Tag Archives: Garpenberg

Boliden on mining’s differentiation pathway

When Mikael Staffas joins a panel on stage at the EIT Raw Materials Summit in Berlin, Germany, to discuss building a world-leading raw materials industry for Europe next month, he will be able to reference more than a few examples of sector excellence from his own company.

The Sweden-based mining and metals company has been leading from the front for decades, leveraging new and innovative technology, employing a more diverse workforce and engaging local stakeholders and regulators in a manner viewed as progressive from peers across the globe.

Gaining recognition from your mining company peers is one thing but gaining it from the public and EU-based decision makers is something altogether different.

According to Staffas, CEO of the company, the latest summit, which takes place on May 23-25, is part of a series of actions and events slowly getting these two groups to understand the importance of raw materials and the companies that produce them.

“We are moving this industry away from a perception that we are part of the problem, to an environment where we are seen to be part of the solution,” he told IM.

Staffas says the raw materials industry has been viewed as fundamentally important to Europe for several years in terms of tackling the climate change challenge – which will be reinforced at the summit – but the “regionalisation of economies” that has been brought about by COVID and the more recent geopolitical situation means this importance has, once again, been reinforced.

Within this context, Staffas is due to discuss at the event the fundamental need for copper and nickel in the energy transition. He will also shine a light on the importance of lead and zinc in this evolving landscape.

Boliden, through its mines and smelters in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Ireland, is a producer of all four of these metals. It can also add gold, silver, sulphuric acid, cobalt and palladium to the list.

As the general population is beginning to understand the importance of these raw materials and metals to their future, Boliden is trying to differentiate its own offering from the rest of its peers.

Not satisfied with simply matching the industry’s carbon emission and net zero goals to 2030 and beyond, Boliden has laid the gauntlet down to the rest of its competitors by registering two new products: Low-Carbon Copper and Low-Carbon Zinc.

The formula for these two low-carbon products is based on the production of finished metal, from cradle to gate, that has emissions of less than 1.5 t of CO2 per tonne of copper, compared with the global average of around 4 t of CO2 per tonne. For zinc, the threshold is even lower – less than 1 t of CO2 emissions per tonne of zinc, compared with the industry average of 2.5 t.

To this point, the introduction of both products has resulted in a slim premium over other products on the market, but Staffas still deems the launches as successful.

“The point was to differentiate our products, with many people expected to receive this differentiation,” he said.

The customers represented just one set of recipients, but Staffas said these new products also play into the ‘licence to operate’ equation, as well as discussions with authorities and non-governmental organisations.

The intention was to also lay down a benchmark the rest of the industry could start to use or discuss, he added.

Boliden’s carbon dioxide calculations include emissions along the entire value chain up to the customer according to the Scope 1, 2 and 3 Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Life Cycle, following the ISO 14064-3 standard.

“While this might not be the only way to measure CO2, we think it is the best one,” Staffas said. “We are trying to force the industry to adopt a common way of measuring the CO2 footprint.”

This has led some of Boliden’s customers to enquire about how much embedded CO2 is in competitor zinc and copper products, ensuring the discussion spreads throughout the industry.

The obvious intention of devising such products is price, but Staffas said they also provide protection.

“When things get bad from an economical perspective, these products could really make a difference,” he said. “The customers might not pay extra for them, but if they scale down their purchases, our contracts should be the last to be cancelled.”

Staffas says Boliden is also aiming to add nickel and lead to its suite of low-carbon products in the future.

“Nickel is a special case for us as we don’t produce finished nickel; we produce a nickel matte,” he said. “We may team up with a refinery to make a joint product or do something else to ensure we can quantify the emissions according to our chosen protocols.

“Whichever way this development goes, we have to ensure we cover cradle-to-gate with these calculations otherwise it is not a true representation of the embedded carbon in that product.”

Electrification

While quantifying the carbon emissions of products is still relatively new in mining and smelting, Boliden has been using a carbon price in its internal technical studies and projections for close to a decade now.

It has been leveraging electrified sources of power for even longer. For instance, its Rönnskär copper smelter in Sweden has been using an electric oven since the 1990s.

More recently, the company has added trolley assist at Aitik and Kevitsa to this electrified base and employed ventilation on demand and heat exchangers at underground mines (the former) and smelters (the latter) to optimise its energy use.

It also has plans for underground trolley-battery haulage operation at its Rävliden (part of Kristineberg) project in Sweden through a project with Epiroc and ABB, while it is conducting a battery-electric vehicle loading trial at the Garpenberg mine, also in Sweden, with Sandvik. On the transport side, the company has recently teamed up with Scania to electrify part of its heavy-duty road transport in northern Sweden.

“It is one thing to review where we started; it is another to look at where we are going,” Staffas said on this topic. “We are planning to get better and better and go on to reduce our CO2 footprint further.”

