Tag Archives: Electrification

Epiroc slims Sweden workforce following COVID-19 related demand drop

Epiroc has provided a notice of termination to 425 employees in Sweden as it looks to adapt to the changing COVID-19 demand situation in the mining and infrastructure sectors.

The move is in response to lower global demand from these sectors amid the pandemic, and to position the company better for the future, it said.

Some 350 positions are expected to go at the company’s Örebro facilities, with 75 positions being removed in Fagersta, Sweden, of which half are positions in production, the company said.

Örebro is a main manufacturing and research and development hub for Epiroc’s underground and surface equipment as well as for service and spare parts supply, while Fagersta is home to Epiroc’s rock drilling tools business. Epiroc has about 3,100 employees in Sweden, out of a global workforce of some 14,000.

Epiroc said: “The action is the result of Epiroc facing a significant drop in demand from customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the global economy. The work reductions are also part of Epiroc’s continuous effort to become as agile and efficient as possible and follows various efficiency measures taken worldwide since 2019.”

The company, in April, announced it would consolidate the manufacturing of exploration drilling tools in Canada, gradually moving its base from North Bay to Montreal and Sweden over the course of 2020, with around 65 employees in North Bay, Ontario, being affected.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “We are taking these actions to adapt to the new market situation following the COVID-19 pandemic and to make us stronger and more resilient for the future. Unfortunately, we must take such a drastic action as giving notice of termination. We regret the negative consequences this will have for our colleagues and those close to them, and we will support our employees in this difficult situation.

“These actions will allow us to continue to prioritise innovation and to develop our technology leadership in order to support our customers’ operations and improve their productivity.”

Epiroc’s innovation investments have led to the mining and infrastructure industries becoming more productive, safe and climate friendly, according to the company, following the adoption of its automation, digitalisation and electrification solutions.

Automation and battery-electric efforts awarded by Epiroc

Teams behind automation and battery-electric equipment projects have become the latest recipients of Epiroc’s two annual awards.

The United in Performance Award and Inspired by Innovation Award recognised close collaboration with a mining company that strengthened the customer’s productivity through automation, as well as the development of battery-electric equipment that brings multiple benefits to the mining industry, respectively.

The United in Performance Award, which honours exceptional customer collaboration, was presented to Olav Kvist and Per Holmberg of Epiroc’s Underground division and Johan Broström of the Technology & Digital division, as well as to mining company Boliden.

Epiroc explained: “Their extensive collaboration on automation has increased productivity significantly at two of Boliden’s mines in Sweden. For example, at the Garpenberg mine, the automated and teleremote operation of Epiroc’s Simba ME7 C production drill rig (pictured) has boosted drilling productivity by roughly 30%.”

The work is part of 6th Sense, Epiroc’s package of digital solutions that optimises customers’ processes, thereby strengthening their productivity and safety, the company said.

The Inspired by Innovation Award, which recognises Epiroc’s most innovative technical development that has become a proven commercial success, was presented to Anders Lindkvist, Patrik Roth, Markus Rantakeisu, Robert Lejonberg, Jan Fransson, Erik Svedlund and Fredrik Martinsson. The seven employees have been instrumental and represent a team of passionate people in developing Epiroc’s world-leading battery-electric mining equipment, the company said.

“The new generation battery-electric mining machines are the result of the team’s hard work and dedication in bringing significant benefits to customers including improved health and safety, lower total cost of operation and higher productivity,” Epiroc said. “The advantages are especially significant for underground operations where mining companies traditionally must invest heavily in ventilation to air out the diesel fumes.”

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, congratulated the winners, saying they are representative of “Epiroc’s innovative spirit and dedication to improving customers’ operations”.

She added: “We are proud to be on the forefront of automation, digitalisation and electrification as these technological shifts are making mining and infrastructure companies more productive, safe and environmentally friendly.”

Epiroc posts Q1 results as it braces for future COVID-19 impacts

“We expect that the demand both for equipment and in the aftermarket will be lower and that the effects of the pandemic will have a significant negative impact on revenues and profit in Q2 (June quarter).” That is the headline quote from Epiroc CEO, Helena Hedblom, in the mining OEM’s March quarter results.

While the prospects for the current quarter look far from rosy, the results for the March quarter were reasonably strong: revenues dipped only 7% (SEK9.134 billion ($903 million)) year-on-year, profits rose 3% to SEK1.4 billion and operating cash flow jumped 225% to SEK1.5 billion.

Despite Epiroc’s China business being hit in February, and its manufacturing facilities for consumables in India, South Africa, and Canada (Quebec) being temporarily closed from the end of March, there were limited COVID-19-related effects on its March quarter results, the company stated.

