Tag Archives: Gold Fields

Alliance extends air charter service contract with Gold Fields’ Agnew mine

Alliance says it has executed a contract for air charter services with Agnew Gold Mining Company Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Gold Fields, for an additional three-year term.

Alliance has provided services to the Agnew gold mine in Western Australia since 2019 and, since that time, has increased its service from eight flights per week to 12 flights per week between Perth and Leinster.

The company also provides services to the Granny Smith mine, owned by Gold Fields, near Laverton in Western Australia.

Alliance’s Managing Director, Scott McMillan, said: “Alliance is pleased to be able to support Gold Fields’ operations across the two sites and the extension of the Agnew contract is further proof of Alliance’s ability to retain clients as a result of safe, reliable and on-time air charter services.”

In May, Qantas said it had reached an agreement to fully acquire Alliance Aviation Services Ltd, enabling the national carrier to better serve the growing resources sector with fly-in fly-out options.

Gold Fields Agnew to decarbonise crushing operations with new Sandvik solution

Gold Fields’ Agnew mine in Western Australia is continuing to innovate, with its latest technology development involving the installation of a new modular Sandvik Rock Processing Solutions crushing system that can align with its day-time solar generation capabilities on site.

The operation has recently completed one of the biggest hybrid renewable projects in the mining sector – one that includes solar, wind, battery storage and a backup gas turbine (the Agnew Hybrid Renewable Power Station). This project has put the mine on track to source some 60% of its overall energy needs from renewables.

At the same time as this, Agnew is also testing out battery-electric equipment to further decarbonise its operations, which consist of two underground mines (Waroonga and New Holland) amalgamated into the Agnew One Mine Complex.

The innovative integrated thinking has gone further than this, with a planned plant throughput increase looking to leverage as much renewable energy as possible.

In this latest project, the mine has invested A$35 million ($25 million) in the construction of a new modular crusher. The latest milestone has seen all the concrete in the construction of the project poured, with the southern run-of-mine (ROM) access ramp completed and the final stage of backfilling of the ROM wall having commenced.

The construction team are 60% of the way through erecting the crusher structure and all key crusher components – crushers, screens, feeders, magnets and metal detectors – are on site.

IM put some questions to the Agnew Technical Team to find out more about this project.

IM: Are you able to share what type of crusher the new installation is? Could you also mention what crusher model it is replacing?

ATT: We opted for a Sandvik solution (modular plant solution and automation-ready). There were several reasons for going with Sandvik and deciding on a modular-style plant. This choice has now proven beneficial two years down the track with the challenges we have seen obtaining steel and fabrication services around the globe during COVID. We began early design work with Sandvik back in June 2020, however, we also worked through various other design and equipment options with other key crushing and screening suppliers on the market.

Gold Fields were involved in the design of the circuit as the configuration needed to accommodate for potential production increases in the future, whilst also efficiently crushing the current throughput rates.

The Gold Fields project team managed the electrical design through a third-party electrical engineering company. The automation and control philosophy has been undertaken in-house by the Gold Fields Process Control team. This has been a good opportunity to demonstrate the skills and knowledge we are now building in that space. The project has been executed by the Agnew project team with an external engineering firm.

We are installing a CJ412 primary jaw crusher, two 840i cone crushers (secondary and tertiary), a double-deck product screen and several bits of auxiliary equipment such as magnets, weightometers and a rock breaker above the jaw crusher. The process design criteria was 1.7 Mt per annum with a P80 of 6 mm. The circuit replaces a JW42 jaw crusher, three 1350Z cone crushers (one secondary and two tertiaries) and two product screens.

IM: On top of the reduction in conveyor belts (the old crusher comprised of 16 conveyor belts; the new crusher circuit has six), what other benefits is the team expecting to receive with installation of the new crusher?

ATT: The new circuit will be simpler and more efficient to operate with less equipment, as well as being more modern. There are less transfer points and wear areas, which will reduce the maintenance costs associated with running the current crushing circuit.

In addition, the design and automation of the new circuit will mean the crusher is operated remotely from the main control room, removing the need for a second process operator to be situated in a standalone control room. The three Sandvik crushers have a larger capacity and slightly higher power draw, but they will produce a finer product size more efficiently based on being the latest technology on the market. This will have a positive impact upstream in the processing plant once the ore reaches the grinding circuit.

The design has included the ability to monitor the power draw of each section of the circuit, which will be fed from the Agnew Hybrid Renewable Power Station. Having the ability to crush at a higher throughput rate will also mean being able to operate the crusher more during daylight hours by taking advantage of the solar-generated power. Last year, 56% of the power Agnew draw came from renewables.

IM: When does the team plan to have the new crusher in place and commissioned?

