Tag Archives: Freeport McMoRan

ICMM appoints Rohitesh Dhawan as new Chief Executive Officer

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has announced the appointment of Rohitesh Dhawan as Chief Executive Officer, following a competitive global selection process, to succeed Tom Butler, who will step down on April 6, 2021.

Dhawan is a sustainability specialist with significant experience in the resources sector. His most recent role was as Managing Director and Head of the EMEA region at Eurasia Group, a geopolitical research and analysis firm, where he led the climate change and sustainability practice. Prior to this, Dhawan’s roles included Global Head of Sustainability for the Mining Sector and Global Strategy Director at KPMG International. He currently serves on the expert panel on climate change for the UK government’s Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions Programme (PACT).

Richard Adkerson, ICMM Chair and Chairman and CEO of Freeport-McMoRan, said: “I am pleased to welcome Rohitesh as CEO of ICMM. He brings a deep commitment to sustainable development, and strong on-the-ground experience. His extensive knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing our industry will be invaluable as we work together to address some of the biggest issues facing our sector, and advancing important initiatives that reflect our collective commitment to continuous performance improvement.

“I would also like to recognise Tom’s outstanding contribution to ICMM over the last six years, and on behalf of the council, I would like to thank him for his leadership and commitment. I am looking forward to working with Rohitesh to build on the strong foundation that Tom leaves behind.”

On his appointment, Dhawan said: “I am excited to be joining ICMM in arguably the most important decade for the industry. The foundations of a net zero emissions economy are being laid now, and minerals are critical to it. But many environmental, social and governance challenges remain unresolved, and I can think of no better vehicle than ICMM to convene the necessary solutions. I’m delighted to be in service of an industry that touches all our lives, and to join an organisation that is united in the goal of achieving the highest possible standards of sustainability.”

Tom Butler, CEO of ICMM said: “It has been an immense privilege to lead ICMM. During my tenure we have tackled some key challenges, but much remains to be done. I am pleased to be handing the reins over to such a strong leader for the next phase. I want to take this opportunity to thank our members and everyone in the ICMM team for their sterling support over the last six years.”

ColdBlock and Nucomat partner to automate mineral sampling prep process

Two technology companies that take laboratory efficiency and workplace safety to a new level have pooled their expertise to help automate one of the more labour intensive and risky elements involved in the mineral sampling process.

The combination of the ColdBlock Digestion 3rd Generation Product Line and Nucomat’s Compact Sample Preparation Unit will enable an automated process of “raw sample in, analysis-ready sample out at unprecedented speed and level of operator safety” for labs dealing with mineral samples, according to Nick Kuryluk, CEO of ColdBlock Technologies.

Ahead of a CEMI-hosted webinar to discuss the combination, IM put some questions to Kuryluk and Michael Van de Steene, Software Team Lead at Nucomat.

IM: Since unveiling the ColdBlock Digestion solution back in 2015 at the annual PDAC Convention, what has happened to the technology in terms of speeding up the sampling process for mining companies? I think back then, you were claiming the technology delivered fast digestion rates of between 10 and 15 minutes. Have you managed to speed this up even more?

NK: Since 2015 when we unveiled the technology at PDAC, we have focused on developing a solid evidence generation package that validated the performance of the technology in both the academic setting and the real-world setting through mining organisations and commercial laboratories.

The performance parameters that were validated include 1) high return on investment (ROI), 2) elevated workplace safety, and 3) high analytical accuracy and precision.

  • 1) The Amira Global P1196 project included SGS, Freeport McMoRan, New Gold, Centerra Gold and Newcrest. This project demonstrated that ColdBlock delivers similar analytical measurements to fire assay for gold determination and similar analytical measurements to hotblock for base metal determination (ie copper and iron determination). However, it was further validated that the ColdBlock process can be performed in minutes compared to hours and the cost savings were substantial (average of 50% cost savings vs fire assay for gold application);
  • 2) In regard to workplace safety, we eliminated the use of lead for gold determination (commonly used in fire assay) and, thus, eliminated potential lead contamination for workers and lead waste. For base metal applications, we reduced the use of hydrofluoric acid and perchloric acid in the digestion process, both of which are harmful reagents; and
  • 3) We have now published several papers. The body of work consistently demonstrates the high accuracy and precision in the recovery of elements in both mining and environmental samples. In 2019, the Geological Survey of Canada presented their work comparing ColdBlock to both microwave and hotblock for environmental applications (soils and sludges). It was demonstrated that ColdBlock improved precision from 12.9-1.3% with a 60% time saving.
The ColdBlock Digestion mechanism