As the impacts of the pandemic continue to grow with restrictions from various governments and authorities, the impact has started to be felt more acutely by Epiroc. Hedblom told analysts after the results release that the commissioning of new equipment was becoming harder with such restrictions in place, as was the transportation of its products. On the latter, the company commented that its costs had risen.

Fortunately, the company is in the middle of a wide-ranging revamp to its supply chain that is seeing key parts and service personnel redeployed to hubs near its major customers. Although this program is not yet complete, the availability of local inventory has somewhat dampened the impact of the COVID-19-related restrictions to date.

Similarly, the company has managed to navigate a supply shortage of certain components in Europe, Hedblom said. Speaking to IM after the analyst call, she said the manufacturing teams were utilising existing component stockpiles to complete outstanding tasks.

Just how many future tasks the manufacturing team has all depends on how long mine stoppages in the likes of South Africa, Canada, Peru and India continue. While South Africa miners are set for a phased ramp up of operations and those miners in Quebec have been given the go ahead to reopen, there are many mines that remain on care and maintenances.

Hedblom said these dynamics were very different to financial downturns where specific commodities and companies with lower margins were hit due to cashflow issues.

“It is evenly split between different commodities,” she said referring to the shutdowns. “There are plenty of gold mines in there, for instance, and that is despite the gold price holding up well.”

During this time – and factoring in potential future supply chain issues – Epiroc is prioritising its aftermarket customers to keep existing mines operating.

One would estimate the percentage of revenue associated with aftermarket sales would, therefore, grow beyond the 72% registered in the March quarter (which itself is an 8% rise from the December quarter) based on the assumption mining companies would defer new equipment purchases until restrictions had been lifted and global economies had stabilised.

This would also mirror the March quarter results where Epiroc recognised a 12% organic increase in service orders, compared with the previous year, at the same time as orders for equipment, rock drilling tools and attachments decreased.

Yet, this all depends on how long existing mine stoppages are enforced.

Epiroc said: “Mining is deemed essential in many countries, which means that most mines continue to operate, but in some cases mines have temporarily stopped operations or operate at reduced capacity due to restrictions from governments and authorities.

“As a consequence, Epiroc estimates that revenues from the aftermarket will be negatively impacted in Q2. The magnitude of the impact will depend on how the restrictions will develop during the quarter.”

While the company is up front in its assessment that revenues and profits will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the June quarter, the new CEO said the company would continue to invest in R&D throughout this period.

“We have consolidated in admin and marketing, in addition to manufacturing (see the latest announcement on its North Bay facility), but I am protecting R&D,” Hedblom told IM. In late November, Hedblom said the company was currently investing 2-3% of revenue in R&D.

Previous R&D investments have led to the development of many innovative products from Epiroc – mainly geared towards automation, digitalisation and electrification – and Hedblom said some “very exciting products” would be launched later this year, regardless of COVID-19 restrictions.

Some of these new products will likely help miners continue operating in environments such as those being experienced now, with Hedblom seeing the automation trend the company recognised, pre-COVID-19, picking up where it left off, post-COVID-19.

“The more people you can remove from the mine site and the more you can control the environment in which they work (remote operations, for instance), the better,” she said.

Nouveau Monde Graphite advances Matawinie electrification strategy

Nouveau Monde Graphite says it has mandated Hydro-Québec to carry out a preliminary project encompassing the development, installation and operation of a 120 kV electrical line that will supply its Matawinie mine site and help the company meet its carbon-neutrality targets.

The goal is to connect the Matawinie project mine and concentrator, in Quebec, Canada, to the power network via a dedicated line that will enable the full electrification of its operations – a world first for an open-pit mine, according to NMG.

During the design phase, the technical, financial and environmental aspects, as well as the construction schedule, will be defined for the line. Hydro-Québec, Canada’s largest electricity producer and one of the world’s largest producers of hydroelectricity, will begin its studies and then issue public communications about the project in the coming months. The 120 kV line is expected to be powered up for the start of the mine’s operations in 2022, NMG said.

NMG said: “With its dedication to stringent sustainable development standards, Nouveau Monde is committed to having both its heavy equipment used for mining operations and its ore concentration and processing activities become fully electric within the first five years of production.”

The planned electrical line will supply power to support this operating model, which will reduce the CO2 emissions of the mine by more than 300,000 t over its lifetime, the company added.

Eric Desaulniers, President and CEO of Nouveau Monde, said: “The preliminary project is an important step in our electrification strategy, as the power line will guarantee a reliable, affordable and dedicated supply of renewable energy. This will give us a competitive advantage that lets us bring to market a product with the smallest possible environmental footprint.”

Desaulniers added that the company is having “positive discussions with commercial partners” to develop an electric fleet that is adapted to its property’s open-pit mining conditions.