ATT: Commissioning is scheduled for mid-August.

Gold Fields looks to take over Yamana Gold in major M&A deal

Gold Fields and Yamana Gold have entered into a definitive agreement, under which Gold Fields will acquire all the outstanding common shares of Yamana pursuant to a plan of arrangement in a deal that could create a top three gold producer (by production).

Under the terms of the transaction, all outstanding Yamana shares will be exchanged at a ratio of 0.6 of an ordinary share in Gold Fields or 0.6 of a Gold Fields American depositary share for each Yamana share. The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of both Gold Fields and Yamana, implies a valuation for Yamana of $6.7 billion and represents a premium of 33.8% to the 10-day Volume-Weighted Average Price of Yamana’s shares on May 27.

Upon closing of the transaction, it is anticipated Gold Fields shareholders and Yamana shareholders will own approximately 61% and 39% of the combined group, respectively.

Based on 2021 production, the combined group would have a 3.4 Moz profile along with a 25-year reserve life. It would also benefit from the near-term growth of Gold Fields’ Salares Norte (Chile) and South Deep (South Africa) mines, and longer-term growth from Yamana’s Wasamac (Canada), Malartic Odyssey (Canada) and MARA (Argentina) projects as well as additional opportunities in Yamana’s high-quality exploration pipeline, the companies said.

Gold Fields and Yamana currently have 14 mines providing regional relevance across premier, rules-based mining jurisdictions including North America, South America, Africa and Australia, they said.

The deal would create the third largest gold company by gold production in 2024, and fourth largest by market capitalisation, according to the companies, but there is also a clear near-term path towards some 4 Moz of gold-equivalent steady-state annual production, Gold Fields said.

Wasamac, in feasibility study stage, is included within this, but beyond that, the company also outlined growth potential from Jacobina, El Peñón, Minera Florida and Lavra Velha, plus longer-term upside that included the development of MARA.

MARA, owned 56.25% by Yamana, is a joint venture with Newmont and Glencore. It is a brownfield operation leveraging existing Minera Alumbrera infrastructure that has 38.9 Moz of reserves.

A feasibility study on the project is expected to be completed by year end, with the report published in the March quarter of 2023.

Chris Griffith, Chief Executive Officer of Gold Fields, said about the combination: “Today we are announcing the acquisition by Gold Fields of Yamana, two companies with complementary portfolios, cultures and strategic priorities.

“The result is a combination with much greater capacity and potential value than the sum of its parts. Each company brings with it a unique set of skills and geological knowledge, enabling the combined group to enhance its assets more efficiently over the long-term than they could as separate companies.

“Like Gold Fields, Yamana is focused on operational delivery, disciplined capital allocation, portfolio management, maximising shareholder returns, and upholding leading sustainability, safety and ESG performance. These shared priorities are foundational to this transaction.”

Peter Marrone, Executive Chairman of Yamana Gold, added: “This is an outstanding opportunity for our shareholders, employees and the local communities in which we operate throughout the Americas. The transaction delivers an immediate and compelling premium for Yamana Shareholders, reflecting the inherent fair value of our assets, while also offering an opportunity to benefit from the creation of a new global gold producer with an attractive value proposition.

“The combination of Yamana and Gold Fields creates a world-class, globally diversified company with regional relevance across premier, rules-based mining jurisdictions that is underpinned by low cost, long life mines.”

The initial target for pre-tax synergies is approximately $40 million/y, anchored in operational integration, as well as potential financing synergies and a streamlining of overhead cost structures, they said.

The deal, which is subject to several approvals, is expected to close in the December quarter.

Electric Mine Consortium partners with AWS on world-first mine decarbonisation platform

Australia’s Electric Mine Consortium (EMC), made up of some of the world’s leading mining and service companies, has announced it is working with Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, to accelerate the electrification of mine sites globally.

Announced at AWS Summit 2022, EMC is using AWS’s depth and breadth of services, including machine learning, business intelligence and storage, to build the world’s first mining data platform, to capture real-time information on mine decarbonisation from sites globally.

To drive decarbonisation, mining companies can use the platform to measure energy storage levels and electrical infrastructure use from global mine sites to accelerate the creation of a cleaner, more electrified future in mining, EMC said.

Co-founder of the EMC, Graeme Stanway, says the platform can help enable EMC members to share sustainability insights and analyse the outcomes of adopting electrified mining infrastructure and sustainable operations.

“The way we generate, store and harness energy around the globe is changing drastically,” Stanway said. “EMC’s collaboration with AWS will help see us at the forefront of this change, driving the mining industry’s electrification at scale.”

