Tag Archives: Epiroc

Nordic Iron Ore plotting entry into steel’s circular economy at Blötberget

With the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron having just been produced, most of the globe’s iron and steel companies are evaluating how they can continue to play a role in the steel-making industry of the future.

The HYBRIT project milestone in Sweden has global ramifications for a sector that is among the three biggest producers of carbon dioxide, according to McKinsey. Incorporation of fossil-free technology to produce ‘green iron’ that can lead onto ‘green steel’ is viewed as one of the ways the sector can clean up its act and stay relevant in a society that is increasingly focused on greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability.

Nordic Iron Ore, the owner of the Blötberget iron ore project in the Bergslagen mining region of Sweden, is one of a few companies blessed with the potential to produce higher-grade magnetite that could fit into this brave new steel-making world.

Paul Marsden, Technical and Marketing Advisor for Nordic Iron Ore, explains: “There is a lot of investment interest in Sweden and elsewhere for projects associated with these goals. We’re looking at how our place in that might work, but, as we have demonstrated that we can make products in excess of 71% Fe, I would suggest that we can definitely fit the bill.”

It is not only the grade of iron Nordic Iron Ore intends to produce that is in its favour in this regard; the asset it intends to extract ore from is a past producer, having last closed up shop in 1979.

The old headframe in Blötberget

The most recent estimates state that the company could produce upwards of 4 Mt/y of high-quality iron ore at full tilt from an underground operation. The initial development, Blötberget, is planned as an underground post pillar cut and fill (PPCF) mine using backfill to reduce surface impact and maintain the high-grade of the run-of-mine ore after extraction. Construction is envisaged to take around two years, with an aim to use as much of the project’s magnetite resources as possible.

“At the moment, we’re still going to be a niche producer with low tonnages,” Marsden told IM. “Phase one is likely to start at around 1.65 Mt/y, but phase two and three could get us up to 4-5 Mt/y of high-quality products.

“At the same time, we see ourselves fitting into a changing European steel scene where you have got to be looking at lower carbon output, higher productivity per unit and a move into pelletising or DRI (sponge iron) as a high priority.”

How the company will do this is still to be confirmed, but some of the recent agreements Nordic Iron Ore has signed indicate there is intent behind the ambitions.

It has enlisted the help of Paterson & Cooke to evaluate alternatives for its waste management process (fine tailings were previously anticipated to be deposited in an existing tailing dam) that “significantly reduces the environmental impact of the mining operations but is also attractive from an economic standpoint”.

It has enlisted the help of Sweden-based VB Energi to supply electricity to the site from renewable sources.

Nordic Iron Ore took part in the Smart Exploration project, an EU-funded collaboration between universities and companies from eleven countries. One of the project’s aims was to develop environmentally-friendly methods of geophysical exploration, with Smart Exploration teams conducting several evaluations at Ludvika Mines (part of the Blötberget project) using prototype equipment producing more accurate measurements primarily in the fields of seismology and electromagnetics

It has also signed an MoU with Epiroc Sweden, with the two companies cooperating on the mining project development.

Nordic Iron Ore’s CEO, Lennart Eliasson, said this OEM partnership, in particular, was important to the company’s aims of operating a modern mine able to deploy the latest technologies for high productivity and safety, and long-term sustainability.

Marsden provided a bit more background on this agreement: “The definitive feasibility study we had previously completed with Golder Group by the end of 2019 was what you would consider a ‘traditional mine’ – it included diesel-powered loading and haulage with operators. It wasn’t really what we were aiming for, but it gave us an economic study to go to market with.

“We have since had conversations with the likes of Epiroc, ABB and others at the forefront of pushing new technologies like automation, electrification and digitalisation. They are interested in producing a ‘showcase mine’ for Sweden.”

Marsden says there is potential for leveraging the technology learnings on projects such as LKAB’s Kiruna and Konsuln mines, Boliden’s underground operations and Lundin Mining’s Zinkgruvan operation to make Blötberget “future ready”.

He added: “We cannot automate and electrify it all from the off, but we can lay the groundwork to eventually automate and electrify just about everything in the mine.”

What the company needs now is backing from investors to solidify its plan for Blötberget.

Some $8-10 million should allow the company to assess improvements – the potential to access old resources close to a planned underground decline, earlier revenue generators such as toll treatment of high-grade concentrate, and right-sizing the process flowsheet – and bolster the team to see it through mine construction.

After that, it will be a matter of aligning with offtake partners intent on sustainable steel production with a premium iron ore concentrate that suits the industry’s ‘green’ sentiment.