The speed of our digestion system remains the same, however, it is unmatched when compared to conventional methods. We can digest sample materials for gold analysis in minutes compared to hours with fire assay. We can also digest sample materials for base metal analysis in minutes compared to hours with hotblock.

IM: Is Nucomat competing in the same sample preparation field as ColdBlock? Where do the two companies’ solutions overlap?

MVdS: Nucomat and ColdBlock Technologies manufacture complementary technologies that will take laboratory efficiency and workplace safety to a higher level.

NK: ColdBlock delivers solutions in optimising laboratory efficiency, productivity and safety:

  • Sample digestion system based on focused short-wave infrared radiation and a cooling zone;
  • Consumables and accessories;
  • Ancillary product solutions; and
  • Laboratory services in method development.

MVdS: Nucomat provides lab automation solutions for sample preparation, handling and testing for quality control laboratories. Our systems aim to control the sample preparation burden for 24/7 applications. These automated systems offer unique advantages compared to manual sample preparation, such as:

  • Operator safety;
  • Traceability and repeatability;
  • Gravimetric accuracy;
  • Validated results; and
  • Web-based remote control.

NK: Together, ColdBlock and Nucomat have joined forces to deliver a powerful solution offering a substantial ROI, elevated workplace safety and throughput while achieving high analytical accuracy and precision.

IM: How will this tie-up between the companies work? Will Nucomat be providing the automation solution for ColdBlock’s technology? How does this relate to the Amira Global P1196A project and delivering the ColdBlock 3rd Generation Product Line?

NK: This collaboration will deliver the integration of the ColdBlock Digestion 3rd Generation Product Line with Nucomat’s Compact Sample Preparation Unit (pictured below in a three reagent configuration). The combined technologies will provide an automated system capable of rapid acid dispensing and digestion. An optional making up to mass feature is also being considered. When combined, these features will enable a process of raw sample in, analysis-ready sample out at unprecedented speed and level of operator safety.

The details of the commercial framework are in progress. The integrated product line will first be offered through the Amira Global Project P1196A initiative. This will be delivered in Q2 (June quarter) 2021. The commercially available product will also be delivered through direct sales and a channel distribution model, which is targeted for Q3 (September quarter) 2021.

IM: What is the end goal of the collaboration?

NK: The end goal of the collaboration is to deliver a powerful solution to today’s challenges of sample preparation and to meet the current needs of the laboratory environment.

The aim is also to address a segment of small and mid-size laboratories that are looking for automated solutions but cannot justify the risk and ROI on a large full-scale automation system.

We aim to deliver:

  • High ROI, including high efficiency/productivity;
  • Elevated workplace safety; and
  • High analytical accuracy and precision.

IM: Is the agreement a reflection of the need to provide more environmentally sensitive sample digestion technologies that are automated to the mining and metals industry? Will the collaboration speed up the development of such a solution?

NK: The agreement is a reflection of both ColdBlock and Nucomat working together to respond to the current needs of the laboratory environment and to deliver a powerful and sustainable laboratory solution.

ColdBlock and Nucomat deliver solutions that are already proven in the marketplace. As such, this collaboration will speed up the development and commercialisation of the integrated solution.

With respect to gold application as an alternative to fire assay, we eliminate the need to use lead as part of the digestion process. So compared to fire assay, we eliminate lead waste and we eliminate lead contamination to workers.

IM: Where in the mining and metals space do you see the most demand or opportunities for deploying such a solution? Do you already have a trial lined up for the solution?