Stanway said the industry is crying out for tools to decarbonise due to tightening government emission reduction targets, increasing environmental, social and governance pressure, and the industry being responsible for 7% of the greenhouse gas emissions globally.

“Like the electric vehicle industry, electric mines are the future” Stanway said. “Not only can they be safer through the eradication of diesel particulates, pollution, noise and vibrations, they can also be more targeted, precise and effective when it comes to mining, and yield stronger results than traditional mines with minimal ground disturbance.”

As part of the initiative, EMC created a “data lake” using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), a cloud object storage service, that can securely store thousands of datasets from the consortium’s mines, including data on energy consumption and renewable energy infrastructure output.

EMC can then clean the data and run data pipelines using AWS Step Functions, a low-code, visual workflow service; AWS Glue, a serverless data integration service; and AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service. AWS Glue can provide EMC with data catalogue functionality, and AWS Lake Formation, a service that makes it easy to set up a secure data lake in days, can deliver security and access control.

Amazon QuickSight, a business intelligence service (screenshot pictured), can allow everyone in the consortium to explore and understand mining data through user-friendly interactive dashboards that identify efficiency practices that may reduce emissions, according to EMC.

Also, using Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed service to build, train, and deploy machine learning models, EMC can train machine-learning models to predict energy usage spikes at mines and track the carbon efficiency of deploying sustainable energy infrastructure.

Sarah Bassett, Head of Mining and Energy, Australia at AWS, said: “Data capture and analysis is essential to mining operations, and AWS is helping consortium members to share their critical datasets and collective insights to drive the digitisation and evolution of the industry. I am excited to be collaborating with the EMC and its consortium members to improve the design of mines globally and accelerate the industry’s journey to decarbonisation on the global scale.”

The EMC is a growing group of over 20 mining and service companies. These companies are driven by the imperative to produce zero-emission products for their customers and meet mounting investor expectations. Thus, the objective of the EMC is to accelerate progress toward the zero-carbon and zero-particulate mine through:

  • Resolving key technology choices;
  • Shaping the supplier ecosystem;
  • Influencing policy; and
  • Communicating the business case

The EMC is emerging as a key vehicle for the decarbonisation of the mining industry, particularly for underground operations, and will remain responsive to the rapidly changing external environment.

Members include OZ Minerals, Newcrest Mining, Gold Fields, IGO, South32, Blackstone Minerals, Evolution Mining, Barminco and Iluka Resources.

Polymathian, SimGenics, Simulation Engineering Technologies, MathWorks, First Mode to tackle electric mine simulation tasks

Five teams have been selected to join the Think & Act Differently (TAD) ideas incubator, powered by OZ Minerals and Unearthed, tasked with developing and testing an open architecture simulation platform to develop electric mine designs, with the goal to achieve zero scope one emissions.

Last September, the Electric Mine Consortium launched the Electric Mine Simulation crowd challenge in partnership with the (TAD) ideas incubator, noting that electrification of mine sites remained a critical step change needed for the mining industry to achieve a zero-carbon future.

“Switching to electrified solutions and renewable energy represents a transformational shift that will change the way mines are designed,” OZ Minerals said. “This challenge is about using simulation to understand the impacts of electrification on mine design, infrastructure and energy management.”

The crowd challenge closed in November last year and attracted 179 participants from 36 countries, resulting in 23 submissions. Five teams have now been selected to join the TAD incubator where they will be supported to develop and test their simulations.

Finalist teams include:

  • Polymathian – Colin Eustace, Michael Dallimore, Steven Donaldson and Mitchel Grice are experts in solving complex planning and scheduling problems for the industry, OZ Minerals said. Their solution is to provide a widely used scalable simulation model platform to model large and complex operations, from mining and processing to full supply chain operations;
  • SimGenics – Abrie Venter and Kobus Viljoen are using a software platform that can integrate continuous and discrete-event simulation tools from multiple vendors into one solution;
  • Simulation Engineering Technologies – Jaco Botha, Henk Jenkinson, Fredrik Sundqvist and Marco Agas are the team behind a mine simulator (SimMine®) that allows for the construction of a complete mine simulation, including development, production and ore handling systems;
  • MathWorks – Wilco Volwerk, Peter Brady, Ruth-Anne Marchant and Sam Oliver are using a mathematical computing software that can be used to model dynamic, discrete and continuous processes with multiple time scales to create a mine simulation framework; and
  • First Mode – Aidan Morgan, Jan Haak and Clara Sekowski represent a creative engineering company, using modelling and simulation to inform design decisions and optimise the use of technology.

The teams will work together to explore and develop concepts for the development of an open architecture simulation platform to develop electric mine designs, with the goal to achieve zero scope one emissions. A use case for testing the value of simulation will be provided by OZ Minerals’ copper-gold mine, Prominent Hill, with further use cases developed in collaboration with the Electric Mine Consortium member companies.