On its way to achieving a goal of reducing its carbon dioxide intensity by 40% by 2030, the company is also looking at, among other levers, its use of explosives and cement: two key scope 3 inputs.

Staffas is confident Boliden can hit these ambitious goals by leveraging the innovation ecosystem within the Nordic region.

“For the CO2 journey we are now on, the Nordic mining cluster has and will continue to be very important,” he said. “We have big suppliers like Epiroc, Sandvik, Metso Outotec, ABB, Volvo and Scania on our doorstep. They have always worked closely with us, and we work closely with them on joint development projects.

“I think that is the main reason we are so far ahead of our competitors when it comes to our use of technology and innovation, and why we are confident in achieving our ambitious climate goals.”

Sandvik and Boliden partner on 3D parts manufacturing project

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions has partnered with Boliden on a small-scale trial of 3D manufactured parts that, the companies say, will help both companies assess the potential of 3D printing.

Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing as it is more commonly known – is maturing fast, and has progressed from printing plastic components to now being able to print ceramics and metals.

To discover the potential of the technology, Boliden has teamed up with Sandvik to run a trial that will see machine parts printed digitally and installed on underground drill rigs.

The trial with Sandvik involves a set of specially redesigned components printed digitally at a Sandvik-managed facility in Italy, with their performance being monitored on machines in Boliden’s underground mines – first in Sweden, then in Ireland.

In theory, the 3D metal parts could perform as well – or even better – than traditionally manufactured items, the OEM said, adding that the first components have been put into operation at the Garpenberg mine in Sweden, with performance still to be evaluated.

“Additive manufacturing shows a lot of potential, both in reducing carbon footprint within the supply chain, through reduced or eliminated need for transport and storage of parts and also shorter delivery times,” Ronne Hamerslag, Head of Supply Management at Boliden, said. “This trial will give us a deeper understanding on how we can move forward and develop our business in a competitive way.”

3D printing is an exciting prospect for OEMs too, as Sandvik’s Erik Lundén, President, Parts & Services at Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions, explains: “Mining equipment can last up to 25 years – and needs to be supported throughout that time – even in the most remote of locations. We have many different SKUs (stock keeping units) and, from an inventory point of view, we can’t tie up the capital that keeping all these parts in stock would entail. 3D printing of parts locally offers us the prospect of not only getting parts to the customer much faster, but doing so far more sustainably.”

Although in theory any part could in future be 3D printed, it is likely to be maintenance and repair operating items that are the first to get the additive manufacturing treatment, such as the bushes, brackets, drill parts, etc. that customers need to change every 3,000-4,000 hours.

But printing of the parts is only one part of the puzzle that the trial with Boliden is trying to solve.

Another is working out the future business model for 3D printed parts. Who does the printing – the OEM, the miner, or a third-party printing company? What will the costs be? What about intellectual property rights, warranties and liabilities? All these elements – and more – need to be resolved in the development of a 3D printed future.

Hamerslag concluded: “If you ask me, it’s the most exciting thing that’s happening in the supply chain. Its efficiency, speed and climate friendliness mean that we have to investigate additive manufacturing closely. We are only at the proof-of-concept stage with Sandvik right now, but it’s already clear that it could become a game-changer for the spare parts business in mining – for both miners and equipment manufacturers.”

Boliden Garpenberg set for first Sandvik LH518B BEV trial in Europe

Boliden’s Garpenberg zinc operation in Sweden will become the first mine in Europe to trial the battery-electric Sandvik LH518B LHD, the OEM has confirmed.

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions and Boliden have agreed on a 12-month collaborative trial period for the new 18-t battery-electric loader.

Garpenberg is considered the world’s most productive underground zinc mine and Sweden’s oldest mining area still in operation. As a purely battery-powered loader, the Sandvik LH518B will support Boliden’s efforts to improve sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions underground. The trial is planned to start in late 2022.

The Sandvik LH518B is easy to implement in most underground operations, as it does not require any major changes to mine infrastructure, Sandvik said. The loader’s Sandvik AutoSwap and AutoConnect features facilitate seamless installation of a fresh battery in less than six minutes, enabling it to return to operation sooner than ‘fast-charge’ mining BEVs. The battery swap is performed by the loader itself, controlled by the operator in the cabin, without need for overhead cranes or forklifts.

As a third-generation BEV, the Sandvik LH518B has been designed from the ground up entirely around its battery system and electric driveline to fully leverage on the battery system possibilities.

Garpenberg joins a host of other mines across the globe trialling this battery-electric LHD. There are two trials set to take place in Australia – at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine and Gold Fields’ Hamlet North mine – plus units at New Gold’s New Afton in Canada, Kennecott Utah Copper’s underground development project at Bingham Canyon and Gold Fields’ South Deep operation in South Africa.