The detailed engineering work is progressing in line with these goals.

“From mine planning to shift scheduling that takes into account recharge cycles, Nouveau Monde and its consultants are reinventing industry conventions to create the mine of the future,” it said.

NMG and Hydro-Québec have already partnered to research and develop graphite anode materials used to make lithium-ion batteries. The graphite developer also holds an operating licence from Hydro-Québec’s Center of Excellence in Transportation Electrification and Energy Storage to commercialise battery material technologies and position Quebec in the lithium-ion battery value chain.

Matawinie, in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Quebec, is expected to start up in 2022. A 2018 feasibility study revealed strong economics for the project, with projected high-quality graphite concentrate of 100,000 t/y over a 26-year period.

Miners need to do more in climate change, decarbonisation battle, McKinsey says

A report from consultancy McKinsey has raised concerns about the mining industry’s climate change and decarbonisation strategy, arguing it may not go far enough in reducing emissions in the face of pressure from governments, investors, and activists.

The report, Climate risk and decarbonization: What every mining CEO needs to know, from Lindsay Delevingne, Will Glazener, Liesbet Grégoir, and Kimberly Henderson, explains that extreme weather – tied to the potential effects of climate change – is already disrupting mining operations globally.

“Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 countries pledged to limit global warming to well below 2.0°C, and ideally not more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels,” the authors said. “That target, if pursued, would manifest in decarbonisation across industries, creating major shifts in commodity demand for the mining industry and likely resulting in declining global mining revenue pools.”

They added: “Mining-portfolio evaluation must now account for potential decarbonisation of other sectors.”

The sector will also face pressure from governments, investors, and society to reduce emissions, according to the authors.

“Mining is currently responsible for 4-7% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2 emissions from the sector (those incurred through mining operations and power consumption, respectively) amount to 1%, and fugitive methane emissions from coal mining are estimated at 3-6%.

“A significant share of global emissions – 28% – would be considered Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, including the combustion of coal.”

While there have been a number of high-profile mining companies making carbon emission pledges in the past 18 months – BHP pledging $400 million of investment in a low carbon plan being one notable example – the authors say the industry has only just begun to set emissions-reduction goals.

“Current targets published by mining companies range from 0-30% by 2030, far below the Paris Agreement goals, which may not be ambitious enough in many cases,” they said.

Through operational efficiency, and electrification and renewable-energy use, mines can theoretically fully decarbonise (excluding fugitive methane), according to the authors, with the disclaimer that building a climate strategy, “won’t be quick or easy”.

Water/heat

Water stress was one area the authors homed in on, saying that climate change is expected to cause more frequent droughts and floods, altering the supply of water to mining sites and disrupting operations.

The authors, using McKinsey’s MineSpans database on copper, gold, iron ore, and zinc, recently ran and analysed a water-stress and flooding scenario to emphasise the incoming problems.

The authors found that 30-50% of the production of these four commodities is concentrated in areas where water stress is already “high”.

“In 2017, these sites accounted for roughly $150 billion in total annual revenues and were clustered into seven water-stress ‘hot spots’ for mining: Central Asia, the Chilean coast, eastern Australia, the Middle East, southern Africa, western Australia, and a large zone in western North America,” the authors said.

The authors continued: “Climate science indicates that these hot spots will worsen in the coming decades. In Chile, 80% of copper production is already located in ‘extremely high’ water-stressed and ‘arid’ areas; by 2040, it will be 100%. In Russia, 40% of the nation’s iron ore production, currently located in ‘high’ water-stressed areas, is likely to move to ‘extreme’ water stress by 2040.”

And, mining regions not accustomed to water stress are projected to become increasingly vulnerable, according to the report.

By 2040, 5% of current gold production likely will shift from ‘low–medium’ water stress to ‘medium–high’; 7% of zinc output could move from ‘medium–high’ to ‘high’ water stress, and 6% of copper production could shift from ‘high’ to ‘extremely high’ water stress.

The authors said: “Depending on the water-intensiveness of the processing approach, such changes, while seemingly minor in percentage terms, could be critical to a mine’s operations or licence to operate.”

Mining executives in these regions are acutely aware of the water issue, according to the authors.

“For instance, Leagold Mining recently shut down its RDM gold mine in Brazil for two months because of drought conditions, even though it had built a dam and a water pipeline,” they said.

Even in areas with low water stress, certain water-intensive mining processes are jeopardised.

“In Germany – not a country known for being vulnerable to drought – a potash miner was forced to close two locations because of severe water shortages in the summer of 2018, losing nearly $2 million a day per site,” they said.

“The frequency and severity of these conditions are expected to increase along with the current climate trajectory.”