NK: The applications of our technologies are in the following spaces:

  • Mining and minerals applications such as precious metals (namely gold), base metals (such as copper, zinc, iron and nickel) and rare earth elements;
  • Metals and alloys;
  • Environmental; and
  • Other industry applications.

ColdBlock and Nucomat are working together with Amira Global to recruit participants for the Amira Global P1196A project that will see the delivery of ColdBlock’s third-generation product line with Nucomat’s automation solution. This includes both mining organisations and commercial laboratories.

Participating prospects currently come from Canada, USA, South America and Australia.

ColdBlock Technologies and Nucomat will be taking part in a CEMI-hosted webinar titled, ‘The Integration of ColdBlock Digestion with The NUCOMAT Automation System’ on December 2.

New innovations help Freeport Americas cut GHG emissions

Successful innovations in mining, processing and reporting saw Freeport-McMoRan’s Americas division significantly outperform greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets in 2019, the company has reported in its annual sustainability publication.

On an absolute basis, the division’s total GHG emissions for this part of the business remained stable at 4.8 Mt, which was 30% lower than the company’s “Business As Usual” projections, while, on an intensity basis, Americas’ performance improved significantly with carbon intensity per metric tonne of copper produced decreasing by 18% versus 2012 levels and coming in 30% lower than Business as Usual.

The company said, in 2019, the Americas division undertook a significant effort to analyse its GHG emissions in the Americas back to 2012.

This work enabled it to identify “levers” for change in the future and reaffirmed its approach to asset optimisation and processing innovation.

Over the last decade, the division, which includes assets such as Morenci and Cerro Verde, has developed and implemented industry leading technologies for leaching of oxide ores, implemented step change crushing technologies that reduce energy demand by over 30% per tonne of milled material and developed a new, highly efficient process for leaching sulphide concentrates that replaces traditional smelting and refining, it said.

“We also have implemented an asset management strategy where we rebuild engines, frames and truck beds, resulting in the reuse of approximately 70% of a typical haul truck,” it added.

The latter’s net result is over $1 billion in capital avoidance, and an estimated GHG emissions avoidance of 325 t of CO2 equivalent per truck, or more than 150,000 t in the last decade, the company said. This is based on the rebuild of 465 haul trucks that the company has carried out with Caterpillar dealer Empire Cat.

“In addition, the gradual decarbonisation of country-level energy grids, combined with specific power purchase contract terms for renewables, allows us to maintain our focus on lowering operating costs while reducing the amount of GHGs emitted per metric tonne of product,” Freeport said.

Between 2012-2016, ore grades at the company’s Americas operations decreased, requiring more ore to be both moved and processed to produce the same amount of copper. This resulted in emissions climbing during the period.

However, the company took the following actions which countered its increasing emissions trend.

In 2014-2016, it installed new highly efficient milling technology (high pressure grinding roll technology) at Morenci and at Cerro Verde, which enabled significant improvements in absolute emissions intensity as well as significant production gains at both sites, it said.

From 2014 through to 2019, the company also saw a significant decrease in the carbon intensity of its electricity consumption due to Peru and Arizona grid decarbonisation trends.

In 2018, meanwhile, advances in information allowed the company to switch to a “market-based approach” for a significant portion of its delivered electricity, enabling Freeport to reflect actual emissions versus estimates calculated using the standard published grid factors provided by regulators.

Looking forward, the company said it expected to achieve similar success as it did in the last decade at its Americas operations.

“We have set a corporate target to achieve an additional 15% reduction in carbon emissions per metric tonne of copper produced in the Americas by 2030, using a 2018 baseline,” it said.

“Over the next several years, the company will be focused on recovery from COVID-19 impacts by maintaining safe and financially viable operations as well as supporting the economic recovery of the communities where we operate.

“As business conditions allow, we will look for opportunities to invest in innovative mining and processing technologies as a means of working towards our 2030 emissions reduction goal, as well as to further develop our climate change strategy.”

In total, Freeport saw its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions (combined) drop from 10.1 Mt of GHG emissions in 2015 to just over 8 Mt in 2019, the report showed.