Visualising the future of particle measurements with 3DPM

The 3DPM vision system has had quite a journey. Since the first prototype was installed at LKAB’s Malmberget iron ore to help the miner optimise its pellet production, the system has helped ‘settle the argument’ between mine and mill at base metal mines in Europe and improve the quality of coke being fed to blast furnaces in Japan.

The future looks bright too, with the potential for the system to play a major role in the automation of mine process plants.

Users of 3DPM have seen the importance of having a high-quality vision system that can measure material from a few millimetres to as big as 300 mm in size at relatively high speeds on conveyor belts.

Matthew Thurley, Principal Scientist at Innovative Machine Vision and one of the inventors of the system, has seen the system evolve at the same time as the industry’s understanding of orebody characterisation has grown.

Sweden-based MBV Systems was involved from the beginning on the system, working in partnership with Thurley during his time at Lulea University. It was a three-way collaboration between the university, the SME, and mining companies that got the product to market.

3DPM stands for three-dimensional particle measurement. The system consists of high-performance hardware for 3D scanning of particles and state-of-the-art software for analysis of the size and distribution of particles on a conveyor belt.

“Each system is optimised regarding the hardware and software to best fit each individual installation site and customer preference,” MBV Systems said. “A few examples include OPC communication, heating options to allow functionality in freezing environments, bulk volume calculation, rock bolt detection, and alarm triggering on oversize material.”

Back in 2006, the system installed at Malmberget was very different.

Thurley said the physical hardware, mounted above a conveyor, was pieced together to function properly, but required integration of many individual parts which was hard to maintain.

Still, it provided the iron ore miner with a detailed particle size distribution down to mm-size classes of its high-grade iron ore pellets.

And, in the 14 years since first installation, the principle of the system has remained: to provide increased knowledge of particle size distribution to generate value in, for instance, crusher/mill control, blast furnace effectiveness, process optimisation, or process knowledge.

As more companies have become familiar with the system, the advanced features such as algorithms to detect fines and partially embedded particles have come to the fore. The hardware has been reinforced for rough environments with IP65 rating and the need for very low maintenance even when running 24/7.

This has meant the system has potential in projects focused on improved quality control, automation and process control; three topics the industry is looking at to improve its bottom line, increase its revenues and remove people from operations.

MBV Systems said: “Our customers, who are already highly automated, must continually make their operations more efficient and reduce costs in increasingly tougher international competition. MBV Systems’ machine vision systems constitute a decisive factor for higher productivity, improved efficiency and for complete quality control.”

LKAB started using the system more than 10 years ago. Over that timeframe, the system won many admirers.

Boliden is a big fan of 3DPM, with installations at its Garpenberg, Aitik and Tara operations.

Earlier this year, the miner decided to install another 3DPM system at Garpenberg, four years after the first system was delivered to the Aitik mine to help boost process knowledge and control strategies for crushers and grinding mills.

The way the Sweden-based miner has applied this technology makes for a great case study, according to Thurley.

At Tara, the system is being used for increased process knowledge – “settling the argument between mine and mill”, Thurley says – while, at Garpenberg, the vision system is being leveraged to detect boulders and rock bolts online in a safe way.

This shows 3DPM can be used for multiple purposes.

Such flexibility is down to the system’s ability to provide full size distribution measurements from 0-300 mm and the use of newer algorithms, with the accuracy dependent on the speed of the conveyor belt and the target size of the material under scrutiny.

One of the differentiating factors of 3DPM compared with other vision systems – many of which are now used within ore sorting projects – is the ability to provide a good 3D data profile of the surface of the rock mass. This helps distinguish between rocks and fines, for instance, even when the two are interwoven.

“With the system, we can classify fines and embedded rocks,” Thurley explained. “In other systems, fines may be mistaken for large ‘rocks’ and significantly skew the measured size distribution resulting in bad data and bad decision making.”

This is particularly important in operations that produce several products within one mine – for instance iron ore lump and fines – ensuring that the correct product ends up in the correct stockpile.

The vision system can be tailored to each application.

“At a pigment producer, for instance, we are looking for material that is 3 mm in size,” Thurley said. “In order to carry out that sort of classification, we use the latest technology to measure 3D points at 0.3 mm resolution.”

Typically, visualisation down to this size of material is not required in mining operations, where the company is really competing with batch ‘mine-to-mill’ ore characterisation studies carried out through sieving or some type of other manual process. Such classification can work well for that ‘sample’ but can be misrepresentative depending on the orebody’s heterogeneity.

“3DPM can, instead, provide an end-to-end analysis that can now start to be used as a decision-making tool,” Thurley said.

Analysis of the ore coming through just after blasting can help provide the reconciliation tool miners require to check how effective the blasting practice is, for instance, helping provide the “pre-crusher size distribution feedback much earlier in the value chain”, he said.