Epiroc to supply drill rigs, bolters, loaders and trucks to Mexico’s CoMinVi

Epiroc says it has won a large order for underground mining equipment from Mexican contractor CoMinVi for use at several mines throughout the country.

CoMinVi SA de CV, headquartered in Guanajuato, Mexico, has ordered a variety of Epiroc machines, including face drilling rigs, production drilling rigs, rock reinforcement rigs, loaders and mine trucks. The equipment will ensure the mines are operated with strengthened productivity, safety and cost efficiency, the OEM said.

The machines will be used at several mines in Mexico where CoMinVi serves as mining contractor. Aftermarket services such as on-site maintenance supervisor and spare parts consignment will be provided by Epiroc.

The total order value of the equipment exceeds $45 million, of which the majority was booked in the June quarter of 2021. The remaining part is expected to be booked in the second half of 2021.

“We are proud to partner with CoMinVi to enhance safety, productivity and sustainability in their operations,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “The equipment and services will support CoMinVi to successfully execute on their mining projects.”

Rafael Villagómez Contreras, CoMinVi’s CEO, said: “The acquisition of this new equipment is a historical part of CoMinVi’s growth in recent years and represents a competitive advantage for us. It will ensure our ability to respond immediately to our potential customers by having the necessary resources that allow us to be one step ahead of our competition. We are very satisfied with the commercial partnership with Epiroc as this is a long-term relationship that will be supported with a high-level technical backup and a reliable supply.”

The equipment includes Boomer face drilling rigs, Simba production drilling rigs, Boltec rock reinforcement rigs, Scooptram loaders and Minetruck haulers. The machines will be equipped with Epiroc’s Certiq system, which allows for intelligent monitoring of machine performance and productivity in real time, and some of the units will have Epiroc’s Rig Control System, RCS, installed. This system makes them ready for automation and remote control.

The equipment is to be delivered in 2021 and 2022.

Glencore’s CSA mine set to use Epiroc ST14 Battery LHD

Glencore is to introduce a new battery-electric LHD from Epiroc at its CSA copper mine in Cobar, New South Wales, as it looks to reduce diesel emissions and energy costs, plus improve operator safety and productivity performance at the operation.

The ST14 Battery loader will be one of the first of its kind to be used anywhere in the world, Glencore said, with the mine’s operators set to start using it later this month.

These 14 t payload battery-electric loaders have also been used at Agnico Eagle’s Kittila gold mine in northern Finland as part of the SIMS project, while LKAB is looking to use one of the units at its main Kiruna iron ore mine for production and in the Konsuln test mine, both in Sweden. Boliden, meanwhile, has been testing an ST14 Battery at its Kristineberg underground copper-zinc mine in the country.

In the Americas, Vale is set for the delivery of four Scooptram ST14 Battery loaders at its Canada underground mines as part of a 2020 agreement with Epiroc, while Codelco, in 2020, said it would soon start testing one of these units in Chile.

CSA is one of Australia’s deepest underground mines and produces about 50,000 t/y of copper in concentrates. The battery-electric loader is set to transport thousands of tonnes of ore and waste per day, operating at a depth of almost 2 km underground, Glencore said.

“The copper we produce at CSA Mine is a key enabler of the low carbon economy, and is an essential commodity that goes into electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy technologies like wind turbines and solar panels,” Peter Christen, General Manager of Glencore’s CSA Mine, said.

“We are committed to reducing emissions across our own operations and our investment in the ST14 Battery Loader is an important step in the broader transformation of mining in a low carbon future.”

Epiroc boosts mine network offering with 3D-P acquisition

Epiroc has announced its second acquisition in two weeks, adding 3D-P, a Canada-based company that provides wireless connectivity solutions for surface mining, to its expanding portfolio.

3D-P, based in Calgary, provides reliable wireless connectivity solutions for mining companies within surface mining.

As Epiroc explains, a robust wireless network is crucial to enable mining automation, including teleremote and autonomous operations. 3D-P is active in North America, Chile, Peru and Australia, offering a variety of networking solutions to miners including “hybrid LTE”. It has about 50 employees and had revenues in 2020 of about $12 million, according to Epiroc.

The 3D-P buy follows an announcement on May 28 that Epiroc had agreed to acquire Kinetic Logging Services Pty Ltd, an Australia-based company that provides mining companies with geophysical logging services.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said having reliable, high-quality wireless connectivity is key for mining companies that invest in automation and digitalisation to strengthen safety and productivity.

“We are happy to welcome the excellent team at 3D-P to Epiroc,” she said. “Together we will ensure that our customers succeed on their automation and digitalisation journey.”