The TAD Incubator program is a supportive environment that includes funding, technical mentoring, opportunities for collaboration, capability uplift and access to mining data and mining operations, OZ Minerals said. The teams will be supported by mining business improvement specialists from Imvelo, Sharna Glover and Alan Bye and Simulation SME Luigi Barone, an internationally recognised expert in artificial intelligence.

Brett Triffett, OZ Minerals’ Transformation Technologist, said: “This challenge will help us learn about the power of simulation together with some really talented and collaborative people, as we accelerate progress towards a fully electrified zero carbon zero particulate mine. The benefit of crowdsourcing, particularly in an area where ideas may come from outside our traditional mining networks, is that we can scour the globe to find start-ups, academics and individuals that we would not have otherwise had encountered.”

Multiple mining companies from the EMC will be able to collaborate on the outcomes of this experiment and we’re excited to see what we can learn about the process as well as the technology. The teams will work together over a three-month period to develop simulation concepts.

OZ Minerals, IGO South 32, Blackstone Minerals, Evolution Mining, Barminco and Gold Fields have committed to significantly reducing their carbon footprint. These seven mining companies, along with a number of partner companies, have come together to form the Electric Mine Consortium, a collaborative group seeking to accelerate progress towards a fully electrified zero carbon and zero particulate mine.

The TAD incubator is powered by OZ Minerals and is focused on themes that prioritise social and environmental responsibility for the future of mining.

Aggreko urges miners to embrace renewable power generation now

With decarbonisation at the forefront of miners’ agendas, one of the world’s leading provider of mobile and modular power solutions, Aggreko, has released its top tips to help miners decarbonise now and into the future.

Aggreko’s Global Head of Mining, Rod Saffy, said while miners were embracing the global energy transition, some were unsure where to begin.

“For some miners it’s about knowing where to start and they may be weighing up the cost, risk and threat of new technology in the future,” he said.

“Fortunately, technology isn’t in the same place as it was five years ago or even two years ago. Some of the renewable power technologies available today, combined with thermal generation in a hybrid solution, offer the same – if not better – levels of reliability and competitiveness than traditional thermal technology.”

Saffy said power generation companies were taking significant steps to support miners on their respective paths to net-zero emissions.

“Increasingly, power companies are offering renewables such as solar and wind energy to off-grid mines, and we often integrate those with battery storage solutions and thermal microgrids,” he said.

“If you consider a hybrid power solution – where you switch in renewables to your power mix alongside fossil fuels – your operation will be more flexible and can scale up and down as needed.

“Our approach means miners can also partner with us, long term, without being tied down to one fuel type for their power source, and new technology is introduced as it becomes viable.

“Integrating renewables in this manner will result in greater cost savings and efficiencies for your project.”

One solar and thermal hybrid solution Aggreko delivered for a remote gold mine in Africa resulted in more than 12% savings in fuel (about 10,000 litres a day) and the contract offered meant the miner did not have to come up with capital to invest in the solar plant.

Another example Aggreko is working on, Saffy said, is a 25.9 MW hybrid solar and thermal power solution for the Salares Norte open-pit mine in Chile.

“It is a ground-breaking solution designed to provide power for the entire mine, which sits at an altitude of 4,500 m in the Andes mountain range and is 190 km from the nearest town,” he explained.

“Once complete, the hybrid power plant is expected to achieve $7.4 million in cost of energy savings over the next decade, a further $1.1 million in carbon tax offset over the life of the mine, in addition to 104,000 t of carbon emissions savings.

“The system will surpass the Chilean government’s environmental standards as well as Gold Fields’ requirement for a minimum of 20% renewable power generation for mining operations.”

Saffy said the pathways to decarbonisation that held the most appeal for miners currently included:

  • Hybrid power plants (as mentioned): These combine renewables (eg solar, wind) with thermal generation and battery storage, benefitting areas with limited or no access to permanent power. These are generally cost-competitive. Once solar or wind plants are installed, their generation running costs are relatively low and at zero emissions;
  • Virtual gas pipelines: Gas power generation can offer a greener and more cost-effective alternative to diesel and heavy fuel oil. A virtual pipeline is a substitute – and an alternative – for a physical pipeline. Gas is instead transported as LNG or CNG to the point of use by sea, road, or rail. For mines not connected to a physical pipeline and looking to switch to gas from diesel, a virtual pipeline model simply imitates their current supply solution. For users who are connected to a gas pipeline but are looking to supplement insufficient or unreliable pipeline capacity, the virtual power plant solution has several advantages over diesel; and
  • Renewable energy: Renewable energy power systems are an effective way of tapping into natural resources to provide power, such as wind farms, hydro power and solar. The challenge is their reliability related to weather, hence why, if power is interrupted for any reason, it is important to ensure they’re backed by with batteries or a temporary thermal power solution.