With the incorporation of new software and camera technology, the company is expecting more complex analysis to be carried out on bigger amounts of material, according to Thurley.

“These new technologies will allow us to analyse material on a conveyor belt going at 6 m/s where the previous generation was limited at around 2 m/s,” he said.

This could open opportunities at much bigger operations – some large copper or iron ore mines, for instance – as well as automated plants of the future.

It is not farfetched to see the system operating in the same blasting reconciliation position but providing crusher operators with the analysis required to optimise operations ahead of receiving the material.

Moving one step further, it could provide the same information to a system that operates autonomously.

“This could eventually lead to automatic control of the crusher,” Thurley said.

Cisco IoT solution underwrites Boliden automation transition at Garpenberg

Cisco says it has helped Sandvik and Boliden deliver a safe, autonomous and efficient operation at the miner’s Garpenberg underground mine in northern Sweden.

The IoT solutions provider has installed a low latency IoT network with Cisco industrial switches and access points in the mine, which is more than 1 km underground, to facilitate this transition.

As Cisco says, Boliden was after a reliable industrial network architecture that can operate in its mine, could allow machinery to operate autonomously to keep workers out of dangerous areas, and could improve operational efficiencies in the mine while reducing costs.

Working with Boliden and Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, one of Cisco’s first few Design-In Program partners, the company came up with a solution.

The network installed at the mine allows large machinery, such as Sandvik LH517s, to operate remotely and autonomously in areas that could be unsafe to send people. With the support of Sandvik’s AutoMine® for autonomous mining equipment and Sandvik’s OptiMine® software to analyse and optimise production, Boliden mining engineers can remotely (and safely) operate the machinery from a control room, it says.

This also makes it possible for Boliden mining engineers to work in a cleaner, healthier environment, according to Cisco.

SpacEarth addresses mine collapse risk with Mines-In-Time

The EIT RawMaterials supported start-up, SpacEarth Technology, has developed a new automated solution for real-time monitoring of ground displacements in mining to increase workers’ safety as well as mining asset integrity, EIT said.

Mines-In-Time (MIT) is designed to monitor rock mass during mining operations and is integrated in a traffic-light decision support system (DSS) to avoid risks and cost related with mine collapses, EIT said.

The solution has been validated in relevant environments on the micro-seismicity data recorded at Boliden’s Garpenberg mine, in Sweden, one of the world’s most productive and automated underground zinc mines, currently mining at 1,250 m depth.

The Mines-In-Time solution addresses the following:

  • Control ground deformations and stress alteration of the rock mass during mining operations;
  • Improved safety during mining operations; and
  • Enabling real-time autonomous decision-making systems.

Based on the four dimensions Local Earthquake Tomography (4D LET) methodology, Mines-In-Time is able to analyse both natural and induced micro-seismicity from mining operations, according to EIT.

“This technique is an unparalleled upgrade of the traditional ambient noise analysis and time-lapse 3D LET, since the addition of the fourth dimension (time) allows real-time monitoring of ground deformation related to the stress variation, and provides an instant alert in case of risky conditions, using data provided by the existing networks of seismographs already installed in most of the mining sites (no extra hardware to be installed),” EIT said.

For this reason, MIT is the only DSS and early warning system for mining able to dynamically forecast rock deformations and provide an alert in case of critical conditions, according to EIT.

Mining companies and service providers will benefit from a reduction of health and safety risks of personnel involved in underground works and reduction of economic losses due to collapses and failures, according to EIT.

It will also improve planning and scheduling of mining and maintenance operations, saving costs associated with inspections, analysis and monitoring, estimated in the order of 30% with respect to current practices.

SpacEarth Technology, a spin-off of the Italian Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), was founded in 2014 and supported by the EIT RawMaterials Booster to develop applications for the mining industry.

SpacEarth has direct connections with mining companies (Bolden and LKAB), service providers (DMT and IMS), and the Luleå University of Technology, all of which are tied to working on seismic hazards in mines.

It was initially supported by the EIT RawMaterials Start-up and SME Booster 2016 and 2017.

“The EIT RawMaterials Booster supported the delivery of a market study for the mining sector including direct contacts with client prospects,” EIT said. “As a result, the company achieved a higher technology level, and this boosted the technology attractiveness from the industry.”

Mines-In-Time will be further validated in 2020 thanks to a recently established contract between SpacEarth and Boliden.

Savka Dineva, Professor, Luleå University of Technology, said: “The seismic hazard in the mines is strongly related to the stress changes and the condition of the rock mass (fracturing process with time). That is why monitoring of these two factors is important to foresee the changes in the seismic hazard. MIT is a valuable tool that could give important information about the changing stress and rock conditions – it can be used for large volumes.”