upside sales exposure over the next five years under Orica stewardship, Wallis said.

Following the sale, RIG Technologies now forms part of Orica’s orebody intelligence category, within its digital solutions portfolio, alongside its recent acquisition of Hopper Industrial Group, a group of geophysics companies that specialise in mining and groundwater technologies and services.

RIG Technologies personnel, including 33 engineers, technical and field staff, will integrate into Orica. The business will continue to be led by original Partner and Director, Tim Hopper, with its operational and manufacturing activities remaining in Western Australia.

Wallis said: “RIG Technologies will independently continue to develop and deliver world-leading instrumentation and cloud-based technologies to help the mining industry obtain real-time geophysical and LWD data.”

Wallis and RIG Technologies will retain a five-year technical partnership to ensure continued testing and real-time deployment of the tools and other associated products in a field operating environment, it added.

Wallis Drilling Chairman, Graeme Wallis, said the sale enabled RIG Technologies to leverage its first-mover advantage and is overwhelmingly the best option for all stakeholders.

“The timing is right given where we have positioned the RIG Technologies business,” he said. “Orica has the financial resources, global customer base and distribution network to market and scale its product suite.

“For Wallis, the sale allows us to increase the rate of investment in our main drilling business. In recent years, strong organic growth has been accelerated by the design, manufacture and deployment of our leading range of Wallis RC and Mantis autonomous drill rigs.”

Wallis Drilling CEO, Mark Crumby, added: “Wallis has a successful history of innovation and commercialising new technologies for the mining industry. The development of RIG Technologies’ product suite, and its subsequent sale to Orica, is another example of this success.”

(Photo Credit: ‘csfoto – Christian Sprogoe photographer’)