Epiroc makes significant safety stride with RCS Collision Avoidance System interface

Epiroc says it recently launched an offering that aims to support safety in underground mining environments with the RCS based Collision Avoidance System (CAS) interface.

Proximity Detection System (PDS) suppliers, compliant to the ISO 21815-2 Draft (March 2018), are able to interface with Epiroc RCS Materials Handling TMM (Trackless Mobile Machinery) to enable functionality for slowing and stopping, in what the PDS perceives to be a hazardous or unwanted event, Epiroc explains.

The interface allows for third-party systems to communicate with Epiroc’s Rig Control System, RCS, in a completely new way, Epiroc claims. This enables a third-party PDS added to the vehicle, when needed, to take interventional control of the machine and prevent accidents.

The CAS Interface, when coupled with a PDS, helps to detect objects in the collision risk area, evaluate the collision risk level and take interventional actions to avoid the potential collision, the company says. The system works on the understanding that all machines and all personnel in the mine are equipped with tags or sensors.

“A CAS installation is intended to assist with operator perception of potential hazards around the machine and prevention of potential incidents where operators cannot respond in time, however the overall responsibility for safe operation of the machine remains with the operator,” Epiroc said.

Daniel Sandström, Global Product Manager-Minetruck, in Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “With safety first and always in mind, I am proud to see the release of the Collision Avoidance System interface. This improves safety underground in a ground-breaking way.”

The CAS interface, which is now available for the complete Epiroc RCS Loader fleet as well as for Minetruck MT42 and soon thereafter for the Minetruck MT65, has been tested by customers, who have been pleased with the performance and functionality, Epiroc said.

Kumeshan Naidu, Integration Manager M&A, at Epiroc’s Technology and Digital division, said: “The Epiroc RCS CAS interface performed as designed, demonstrating high consistency in the cases where the PDS provided reliable input signals.

“The CAS initiative is not a ‘plug and play’ solution and must be tailored, with the participation of all parties to suite a particular site. Change management and risk mitigation strategies on these sites are key when implementing the system.”

Moving forward, Naidu can see further potential: “Solutions like Mobilaris On-Board can augment a mine’s efforts to ensure safety, as well as create a more ‘natural’ state of awareness that underground TMM operators can respond to. With an interface that is more familiar to the operator, who typically drives commercial vehicles (GPS, Waze, Google Maps), their reflex is to naturally avoid a potential unwanted event from occurring. An operator or pedestrian that is equipped with real-time information about their surroundings, through systems like Mobilaris’ MMI, On-board and Pocket Mine, will be better suited to promote a safe working environment; one in which the CAS slow down and stop functionality is a last resort in preventing collision events.”

Epiroc is part of the ISO standard working group where new standards are being developed. It is also participating in the International Council for Mining and Metals (ICMM) initiative for Vehicle Interaction.

Epiroc intends to change the interface from supporting ISO 21815-2 Draft March 2018 to further supporting the final version of ISO 21815-2 within a year of ISO 21815-2 being released.

Scotgold boosts underground fleet at Cononish with DUX truck

Scotgold, as it looks to further enhance safe production at its Cononish gold-silver mine in Scotland, has added another DUX underground truck to its fleet.

The second DUX truck at Cononish is a DT-12N, a narrow vein version of the DT-12 produced by DUX that measures 1,625 mm wide, has an 11 t payload and a 6 cu.m capacity. The first DT-12N has been operating at the mine for some time.

In the company’s announcement on June 1, it said the mine has been producing both gold concentrate and gravity separated gold dore, following the resolution of various outstanding technical issues affecting the processing plant earlier in the year. The first shipment of concentrate was made on May 11, 2021, achieving a major milestone for the company. The mine poured first gold back in December 2020.

“We shipped 25 t of concentrate at an average of 182.4 g/t of gold, exceeding the target of 150 g/t, achieving maximum price within the agreed terms within the offtake agreement,” the company said. “Modest amounts of gravity gold dore was also produced and sent to refiners this month for further treatment.”

Scotgold said it is encouraged with the mine and process plant performance, although performance had been intermittent to date.

“On given days throughout April and May, both the mine and process plant have been achieving near design rates of production,” it said. “The company is also pleased with the quality of ore that has been mined and produced through the process plant.”

Scotgold says its focus is to further enhance safe production through consistency and stability of mine and process plant operations in parallel with the opening of multiple faces of ore in the underground mine itself.

“The current limited available number of ore faces does limit our immediate ability to focus on the highest-grade ore zones of the Cononish orebody,” it explained. “Having proved that the mine and processing plant can operate as designed, our focus is on reducing outages through more efficient management of spares and having further redundancy in our mining mobile fleet with the arrival of the second haulage DUX truck.”