To improve resiliency, companies can reduce the water intensity of their mining processes, the authors said. They can also recycle used water and reduce water loss from evaporation, leaks, and waste. Mining companies can, for example, prevent evaporation by putting covers on small and medium dams.

In the long term, more capital-intensive approaches are possible, according to the authors. This could involve new water infrastructure, such as dams and desalination plants. Companies can also rely on so-called “natural capital”, like wetland areas, to improve groundwater drainage.

The authors said: “The option of securing water rights is becoming harder and can take years of engagement because of increased competition for natural resources and tensions between operators and local communities. Basin and regional planning with regulatory and civic groups is an important strategy but cannot alone solve the underlying problem of water stress.”

On the reverse, flooding from extreme rains can also cause operational disruptions, including mine closure, washed-out roads, or unsafe water levels in tailing dams, with flooding affecting some commodities more than others based on their locations.

The authors’ analysis showed iron ore and zinc are the most exposed to ‘extremely high’ flood occurrence, at 50% and 40% of global volume, respectively.

“The problem is expected to get worse, particularly in six ‘wet spots’ likely to experience a 50-60% increase in extreme precipitation this century: northern Australia, South America, and southern Africa during Southern Hemisphere summer, and central and western Africa, India and Southeast Asia, and Indonesia during Southern Hemisphere winter,” the authors said.

Companies can adopt flood-proof mine designs that improve drainage and pumping techniques, the authors said, mentioning the adaptation of roads, or the building of sheeted haul roads, as examples.

Moving to an in-pit crushing and conveying method would also help alleviate potential floods, replacing mine site haulage and haul roads with conveyors.

When it comes to incoming extreme heat in already-hot places – like China, parts of North and West Africa and Australia – the authors noted that worker productivity could fall and cooling costs may rise, in additon to putting workers’ health (and sometimes their lives) at risk.

“Indirect socioeconomic consequences from climate change can also affect the political environment surrounding a mine,” they said.

Shifting commodity demand

Ongoing decarbonisation is likely to have a major impact on coal – “currently about 50% of the global mining market, would be the most obvious victim of such shifts”, the authors said – but it would also affect virgin-ore markets.

“In a 2°C scenario, bauxite, copper, and iron ore will see growth from new decarbonisation technologies offset by increased recycling rates, as a result of the growing circular economy and focus on metal production from recycling versus virgin ore,” they said.

At the other end of the spectrum, niche minerals could experience dramatic growth. As the global electrification of industries continues, electric vehicles and batteries will create growth markets for cobalt, lithium, and nickel.

Emerging technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells and carbon capture would also boost demand for platinum, palladium, and other catalyst materials, while rare earths would be needed for wind-turbine magnets.

The authors said: “Fully replacing revenues from coal will be difficult. Yet many of the world’s biggest mining companies will need to rebalance non-diverse mineral portfolios.

“Many of the largest mining companies derive the bulk of their earnings from one or two commodities. Copper-heavy portfolios may benefit from demand growth due to widespread electrification, for example. And iron ore- and aluminium-heavy portfolios may see an upside from decarbonisation technologies, but they are also more likely to be hit by rising recycling rates.”

According to the authors, the mining industry generates between 1.9 and 5.1 gigatons of CO2-equivalent of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Further down the value chain (Scope 3 emissions), the metals industry contributes roughly 4.2 gigatons, mainly through steel and aluminium production.

To stay on track for a global 2°C scenario, all sectors would need to reduce CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by at least 50% by 2050, they said.

To limit warming to 1.5°C, a reduction of at least 85% would likely be needed.

“Mining companies’ published emissions targets tend to be more modest than that, setting low targets, not setting targets beyond the early 2020s, or focusing on emissions intensity rather than absolute numbers,” the authors said.

To estimate decarbonisation potential in mining, the authors started with a baseline of current emissions by fuel source, based on the MineSpans database of mines’ operational characteristics, overlaid with the possible impact of, and constraints on, several mining decarbonisation levers.

The potential for mines varied by commodity, mine type, power source, and grid emissions, among other factors.

“Across the industry, non-coal mines could fully decarbonise by using multiple levers. Some are more economical than others – operational efficiency, for example, can make incremental improvements to the energy intensity of mining production while requiring little capital expenditure,” they said. Moving to renewable sources of electricity is becoming increasingly feasible too, even in off-grid environments, as the cost of battery packs is projected to decline 50% from 2017 to 2030, according to the authors.

“Electrification of mining equipment, such as diesel trucks and gas-consuming appliances, is only starting to become economical. Right now, only 0.5% of mining equipment is fully electric.

“However, in some cases, battery-electric vehicles have a 20% lower total cost of ownership versus traditional internal-combustion-engine vehicles. Newmont, for example, recently started production at its all-electric Borden mine in Ontario, Canada.”