A significant future fuel in this space will be hydrogen. Investment in hydrogen is on the rise because of the role it can play in supporting a global transition to net-zero. Its versatility and compatibility with existing furnaces, engines and generators make it particularly appealing for the mining industry, according to Aggreko.

Saffy said energy sources likely to become more prevalent in mining during the next 10 years included biofuels (would become less expensive), hydropower, energy storage (such as pumped, mechanical flywheel), and gas generation which runs with a hybrid renewable system. While it is increasingly used now as power source, wind and solar power are also expected to gain more momentum.

Aggreko is also experimenting with mobile wind solutions, re-deployable solar panels and tidal wave power (though tidal wave power might not be for the mining industry yet). The company is also accelerating its investments in hydrogen technology, with trials underway in Europe on two different technologies, where Aggreko is collaborating with lead customers and partners trialling hydrogen generators and fuel cell battery hybrids.

“It’s a very exciting time in the mining sector, and it will be amazing to see the innovations presented during the next few years as miners and energy companies collaborate and come up with new ideas for a greener future,” Saffy said.

“The key though is to start now – you can embrace renewables now into your energy mix because, done correctly, cost and emission savings can be greatly reduced without compromising reliability.”

Aggreko has its own net-zero goals by 2050 and has a 2030 target to reduce diesel use in its customer solutions by 50%.

IMARC ready to explore the race to decarbonise the energy sector

The global effort to decarbonise the energy sector is underway, and the race to net zero is shaping up to be an investment opportunity to define the decades to come, the organisers of the IMARC conference report.

Research suggests that as the price of adopting green energy continues to fall, so will the global demand for fossil-fuelled energy sources. Eventually a tipping point will be reached, and fossil fuel dependent energy companies’ assets will become ‘stranded’ unless they can adapt or pivot toward new sustainable energy practices.

As nations in the first world expand and those from the second and third world modernise, their energy needs will do the same, meaning more electricity, more hydrogen, more nuclear and more yet-to-be-discovered energy sources will be needed than ever before.

For the companies participating in Australia’s biggest mining conference, the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in 2022, staying in the race to decarbonise is essential.

Tipping point

Research suggests the tipping point for fossil-fuelled energy providers will come when costs for renewables reach parity with the lowest-cost traditional fossil alternatives, and this could be much sooner than 2050.

For such companies, demonstrating the long-term value to investors in a soon-to-be stranded asset class is becoming an increasingly hard sell. But it does not have to be. By pivoting toward renewable energy and investing in a low-carbon future, companies can ensure their survival after net zero.

EDL CEO, James Harman, said the industry was making the slow but sure transition to decarbonisation.

“The world has long relied on cheap, plentiful fossil fuels to power economies,” Harman said.

“In the early 2010s, EDL started looking to solar and wind generation as alternatives to fossil fuels across our portfolio, particularly for off-grid customers in remote Australia who were largely dependent on diesel- or gas-fuelled generation.

“In recent years, we have enjoyed great success with our hybrid energy solutions, helping our customers reduce their carbon footprint, but importantly maintaining and improving reliability whilst holding or reducing price. For example, our Agnew Hybrid Renewable Microgrid at Gold Fields’ Agnew Gold Mine provides the mine with energy that is an average of 50-60% from renewable sources, with 99.99% reliability.”

“EDL was one of the pioneers in the Australian landfill gas sector in the 1990s and, today, we are leading the way in high renewable energy fraction islanded microgrids. We are also exploring the introduction of landfill gas to renewable natural gas/biomethane technology to the Australian market, and the economic production of green hydrogen.”

ESG reinvigorating investment

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) frameworks are, at their core, risk assessment tools that consider the effect climate change will have on investors’ value creation opportunities. In June 2021, research and advisory experts, Gartner, released some jaw-dropping facts about the growing importance of ESG credentials.

According to Gartner, more than 90% of banks monitor ESG, along with 24 global credit ratings agencies, 71% of fixed income investors and more than 90% of insurers. Media mentions of ESG data, ratings or scores grew by 30% year-over-year in 2020, and 67% of banks screen their loan portfolios for ESG risks.

Harman acknowledged that it was important for attitudes and practices across the energy sector to change.

“Given that electricity generators are some of Australia’s biggest carbon emitters and most of the product generated is carbon intensive and derived from fossil fuels – the most important ESG themes for energy companies are climate change action and environmental stewardship,” he said.