This new DUX truck will be complemented by an existing fleet that includes an Epiroc T1D single-boom face drilling rig and Epiroc ST2G Scooptram LHD.

When ramped up, Cononish is expected to average annual gold production of 23,370 oz over a nine-year life of mine.

Boliden testing Epiroc battery-electric loader at Kristineberg

As Boliden continues to pursue further development of the Kristineberg underground copper-zinc mine in Sweden, it is increasing its understanding of the use of battery-electric vehicles at its underground operations.

Last month, the company outlined a SEK1.25 billion ($150 million) investment at Kristineberg – most of which is conditional on a production expansion permit – towards further developing the mine towards the Rävliden mineralisation. The expansion is expected to contribute to an increase in milled volumes in the Boliden Area to 1.8 Mt/y.

While this is happening, the company, in partnership with Epiroc, has been testing a 14 t ST14 Battery LHD at the mine.

Testing of the machine commenced in the March quarter and is expected to last 12 months. It has involved the installation of a battery swap and charging station (with overhead crane), and the switching of two batteries on site as testing has ramped up.

Patrik Hansson, Senior Development Engineer of Mining Technology at Boliden Mines, told IM the testing has been limited to a specific part of the mine – the L-Area, 850-1,000 m level. He said the ST14 Battery is the first battery-powered LHD tested across the company.

“We have several KPIs that we are following and evaluating, and comparing to our normal diesel equipment,” Hansson said. Included among the KPI list is tramming distance, driving time, equipment utilisation, equipment availability, production (t/mth), energy consumption (kWh/t), operator acceptance, ambient temperature, air quality (CO, NOx, CO2, diesel particulate matter), humidity level and noise level.

Boliden has submitted an application for expanded production at the Kristineberg mine to the Swedish Land and Environment Court. At the same time, it has decided to make preparatory investments in, among other things, infrastructure and water treatment. Conditional on the application being approved, Boliden will complete the investment, which includes a new ramp and a new crushing station. Production is expected to start in 2023.

In addition to increased mine production, a completed expansion means the life of the Kristineberg mine will be extended and that capacity utilisation in the Boliden Area’s concentrator will be improved.

At Kristineberg, cut and fill mining and drift and fill mining methods are used to mine the mineralised material underground. Generally, levels wider than 10 m are mined with drift and fill mining. In levels with widths between 6-10 m, slashing is used to mine any remaining mineralised material on the walls of the mining room. In the uppermost slices, residual mining is also practiced to mine the sill pillars.

Epiroc Canada launches RAC Teams, Control Tower to aid mining’s digital transformation

Epiroc Canada, adapting to changing technological trends in the mining sector, has introduced Regional Application Center (RAC) teams to, it says, assist in the industry’s new digital transformation.

“Across the board, mining projects are continually pushing for increased production while prioritising safety,” the company said. “With this in mind, Epiroc has assembled specialised automation and digitalisation support systems in strategic locations across the globe to help improve customer processes and boost productivity.”

The result, Epiroc says, is a heightened level of production that keeps workers out of danger zones on site while providing enhanced strategic direction for customers. Interoperability improvements have reduced variability and allow project planners to move towards their targets with renewed confidence.

Martin Champagne, Application Center Manager at Epiroc Canada, said: “Our RAC team gives new perspectives on achieving efficiency for the organisations we partner with. The team itself utilises members from a wide range of disciplines; from data analysts and project engineers to network specialists, software developers, IT specialists and digital product managers – the support system is always available when customers need it.”

Epiroc’s Canadian Customer Center has successfully applied this technology since the late 1990s, when the RCS Rocket Boomers with advanced boom controls and autodrill features were first introduced. In 2005, Canadian operations implemented one of the first Epiroc Scooptram Radio Remote Controls using long-range Bluetooth technology; 2009 for the first fleet of semi-autonomous Epiroc Scooptram implementations; 2012 for the first fleet of Pit Viper 235s with tele-remote systems; and 2019 for the first SmartROC D65 autonomous drill.

With Epiroc’s 6th Sense offering, the shift towards automation, digitalisation and interoperability is already underway, and the Regional Application Centers work collaboratively with many industry partners across the globe to achieve their goals, Epiroc said.

It added: “While working together with customers, Epiroc has initiated the move from machine autonomy to process autonomy, which consists of automating a complete process and allowing different kinds of equipment to communicate with each other effectively.”