The authors said: “Several big mining companies have installed their own sustainability committees, signalling that mining is joining the wave of corporate sustainability reporting and activity. Reporting emissions and understanding decarbonisation pathways are the first steps toward setting targets and taking action.”

Yet, these actions are currently too modest to reach the 1.5-2°C scenario and may not be keeping up with society’s expectations – “as increasingly voiced by investors seeking disclosures, companies asking their suppliers to decarbonise, and communities advocating for action on environmental issues”.

They concluded: “Mining companies concerned about their long-term reputation, licence to operate, or contribution to decarbonisation efforts may start to consider more aggressive decarbonisation and resilience plans.”

Epiroc trusting its 6th Sense on mine automation, electrification, digitalisation developments

During an enlightening Capital Markets Day, in Stockholm, Sweden, Epiroc backed up its credentials as a leader in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification spaces, outlining its progress to date and its medium- and long-term plans to capture more market share.

A few weeks after putting on the investor showcase – but before Helena Hedblom was announced as the incoming President and CEOIM spoke with President and CEO, Per Lindberg, and Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Mattias Olsson, to get some detail behind the presentation slides.

IM: Automation featured very widely in the capital markets day (CMD) presentations earlier this month: In general, how would you characterise the mining industry appetite for this new technology? Where is the average customer on your automation scale?

PL: First of all, the appetite is very large; most customers are looking at automation in one way or another.

It is hard to do a mathematical average when it comes to where the industry currently is, but the average miner is probably down on the left-hand side of that scale (pictured below) – somewhere in between tele-remote and single machine automation.

IM: Over the next five years, where do you see most potential growth for autonomous solutions in terms of underground or open-pit mining? What market dynamics are accelerating this uptake?

PL: Most likely it will happen in both surface and underground. The potential for productivity and safety improvements is probably greater in underground, though.

This trend is clearly driven by productivity, cost efficiency and safety. Those would be the key drivers for automation. It is about taking people out of the line of fire, as well as having close to 24/7 production.

IM: Following the 34% stake acquisition of ASI Mining last year, would you say the project Epiroc and ASI are working on at Ferrexpo’s Yeristovo mine is representative of how you envisage doing business together in the future?

PL: That is the reason that we initially acquired the 34% stake in ASI Mining; we wanted to go in that direction. In that respect, I think the Ferrexpo example is representative of how we will cooperate with ASI.

Of course, ASI can also offer a standalone solution without Epiroc being present on the automation side, so we are also promoting their offering too.

IM: How does Epiroc, as an OEM, balance its machine building and maintenance service offering? Does the ability to keep machines working longer through sophisticated monitoring systems and better manufacturing somewhat inhibit your ability to sell new machinery?

PL: To a certain extent, we are probably cannibalising our new machine sales with increased service intensity and improved servicing products. That is most likely the consequence. On the other hand, we also feel that it is only right to offer this type of aftercare and servicing.

Yet, you cannot continue to prolong the life of a piece of equipment forever. It needs to be replaced at some point.

Overall, the servicing offering works well for us and, we think, it is good for our customers in terms of increasing the life of their equipment.

IM: Factoring this in, what percentage of revenue is your aftermarket business likely to represent in the next 10 years (from 65% today)?

PL: It’s difficult to say if it is going to be higher, or not, but it is likely that the volume of service will increase. That is based on what we are talking about – the intensified servicing we are offering, the products we have developed and the fact that we are increasing the market share within our own fleet.

Whether it continues to be 65% of the overall business depends on activity in the rest of the group.

IM: Along these lines, how long does the company anticipate its new battery-electric loading fleets lasting compared with, say, the diesel-powered fleets you were selling 10 years ago?

PL: The wear and tear of the actual machine will be the same – that is not going to change because of the drivetrain.

But, having an electric drivetrain is different from diesel; we have to see what the long-term maintenance needs are compared with diesel. The life of the drivetrain also depends very much on the utilisation of the machine.

IM: Of the recent innovations the company has launched (or is about to launch) – 6th Sense, a semi-automated explosives delivery system (with Orica), Scooptram Automation Total, Powerbit, etc – which has the strongest business case in mining?

PL: I think 6th Sense is really a packaging of all of our different offerings within automation. In that regard, it is has the highest potential. Which components of 6th Sense have the highest potential? We’ll have to wait and see.

The semi-automated explosives delivery system with Orica is a very specific innovation, but we very much believe in automating this mining process because of the safety and productivity benefits it brings. But we are only just starting this development compared with 6th Sense, which has already launched.

Powerbit is, again, very specific, but…allows us to deliver a complete offering both in terms of machine and consumables that will enable higher productivity and automation. That should have a high potential in the market.