Global tailings standards likely to ‘raise industry up’, SME delegates hear

The keynote session at the 2020 SME MineXchange Conference and Expo, in Phoenix, Arizona, acted as a display of just how far the industry has come in the battle to improve transparency and shore up environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices in the face of increased scrutiny over the security and safety of tailings dam facilities.

All speakers involved in the keynote session – representing Freeport McMoRan, The Mosaic Company, Newmont and CONSOL Energy – gave a rundown of how many tailings dam facilities they had on their books, how the operation of these dams had changed since recent high profile failures and what they were doing to improve further.

Yet, with the International Council in Mining & Metals (ICMM) nearing the release of its well-documented Global Tailings Review, the session also highlighted how the industry is wary of trying to apply all-encompassing tailings legislation.

Nancy Case, VP, Environment, Health & Safety for The Mosaic Company, revealed that the company has eight active dams, alongside five inactive dams in Brazil and, in New Mexico, it had five tailings management facilities (TMFs).

Since the Corrego do Feijão mine dam collapse just over a year ago, Case said the company had brought in fully-independent engineering firms that had never worked on any of the dams to evaluate the structures and monitoring procedures in place. In Brazil, the company had also amended its operations to fall in line with new regulations.

This process led to several dams being taken out of operation – with additional buttressing and full centreline work carried out where necessary.

Red Conger, President and COO of Americas for Freeport McMoRan, said tailings management was a big challenge the company acknowledged many decades ago.

He spoke about how the company was using technology such as wireless piezometers to monitor tailings dam levels at its operations. At the Bagdad mine, in Arizona, specifically, the company is also using a satellite radar system for monitoring purposes.

Daniel Connell, VP Business Development & Technology, took the technology talk one step further, explaining the company, in partnership with OMNIS Bailey, was working on an innovative technology to convert waste coal slurry into two products: a high-quality carbon product to be used as fuel or as a feedstock for other higher-value applications; and a mineral matter product with potential to be used as a soil amendment in agricultural applications.

The company has, so far, constructed a 2 t/h pilot plant at its Pennsylvania Mining Complex (PMC), and Connell said the company is looking to scale this up to a commercial installation that could not only reduce the amount of tailings the company stores at the facility, but also, potentially, process existing tails.

Out of the four mining company representatives on stage, Newmont declared the most TMFs – 89 in total. Dean Gehring, EVP & CTO, was keen to point out that the gold miner took a “process safety approach” to handling these facilities.

Newmont, as has been well documented, is looking into tailings stacking solutions as well as EcoTails with FLSmidth to reduce its exposure to wet tailings dam facilities.

All representatives agreed technology developments in this space should be treated like those developed to improve safety – where proprietary technology arguments are put on the backburner to help the industry advance.

After each mining company representative had been given a chance to provide some context as to why they were up on stage about to be asked the tricky tailings questions everyone in the industry wanted to know, the moderator’s questions started.

What it revealed, even among just four companies, was the different ways miners operate and manage tailings dams.

Each company had operations in different countries, with different cultures and with different geotechnical requirements.

CONSOL’s Connell, in response to a question about would the company look to decommission any ‘upstream dams’ in its portfolio – constructions that have faced increased scrutiny since the dam failure in Brazil in January – said the coal miner had no intention of stopping these. “We intend for that to be our practice going forward,” he said referring to the dam in question at the PMC.

Mosaic’s Case, meanwhile, said the company had gone as far as taking one tailings dam out of service since the Bruamidinho collapse last year, with decommissioning lined up.

Case was the first one to answer the question on applying a global tailings standard across the industry, explaining it would be very difficult to “enforce” this – most probably because of the differing operating practices seen across the industry.

“There are a lot of differing opinions on those standards,” she said. Depending on the region in question, applying certain standards could impact competitiveness, she offered up as one example of these varied opinions.

This may have been one of the reasons why Freeport’s Conger said the company was supportive of having a global tailings standard, but would withhold judgement on if the miner would follow all recommendations until the detail had come out.