To help support these functions, a newly renovated Control Tower located at Epiroc’s Lively, Ontario facility now acts as a home base for the RAC team, who are continually collecting data and developing innovative techniques to improve performance.

“Customers utilising this service for their projects can now turn their focus to other areas of the business with the knowledge that Epiroc’s team of experts are carefully monitoring progress on site and offering solutions in real time,” Epiroc concluded.

Evolution Mining studying open-pit, underground expansion options at Cowal

Evolution Mining says it is embarking on a prefeasibility study to further expand its Cowal open-pit mine as part of a plan to build towards 350,000 oz/y of sustainable, reliable, low-cost gold production from the New South Wales operation.

Currently on the E42 stage H cutback, Evolution said during a recent site visit that there is potential to further the life of the open pit by accessing feed from the E41 and E46 satellite pits. The study looking into a possible expansion is due later this year, with the company saying it could provide long-term base load ore feed for the operation.

The mine produced 262,000 ounces in Evolution’s 2020 financial year.

The Stage H cutback the company is currently pursuing is expected to see increased ore volumes and grade mined in the first six months of this year, with the strip ratio to fall below 1:1 in its 2023 financial year, Evolution said. It also says an equipment strategy review is underway, with opportunities to “rationalise fleet” with reduced re-handling.

The haulage and loading fleet at Cowal currently consists of 20 Cat 789C dump trucks, three Cat 785C trucks, four excavators (one Liebherr 9400, one Liebherr 994B, one Liebherr 9200 and one Hitachi EX1200), plus three Cat 992G wheel loaders. It also has six hired Epiroc SmartROC surface drills at the operation, one Drill Rigs Australia GC600 drill rig, five Cat D10T tracked dozers and one Cat 834H wheel dozer.

The open-pit expansion is only part of the expansion story at Cowal, with a feasibility study underway on an underground operation. This is factoring in 3 Moz of resources and 1 Moz of reserves, with high-grade orebodies open at depth, the company says.

A second decline (Galway) is due to be developed at Cowal this year, with diamond drilling set to commence next month. The 14,300 m of planned drilling will, the company says, help confirm optimal grade control parameters and convert resources to reserves.

Evolution Mining also has a permit to increase processing capacity at Cowal to 9.8 Mt/y, with near-term incremental improvements targeting a circa-9 Mt/y rate.

The process flowsheet at Cowal includes primary crushing with a Metso Outotec 54-75 Superior MK-II gyratory, grinding with an FLSmidth 36 ft (11 m) x 20.5 ft (6.2 m) SAG mill and FLSmidth 22 ft x 36.5 ft ball mill, and screening with Schenck and Delkor screens. Sandvik H6800 hydroconecone crushers, Metso Outotec flotation cells, a Metso Outotec Vertimill, and Metso Outotec stirred media detritors also feature.

Evolution also said it is testing technology that uses glycine and cyanide during the cyanidation process of gold ore at Cowal for potential significant cost savings and environmental benefits.

Lab trials with the GlyCat™ technology from Australia-based Mining and Process Solutions have been completed successfully, it said, with the next phase being pilot plant trials to assess variability tests and long-term environmental impacts.

Epiroc to acquire Meglab as part of battery-electric mining equipment push

Epiroc has agreed to acquire Meglab, a Canada-based company with expertise in providing electrification infrastructure solutions to mines, as it looks to further support mining customers in their transition to battery-electric vehicles.

Meglab, based in Val-D’Or, Quebec, Canada, is a technology integrator that designs, manufactures, installs and supports practical and cost-effective electrification and telecommunications infrastructure solutions to customers in several countries. Its products and solutions include system design, substations, switchgears and automation system solutions, enabling the infrastructure needed for mine electrification and equipment charging solutions, as well as for digitalisation and automation of operations, Epiroc says. It has more than 240 employees and had revenues in 2020 of about C$49 million ($39 million).

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “Epiroc is proud to be the leader in providing battery-electric vehicles for the mining industry, improving customers’ work environment and lowering their emissions while increasing their productivity. The acquisition of Meglab will strengthen our capacity to provide the infrastructure required as mines transition to battery-electric vehicles.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the June quarter, with the purchase price not material relative to Epiroc’s market capitalisation, the mining OEM said. The business will become part of Epiroc’s Parts & Services division and will continue to be based in Canada.

In a separate release, Meglab said the two comapanies collective goal is to develop the mine of the future, with the organisations pooling its respective assets and expertise in pursuit of this target.

“Together, we will position ourselves as the leaders of all-electric and intelligent mines,” it said. “This synergy will provide various growth opportunities worldwide, both for Meglab and for the team members that will collaborate with their co-workers in this new expanded team.”