IM: What does the Epiroc mining roadmap look like for the next 10-30 years? I imagine wider adoption of hard-rock cutting, automation, electrification and digitalisation are in there, but what other technology evolutions are being planned for?

PL: We have to continue to work with all of those three – automation, electrification and digitalisation – as they will deliver significant benefits for the industry. That is where we need to focus over that 10-year timeframe.

These three also have the potential to further integrate the value chain in mining within the future digitalisation space. We need to both continue to work with these technologies and our customers to ensure we have greater market penetration in all these areas.

IM: And, hard-rock cutting? Is this as important as these three?

PL: For specific applications, mechanical cutting and the Mobile Miners have their relevance and work well. But we believe for the foreseeable future, the majority of hard-rock excavation will be carried out by drilling and blasting in the mining and tunnelling sectors.

IM: During the CMD there was mention of “cost per measure” contracts under the digitalisation heading. Could you go into some detail about how the company is offering these and if they are tied in with financing agreements for your equipment?

PL: In terms of cost per measure, one example would be cost per metre contracts in consumables and rock drilling tools.

MO: We also provide finance for equipment and it could be that the equipment is financed and we have a cost per metre contract in place. Those two are not connected or tied, though.

It could be that there is more of this ‘pay-for-performance’ type of contract in the future – where you charge per tonne of ore excavated, for example – but, if it does come, I don’t think it will happen quickly.

IM: Similarly Epiroc talked about “new business models” in 2020 for underground equipment at the CMD. What might these new business models be? What is the need for them?

PL: It could be revenue streams into software, to information management, to advanced service agreements, to Batteries as a Service for battery vehicles.

The reasons for establishing these models is the continuous development of software, new updates for machines, etc that require different models.

When it comes to Batteries as a Service, it is a different model again looking to transfer the energy cost of the battery from capex to opex in order to facilitate the timely decisions for customers and reduce the cost of operation for our customers.

These new models are all based on development of technologies.

Growth and innovation on the agenda, Epiroc’s incoming CEO says

The timing of the announcement of Helena Hedblom becoming Epiroc President and CEO might have caught investors off-guard, but the actual appointment is no big surprise.

The news came just 12 days after the company held its second annual Capital Markets Day where Hedblom and Per Lindberg, current President and CEO, gave investors an update on the progress the company has made on its strategy since starting operations under the new brand in November 2017.

Hedblom, who currently heads up the mining and infrastructure divisions for Epiroc and is due to take on the top role from March 2020, has been a major part of Epiroc’s Group Management team since it was formed. Her ties to Atlas Copco, meanwhile, date back to 2000, with her roles including Head of Research and Development and General Manager for rock drilling tools business Secoroc and, then, becoming President of Atlas Copco Rock Drilling Tools.

Epiroc has launched a number of new initiatives in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification spaces since the end of 2017, and Hedblom has been instrumental in all of these, spelling out the business case to investors, making sure the engineering capacity is available and taking all of the technical questions that may come Epiroc’s way.

With mining making up 76% of order intake for Epiroc in the nine months to the end of September – and the company keen to build on its leading position in the sector – it is logical for someone with Hedblom’s experience to take the top job following the successful establishment of Epiroc under Lindberg.

On a conference call today following the announcement, Ronnie Leten, Chairman of Epiroc, said current company head, Per Lindberg, had achieved the goals set for him by the board and that Hedblom had been given a new mission: to achieve “higher levels” of growth for Epiroc.

That is a bold statement considering the company has achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the period from 2015 to 2018 through a number of organic and inorganic investments, and a 14% CAGR in the 12 months to end-September 2019. This is all while retaining a comparatively high average operating margin of 18.3% and 20.1%, respectively, over those same timeframes.

Hedblom, speaking to IM shortly after that call, explained the growth mission given to her by her incoming Chairman.

“It’s a combination of organic initiatives within the company, as well as inorganic initiatives,” she said. “But, of course, within that, the big technology shifts with automation, digitalisation and electrification give us an opportunity to help our customer gain safety, productivity and energy benefits. That is a big focus area for us.”

She is also looking to grow the company’s aftermarket business – which already accounts for 65% of revenue – explaining: “This is where we can make a difference with our customers and really be a productivity partner. It also gives us resilience across the cycle.”

Looking to the “initiatives”, specifically, she said there could be some organic product developments to close some “gaps we have in the portfolio”, but also strengthening “our presence… in some areas where we don’t have the market reach today”.

While these growth initiatives will most likely be in markets the company has already deemed to be core, she said all divisions within the company had a roadmap looking into opportunities that are “adjacent to core”.