“This includes investment in research and development into zero emissions technologies such as distributed energy solutions, energy storage and alternative renewable fuels as well as carbon capture & storage.”

ABB Australia Head of Mining, Nik Gresshoff, is encouraged by the innovation and progress he’s seeing in electrification and hydrogen technologies. ABB Australia is a Gold Sponsor of IMARC in 2022.

“The challenge for mining companies now is to map out their own journey, and to weigh up the gains that can be achieved now through automation, along with the investment required to get to net zero,” Gresshoff said.

Gresshoff recommends companies first define what their carbon footprint is, and what falls within their scope for decarbonisation, before beginning a net-zero journey. “Are they focusing on direct and indirect emissions initially or including the whole supply chain from the outset?” he asked.

“The next step is to examine the technology and what is currently possible to decarbonise. Having a clear understanding of where the company assets are in their lifecycle is critical, as well as an understanding of what technology is available and what technology could fit with the current operation.”

Can dinosaurs survive the Ice Age?

Fossil fuels may be going the way of the dinosaurs that created them, but economies of the future will still require the massive infrastructure frameworks and operational capacities to meet current and future energy needs.

In fact, economists have suggested an overnight collapse of the energy giants could result in massive job cuts and instability leading to a global economic recession.

As was made clear at the Glasgow COP 26 Summit, there is a ‘wall of money’ that will be available for the energy companies of the future – whether that is retrofitting existing gas pipelines for transport of liquid hydrogen or utilising closed coal mine sites for new nuclear power sites, or any number of ways that energy companies can and are pivoting.
EDL believes there is an opportunity for many technologies to play their part.

“There won’t be a one-size-fits-all energy solution that achieves affordability, reliability and sustainability for our diverse country,” Harman said.

“Large conventional power stations are and will continue to be replaced with lower emissions plant with support to make them more dispatchable, allowing cheaper renewable energy to be scheduled when available.

“For shorter-term storage, batteries are feasible but longer-term storage is currently uneconomic. There are a few potential options to resolve this including pumped hydro, new kinds of batteries and hydrogen.

“Based on our experience in the USA, we also see the potential for renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, to play a significant part in the transition from fossil fuels to renewables in the industrial, heating, power and transport industries. RNG production is a technologically mature, ready-to-scale product that is deployable now.”

EDL’s James Harman will be sharing further insights on net zero at the upcoming IMARC in Melbourne, Australia, taking place on January 31-February 2, 2022.

IM is a media sponsor of IMARC

Amira Industry 4.0 interoperability project highlights ‘digital mine’ opportunities

Independent global not for profit organisation, Amira, says its global members are set to reap significant benefits from the finalisation of the Industry 4.0 interoperability project P1208 undertaken in Perth, Western Australia.

The Interoperability Enablement for Natural Resources project concluded in November and was sponsored by miners South32, Fortescue Metals Group and Gold Fields Australia.

The Amira project, which was conducted at the University of Western Australia’s Energy & Resources Digital Interoperability Industry 4.0 (UWA ERDi I4.0) TestLab, was designed to realise “the digital mine”, which requires mature interoperability standards to improve information flow.

The project ran multiple proofs-of-concept using interoperability standards (ISA-95/IEC 62264 and B2MML v7.0 (plus process centric event extensions)) that were originally developed to support the manufacturing industry.

These standards had benefited from many years of work (originally with contributions from BHP and continued by ETP and vendors such as RPMGlobal) in enhancing the standards to support mining requirements.

The resulting updated standards were used in P1208 as a means of exchanging information between common mining software packages from Datamine, ABB, AVEVA, RPMGlobal, Wenco and Manufacturing Intelligence. Each of these vendors played a critical part in the project’s success, according to Amira.

Managing Director at Enterprise Transformation Partners (ETP) and the P1208 Project Lead, John Kirkman, said the project was highly successful, demonstrating manufacturing standards could be adapted and used across various mining methods and commodities.

“In terms of benefits, miners should first note ‘interoperability’ is simply a means to an end, with that end being optimal management of their operations,” Kirkman said.

“By enhancing the core specialist software packages used by geologists, mine planners, mine execution/control, materials tracking and maintenance personnel, etc to work together as if they were always engineered to do so, you are thereby implementing the cornerstone of automating and optimising the processes used to manage your mining operations.

“This is just one of the reasons why interoperability is one of only three core pillars of the Industry 4.0 vision as the idea of achieving highly automated and optimised operations without interoperability is simply not viable.

“Industry 4.0 also recognise ISA-95/IEC 62264 as the standard for supporting modular operations management interoperability, while also recognising OPC-UA as the standard for level 2 (machine/process control) interoperability.”