Gehring, meanwhile, compared the new standards to what the gold sector had seen with the cyanide code years ago. “It will take some time to work through,” he said, referring to this example.

What was clear from this session is that any company that follows the guidelines likely to come out of the ICMM’s Global Tailings Review is likely to be considered a leader within the sector. This comes with benefits.

Case said: “Where I do see it (the standards) becoming really beneficial is allowing companies to show they are at the forefront of this.”

This is likely to have a positive impact on the way investors and insurers view such companies, she explained.

“I think it is really going to raise the industry up.”

Freeport to invest in data science, AI programs at North/South America mines

After carrying out a successful pilot at its Bagdad copper operation, Freeport McMoRan says it is rolling out a program across its North America and South America mines involving the use of data science, machine learning and integrated functional teams.

The program, aimed at addressing bottlenecks, providing cost benefits and driving improved overall performance, was announced in its December quarter results this week.

It said: “During 2019, FCX (Freeport) advanced initiatives in its North America and South America mining operations to enhance productivity, expand margins and reduce the capital intensity of the business through the utilisation of new technology applications in combination with a more interactive operating structure.”

It said the Bagdad mine (Arizona, USA) pilot program, initiated in late 2018, was “highly successful” in utilising these innovative technologies and it would build on this for the implementation across its other mines in North and South America.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the system at Bagdad found that the mine was producing seven distinct types of ore and that the processing method, which involves flotation, could be adjusted to recover more copper by adjusting the PH level.

The company didn’t provide any details on who it was working with on this project, but confirmed at the back end of 2019 that the Bagdad trial was carried out with management consulting firm McKinsey.

In its investor presentation announcing its December results, the company provided a little more colour on these initiatives.

On the processing/concentration side, it was using a digital twin for processing plant, in tandem with a machine-learning algorithm. These used historical data to predict results and optimise throughput and recovery. In addition to this, the solutions were able to provide “quality recommendations”, aiding real-time data-driven decisions. This allowed the processing teams to target “best performance every day”, while unlocking bottlenecks and providing more consistent operations.

It was a similar story on the mine side. Data is being aggregated from multiple systems to help inform the data-science algorithms to predict the most efficient setups. It also sends commands to dispatch to adjust mining equipment and resource execution, allowing for clear visibility of the best possible performance for shift/day, again, effectively providing real-time decision making.

Under the title “agile way of working”, Freeport said it was promoting a more interactive organisational structure that will challenge norms and identify and prioritise opportunities as part of these initiatives.

CREDIT: Freeport McMoRan

Freeport continued: “A series of action items have been identified, prioritised and are being implemented. Based on the opportunities identified to date, FCX has incorporated higher mining and milling rates in its future plans, resulting in estimated incremental production of approximately 100 MIb (45,359 t) of copper in 2021 and around 200 MIb in 2022.”

Freeport said capital expenditures associated with these initiatives are expected to be “attractive” in relation to developing new copper supply, with the company estimating capital costs – principally associated with mining equipment and ongoing development of data science and machine-learning programs – of some $200 million.

Looking back at the quarterly production figures, it is easy to see the impact this trial had on Bagdad. In the March quarter of 2018, the mine produced 49 MIb of copper, with 48 MIb coming out in the June quarter of that year. It dropped to 45 MIb in the September quarter before stepping up to 57 MIb in the last quarter of that year (when the trial commenced). In the March quarter of 2019, output dipped slightly to 55 MIb, before heading back to 57 MIb in the June quarter and surpassing that (58 MIb) in the September quarter. Output fell back to 48 MIb in the most recent December quarter.

The Bagdad operation consists of a 75,000 t/d concentrator that produces copper and molybdenum concentrate, an SX/EW plant that can produce up to 32 MIb/y of copper cathode from solution generated by low-grade stockpile leaching, and a pressure-leach plant to process molybdenum concentrate.

PT-FI makes headway at Grasberg Block Cave underground copper-gold mine

Freeport McMoRan has confirmed that, during the second quarter of 2019, PT Freeport Indonesia (PT-FI) commenced extraction of ore from the Grasberg Block Cave underground mine, in Papua, Indonesia.