One area of Epiroc investment Hedblom was keen to talk up was R&D, which in recent years has enabled the company to retain a leading position in the likes of autonomous surface drilling, battery-powered underground vehicles, and mine digitalisation and automation.

“We have a good level of investment in R&D,” she said, adding that, at the moment, it is heavily skewed towards automation, digitalisation and electrification.

“Bear in mind that 65% of our revenue is in the aftermarket and we are already investing 2-3% of revenue in R&D – that represents quite a big investment on the capital equipment side,” she said.

She concluded: “That (R&D investment) is needed. For me, innovation is key. That is how we stay ahead of technology leaders in all of these areas.

“I expect R&D investments to stay at this level, and this is extremely important to creating sustainable growth for the company over the long term.”

Mining EPC/EPCM space in transition mode, Ausenco’s Ebbett says

The past 12 months has been an interesting period for the mining EPC/EPCM space with miners looking to offload more risk and leverage new technology to improve design accuracy, reduce cost and shorten the time between construction and production.

Ahead of the annual focus on this sector, to be published in International Mining’s December issue, IM heard from Ausenco’s Vice President of Global Project Delivery, John Ebbert, on the recent trends affecting the project design, construction and delivery market.

IM: In the past 12 months, how has the market for mining EPCM contracts evolved? Do some of the big contract awards to the likes of WorleyParsons (Koodaideri), Bechtel (QBII) indicate a shift in the type of contracts/services some of the big projects/companies are now looking for?

JE: These large project awards are in line with increased mining investment. The market is moving towards a greater level of integration between owners and EPCM service providers with a focus on minimising risks typically associated with mega projects. This is not only the case in the mining sector; we are seeing similar trends in other sectors. This shift reflects the capacity of each contracting party to accept risk. During periods of reduced activity, contractors need to accept greater risk (EPC) to protect their revenue and margins. Conversely in periods of greater project activity, contractors are able to realise similar margins on a risk-free basis (EPCM).

IM: Over the same time period, has automation become more firmly entrenched in mine engineering plans? Are big open-pit mines now being designed to facilitate autonomous equipment or a combination of manned and autonomous equipment?

JE: Automation is considered at all stages of project development. The productivity and efficiency gains afforded by automation and digitisation help de-risk or improve return on investment, something owners always aim to achieve. The level and application of automation ranges from simply reducing dependency on operators, through to the creation of digital twins that support asset optimisation using advanced analysis techniques. Not only are we designing mines that support and enable automation, we are also designing to enable advanced data and analytics processes.

IM: For underground mine design, how has the evolution of mine electrification influenced design? Is the use of this equipment enabling mines to go deeper on ramps than they were previously able to (thanks to reduced ventilation needs)?

JE: The evolution of mine electrification emphasises the need for flexible mine design that will accommodate new and emerging technology predicted to be mainstream in the not-so-distant future. Adequately ventilating underground mines is a challenge due to the sheer volume of power required to move and potentially cool the air. Not only does the shift away from diesel-powered equipment towards electrification have well documented health and environmental benefits, it also allows greater flexibility in development cycles, mining at greater depths and increased productivity as ventilation requirements to maintain a safe environment for personnel are lower.

IM: In terms of the project pipeline, what are the big contract awards to look out for in the mining space over the next 12 months?

JE: From a global market perspective, we are expecting continued demand for and investment in metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt in line with the increasing global demand for electric vehicles. Similarly, due to global trade and market uncertainty, gold is likely to remain a strong player in the next 12 months.

Nornickel reveals ambitious technology – as well as production – plans

Technology looks like playing a pivotal role in Norilsk Nickel’s ambitious growth plan to boost its mined ore volumes at the renowned Taimyr operation, in Russia.

After revealing a target to up production to 30 Mt/y by 2030, from 17 Mt/y in 2017, at its Capital Markets Day in London this week, IM spoke with First Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Sergey Dyachenko, to find out how technology was helping the company achieve this target.

Dyachenko listed off several impressive feats the company has achieved in the past 18-24 months that would pave the way for this growth.

First off, Norilsk has digitised nearly all of its operations as part of its Technological Breakthrough program – aimed at designing, planning and operational controls of its mining activities.

It has shifted its mine planning from a shift-based system to an hourly scheduling program, is carrying out dynamic simulations of mining activities on an as-needed basis to visualise the effects of mine plan changes, has installed proximity detection and collision avoidance systems (with a 50 m personnel detection range) at all of its underground mines, and has commissioned a real-time dispatch system to optimise its operations.

With digital centres built or being built in all of its major mining hubs, and Wi-Fi rolled out across its underground operations, all of its processes are now very much ‘connected’.