Benefits of Industry 4.0

Kirkman said Industry 4.0 solutions remove a significant amount of manual effort that are currently an accepted part of the mining process.

“This, in turn, increases data quality by eliminating manual entry errors and aligning semantics, improves timeliness of access to new information and enables users to spend more of their time on the quality of their work,” he said.

“This enables the automated capabilities of the software packages to be fully utilised and opens opportunities for the vendors to develop additional high value automated decision support capabilities within their software packages.”

During the course of the P1208 project, this was most clearly and broadly demonstrated via the materials inventory tracking/management software packages, which were able to automatically receive material movement events (from fleet management systems and fixed plant) and material sample analysis results events (from a Lab Information Management System) and update block and stockpile quantities and grade, then send the updated block and stockpile quantities and grade to a mine planning software packages and data warehouse, all without any user intervention.

“With respect to major successes, the fact that we have been able to demonstrate that standards exist that are able to be applied to mining software packages that can exchange information regardless of what commodity you are mining, by whatever mining method, using whatever equipment, whether you are an open pit or underground mine and also supporting multiple areas of the value chain (ie geology, drilling, blasting, mining, processing, railing, port and shipping) is significant,” Kirkman said.

“With P1208, we have successfully demonstrated that standards do exist and that they can be applied to mining with great success and that miners can now begin to include the application of interoperability in their improvement/transformation strategies and, as a result, maximise their return on investment from future technology projects.”

Interoperability in action

Kirkman said this was exciting news for mining companies looking to make technology investments that have a much higher likelihood of achieving a meaningful return on investment.

Project sponsor Gold Fields Australia took part in the AMIRA P1208 demonstrations sessions at the UWA ERDi I4.0 TestLab in Perth, Australia, recently, examining how interoperability in the mine plan, scheduling, execution, and materials and tracking functions can improve performance.

One of the sponsors said: “I don’t think many mining companies really appreciate the magnitude of the inefficiencies and lost opportunities that exist in a typical mine as a result of systems not working together; I think it’s almost just accepted as we have no other choice today.

“The Amira project has really shone a light on this area and demonstrated how interoperability can significantly improve the way of working across the business.

“To witness schedules being published from one vendor’s software and being received by multiple other vendors’ software, and the same again with actuals and inventory balance updates in real-time, is quite exciting and even more so when you consider that none of the vendors worked directly together; they just applied the standard interfaces to their software under the guidance of the ETP/ERDi team and it all works.”

The ETP team and various vendors involved in P1208 are already implementing these solutions into an open-pit and an underground mine further validating the work, with case studies likely to be produced through 2022.

The ERDi TestLab has noted a recent uptick in interest from both Australia-based and overseas mining companies, which bodes well for the vendors whom can now take advantage of their investment in interoperable solutions.

The ERDi team has already commenced work to extend these solutions across asset management and maintenance, fleet management/autonomous haulage solutions to machines and open process control interoperability via integration of OPAS-based solutions from the Coalition of Open Process Automation (COPA), who have together built the world’s first commercially available OPAS-based control system.

Project findings

Some of the key findings from the project include:

  • There were no instances of an information type required by the end customer or other systems not already catered for by the B2MML v7.0 + process centric events schemas;
  • All vendors were able to enhance their software to support the standards successfully;
  • Software performance would likely be the limiting factor in how much data could be exchanged, not the standard itself, which can be addressed by vendors through various approaches;
  • That being able to receive accurate, real-time information from other systems exposed opportunities for vendors to implement new and advanced features that would not have been useful in a manually updated solution;
  • Though the standard supported all requirements and was able to be implemented by vendors, a number of areas were identified in which the standard could be improved to make it much easier for vendors to implement, maintain and update over time as well ensure it is sufficiently explicit to certify products. ERDi has already kicked off work to address these improvement opportunities;
  • Education is likely the greatest barrier to adoption today. As these Industry 4.0 approaches and opportunities are not yet commonplace in the mining industry, miners will need to make an investment in upskilling their workforce to be able to successfully implement and take advantage of these solutions. Industry 4.0 education and workforce enablement has also been identified by platform I4.0 and the world economic forum as major factors in successful industry 4.0 adoption; and
  • It is possible to establish standards management and governance processes to enable more rapid and frequent update of standards.

Charge On Innovation Challenge sparks more miner interest

The organisers of the Charge On Innovation Challenge have reported an overwhelming response to the preliminary phase, which closed on July 31, with 21 mining companies joining as patrons, over 350 companies from across 19 industries registering their interest as vendors, and more than 80 organisations submitting expressions of interest (EOI).