This is the same orebody historically mined from the surface in the open pit, Freeport noted.

Since its discovery in 1988, production from the Grasberg open pit has totalled approximately 27,000 MIb (12.25 Mt) of copper and 46 Moz of gold. Over its life, PT-FI expects to produce an additional 17,000 MIb of copper and 14 Moz of gold from the Grasberg Block Cave underground mine, making Grasberg one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits.

In 2023, PT-FI expects to produce an average of 130,000 t/d of ore from five production blocks spanning 335,000 sq.m in the large-scale Grasberg Block Cave underground mine. At average reserve grades of 0.96% Cu and 0.72 g/t Au, this is expected to equate to production of 850 MIb of copper and 700,000 oz of gold per year.

During the June quarter, Freeport noted:

  • Undercutting in the Grasberg Block Cave underground mine exceeded 20,000 sq.m, over 20% above forecast. Inception to date, undercutting in the Grasberg Block Cave underground mine totals 48,000 sq.m;
  • Initiated drawbelling in two additional production blocks, bringing the active production blocks to three. Eighteen drawbells were opened, exceeding forecast. Open drawbells in inventory in the three active production blocks currently total 29;
  • Ore extraction ramped up from an average of 5,000 t/d in March quarter 2019 to an average of around 9,000 t/d in June 2019 and is expected to reach 15,000 t/d by the end of 2019, and;
  • The fully-autonomous, state-of-the-art underground rail system is supporting efficient transport of ore to the oreflow system for delivery to the mill processing facility.

Freeport said: “Monitoring data on cave propagation in the Grasberg Block Cave underground mine is providing increased confidence in growing production rates over time. As existing drawpoints mature and additional drawpoints are added, cave expansion is expected to accelerate production from an average of 30,000 t/d of ore per day in 2020 to 130,000 t/d in 2023.

The Deep Mill Level Zone (DMLZ) underground mine, located east of the Grasberg orebody and below the Deep Ore Zone (DOZ) underground mine, is expected to produce 8,000 MIb of copper and 8 Moz of gold over its life.

In 2022, PT-FI expects to produce from three production blocks in the DMLZ underground mine spanning 200,000 sq.m. At average reserve grades of 0.92% Cu and 0.76 g/t Au, 80,000 t/d of ore is expected to equate to production of 500 MIb/y of copper and 560,000 oz/y of gold.

During the quarter hydraulic fracturing operations at the DLMZ were ongoing and continue to be successful in conditioning the rock for large-scale mining, according to Freeport. Undercutting approached 4,000 sq.m, in-line with forecast (inception to date, undercutting totals 58,000 sq.m).

In June 2019, undercutting commenced on the second production block to establish two large production blocks in the DMLZ underground mine for ore extraction, while a total of four drawbells were opened, bringing total inventory of drawbells to 74.

Lastly at DMLZ, production ramped up from an average of 6,800 t/d of ore in the March quarter to an average of some 9,000 t/d in June. The DMLZ underground mine is expected to reach 11,000 t/d of ore by the end of 2019.

Ongoing hydraulic fracturing operations combined with continued undercutting and drawbell openings in the two production blocks are expected to expand the cave, supporting higher rates of production with an average of 28,000 t/d of ore estimated in 2020 and 80,000 t/d of ore in 2022.

Meanwhile, PT-FI continues to mine the final stages of the Grasberg open pit. During the most recent quarter, PT-FI opened an additional mining area to extend pit life options into the September quarter and potentially longer (previous estimates were based on mining through June 2019).

“The mine sequencing changes in the open pit delayed access to the high-grade material previously forecast to be produced during second-quarter (June quarter) 2019, resulting in lower copper and gold production from the open pit than the April 2019 estimates,” the company said.

Revised 2019 mine plans for the Grasberg open pit are expected to meet and provide an opportunity to exceed the April 2019 estimates for copper and gold production for the year 2019, Freeport noted. PT-FI will continue to monitor geotechnical conditions to determine the extent of mining in the open pit, with material not mined from the open pit available to be mined from the Grasberg Block Cave.