Dyachenko said these initiatives were already paying off, with a 7% increase in nickel-equivalent production between 2017 and 2019, partly attributable to the digitisation and automation programs. He could also point to a productivity increase – the output of nickel equivalent per employee rising 15% over this same timeframe.

While the company has come a long way since it started its Technology Breakthrough program in 2014, it is ready to leverage more technology over the next five years (and beyond).

Dyachenko spoke of transitioning from dynamic 3D mine models to the use of digital twins for mine plan optimisation at all of its mines and, excitingly, plans for a “fully autonomous smart digital mine” at its Skalisty nickel-copper-PGM underground project at the Polar Division, Norilsk’s key production asset on the Taimyr Peninsula.

Skalisty, at more than 2,000 m below ground, will be the company – and one of Russia’s – deepest underground mines. This fact is making Norilsk reconsider its normal mine development and operation route.

The company is currently engaged on a prefeasibility study at Skalisty, however it has already carried out 966 m of shaft sinking to bring the #10 ventilation shaft down to 2,056 m, and plans to start horizontal development at the project next month. Completion of the main shaft is scheduled for 2021.

“We have a task to make our Skalisty underground mine an autonomous mine,” Dyachenko said, explaining that the depth and accompanying temperature that comes with it made it a difficult environment to operate in.

Added to this, Dyachenko said the “demographics” of the future workforce and the need to provide an “interesting environment” at Skalisty made it a necessity to at least relocate machine operators to a control room on surface.

Norilsk will not be working on this ‘task’ alone. In addition to using consultants for the prefeasibility study, it is has also engaged an OEM with experience of automating underground operations in Mali and Sudbury (Canada) at this stage.

“We want to have a very clear concept…and find out the economic impact and best configuration for the mine,” Dyachenko explained.

The Norilsk COO said engaging such an OEM at this point in the mine development process also provided the manufacturer with the required time to “customise” a solution that fitted the Skalisty orebody and infrastructure.

“Not all of this will be off-the-shelf,” he commented on the equipment and infrastructure required for Skalisty, adding that battery-electric vehicles could also come into the mining equation.

Speaking of time, Dyachenko said the company expected to recover the first ore from development at the deep mine in 2023, followed by first “production” ore in 2024.

The new Skalisty mine is expected to eventually ramp up to production of ~2.5 Mt/y.

Ground support, electrification, automation, digitalisation all part of MacLean’s PERUMIN 34 showcase

The upcoming PERUMIN 34 mining convention in Arequipa (September 16-20) is providing Canada-based mining vehicle manufacturer MacLean Engineering a chance to share its latest field data and learnings from product development efforts in the areas of ground support, electrification, automation, and digitalisation.

This includes face bolting, full-fleet battery electrification, tele-remote and driver assist vehicle operation, real-time vehicle monitoring, and virtual reality training.

MacLean’s participating delegation includes a full contingent of sales and product management specialists both from the MacLean Peru branch, in Lima, as well as from head office in Canada.

The company first established a branch in Lima in 2012 to provide technical and sales support to the local mining industry. Since that time, the company has grown its in-country staffing contingent to over 50 employees, including over 40 mining vehicle technicians who provide site-level service and support to mines throughout the country.

Peru is also the first international mining jurisdiction where MacLean has sold and commissioned its latest ground support installation option – face bolting on the 975 Omnia scissor bolter – with two units currently working underground for bolting the face within the underground mining cycle. At least one of these is at the Nexa Resources’ owned Atacocha zinc-copper-lead-silver-gold operation in the Peruvian Andes (pictured).

MacLean President, Kevin MacLean, said the company’s Lima branch is at the heart of its commitment to underground mining, not only in Peru but also across South America.

Tony Caron, MacLean’s Vice President of Latin America, Quebec and Nunavut, said: “Our approach in Peru has stayed faithful to our approach to building a lasting business in other international markets, which is to establish local roots and take a long-term view, focusing on nurturing customer partnerships.

“From the Abitibi region of northwest Quebec to the nickel basin and gold mines of northern Ontario; from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic to Nevada, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Australia – in each of these unique mining geographies, geologies and cultures, the one constant is the importance of in-country service and support.”

MacLean’s Product Manager for Bolting, Stephen Denomme, said the MacLean bolter is the benchmark for ground support installation safety, productivity and versatility in Canadian hard-rock mines. “With our latest face bolting design, we are able to offer up to the mining industry in Latin America, a semi-mechanised bolting option where the operator is always working under protected ground, where you get best-in-class productivity for bolts and screen installed per shift, along with the versatility of multiple bolt-type installation and a deck configuration that allows for the storage of a full shift of consumables,” he said.

“This is the MacLean bolting approach and technology that we look forward to sharing with industry colleagues during the week of PERUMIN 34 in Arequipa.”