The challenge, a global competition, is expected to drive technology innovators across all industries to develop new concepts and solutions for large-scale haul truck electrification systems aimed at significantly cutting emissions from surface mining. It also aims to demonstrate an emerging market for charging solutions in mining, accelerate commercialisation of solutions and integrate innovations from other industries into the mining sector.

BHP, Rio Tinto, and Vale, facilitated by Austmine, launched the Charge On Innovation Challenge in May of this year, initiating the EOI process on May 18. Since the initial launch, Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden, Thiess, Antofagasta Minerals, Codelco, Freeport McMoRan, Gold Fields and Yancoal came forward as patrons by early July.

The latest release has highlighted another nine miners to join as patrons. This includes Barrick Gold, CITIC Pacific Mining, Evolution Mining, Harmony Gold, Mineral Resources Ltd, Newcrest Mining, OZ Minerals, South32 and Syncrude.

The patrons, supported by Austmine, will assess the proposals over the next month and select a shortlist of vendors who will then formally pitch their challenge solutions.

At least one of these proposals has come from ABB, which confirmed earlier this month that it had submitted its ideas for the challenge using its mine electrification, traction and battery system eand charging infrastructure expertise.

At the end of the pitch phase, the challenge patrons will look to select the most desirable charging concepts identified as having broad industry appeal and application, as well as providing a standard geometry that enables chargers to service trucks from different manufacturers. The first concepts could be ready for site trials in the next few years, according to the organisers.

BHP’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project Lead, Scott Davis, said: “The Charge On Innovation Challenge is a great example of the current collaborative work being done by the mining industry in seeking solutions to decarbonise mining fleets. The challenge received interest from companies based in over 20 countries, showing the truly global reach of the opportunity to help reduce haul truck emissions.”

John Mulcahy, Rio Tinto’s lead for the Charge On Innovation Challenge, said: “Twenty-one mining companies, all focused on lowering carbon emissions, have joined as patrons. Together we’re encouraging technology innovators to help us introduce large-scale haul truck electrification solutions. The sooner we bring these technologies to market, the sooner we can introduce them to our fleet, and reduce emissions.”

Vale’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project lead, Mauricio Duarte, said: “We are very happy with the results of the first phase of the project. It´s still early to talk about the success of the challenge, but it is clear that the industry has reached a new level: we worked together on a common sustainability agenda and we will work collectively to reach our goals, gaining safety and speed on our way to low carbon mining.”

Gekko installs OLGA, Carbon Scout solutions at Gruyere as part of collaborative project

Gekko Systems, as part of a collaborative project to collect and analyse real-time gold reconciliations and automate gold processing plants, has installed its OLGA and Carbon Scout solutions at the Gruyere gold mine in Western Australia.

In October 2020, METS Ignited Industry Growth Centre announced the consortium of Gold Fields, Orway IQ, CSIRO, Curtin University and Gekko Systems as recipients of the Tranche 4 Collaborative Project Funds. The METS Ignited funding will assist the development of this project.

In a world-first, the project draws together a range of technologies, including the Gekko OLGA and Carbon Scout, and skill sets that are the first step to truly understanding what is happening in a gold production plant in real time and will eventually lead to a fully autonomous gold plant, Gekko said.

Gekko recently installed the OLGA and Carbon Scout at Gruyere (a joint venture between Gold Fields and Gold Road Resources), the site where the project will become reality.

“The Gekko OLGA and Carbon Scout will revolutionise the industry’s ability to measure gold circuit inventory and recovery in real time, move it into the digital world and provide opportunity for full automation,” Gekko said.

OLGA is a world first on-stream analyser designed to continuously read low grade gold grades in slurries and solutions, giving operations the ability to see and control their plants in real time, the company says. The alternative traditional sampling methods involve significant delays – of up to one or two days for feedback.

The Carbon Scout is a self-contained, ground-level sampling system to improve carbon concentration measurements in carbon-in-leach and carbon-in-pulp circuits to an accuracy of ±0.5 grams of carbon per litre of pulp. Uniquely, multiple other data points include slurry density, pH, DO and gold loading on carbon, Gekko explained. Data profiles are provided in every tank, every hour.

“The combination of OLGA and Carbon Scout, supported by the Gekko Sample Delivery System, means all CIL/CIP sampling can be done conveniently and safely at ground level,” it said. “Each tank is sampled by a patented pumpless delivery system. All samples in the plant including leach feed and tails will be delivered through this system to potentially alleviate the need for expensive cross-cut samples.”

The team of Orway IQ will deliver the data through the Trinity program. With the MillROC data system and the Gekko technical team using the data for system analytics.

The ultimate aim of the project is to have gold process and recovery data being analysed within minutes rather than days from anywhere in the world and for production to be adapted to reflect this data, Gekko said.