Tag Archives: ilmenite

CrossBoundary wind, solar, battery solution set for Rio QMM ilmenite operation

Rio Tinto has signed a power purchasing agreement for a new renewable energy plant to power the operations of its QMM ilmenite mine in Fort Dauphin, Southern Madagascar.

This project, which uses solar and wind energy, will significantly contribute towards Rio Tinto’s operations in Madagascar achieving its carbon neutral objective by 2023, it said. It is part of a broader initiative to reduce the ilmenite mine’s environmental footprint which includes programs that focus on emissions reduction, waste and water management, carbon sequestration, ecological restoration and reforestation.

QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%).

The renewable energy plant, to be built, owned and operated by independent power producer, CrossBoundary Energy, over a 20-year period, will consist of an 8 MW solar facility and a 12 MW wind energy facility to power mining and processing operations. There will also be a lithium-ion battery energy storage system of up to 8.25 MW as reserve capacity to ensure a stable and reliable network.

It will supply all of QMM’s electricity demand during peak generation times, and up to 60% of the operations’ annual electricity consumption, according to Rio. QMM is to replace the majority of the power it currently supplies to the town of Fort Dauphin and the community of around 80,000 people with renewables, the company added.

The renewable energy plant will comprise more than 18,000 solar panels and up to nine wind turbines located in the Port Ehoala Park area. Construction is expected to begin this year with the solar plant scheduled to start operations at the beginning 2022. The wind power plant is planned to commence construction in early 2022 and become operational by the end of 2022.

QMM President, Ny Fanja Rakotomalala, said: “On a sunny and windy day, all the electricity needed by QMM and the Fort Dauphin community will be generated by the Malagasy sun and wind. It is a major step forward on our journey towards a truly sustainable mine, that protects and promotes the uniqueness of Madagascar’s environment and benefits the community with reliable and clean electricity.”

Rio Tinto Minerals Chief Executive, Sinead Kaufman, said: “With this flagship project, QMM is leading the way at Rio Tinto and in Madagascar in utilising renewable energy to power mining operations and reduce carbon emissions.”

CrossBoundary Energy Co-founder and Managing Partner, Matt Tilleard, added: “Emissions from electricity use in mining is estimated to account for around 1% of all greenhouse gases globally. Rio Tinto is leading the way in demonstrating how mines can seize a huge opportunity to reduce these emissions. We are focused on delivering cleaner power to businesses and were, therefore, able to offer Rio Tinto a flexible, fast, all-equity funding approach, combined with our reliable track record as one of Africa’s largest distributed renewable utilities.”

QMM is near Fort Dauphin in the Anosy region of south-eastern Madagascar, and primarily produces ilmenite, in addition to zirsill and monazite. It includes the deep-water Port d’Ehoala, where the raw material is shipped to the Rio Tinto Fer et Titane plant in Canada and processed into titanium dioxide.

Rio Tinto to establish high-quality scandium oxide production in Canada

Rio Tinto says it will become the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America, with construction of a new commercial scale demonstration plant underway at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada.

RTFT expects to begin commercial supply of scandium oxide in the June quarter of 2021. With its existing aluminium business, Rio says it is also well positioned to produce aluminium-scandium alloys to meet customer’s needs.

The company is investing $6 million for the construction of a first module in the plant, with an initial capacity to produce 3 t/y of scandium oxide, or approximately 20% of the current global market. The Government of Quebec is contributing around $650,000 to the project through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals. The new plant will have the ability to add further modules in line with market demand, Rio says.

RTFT developed a process it has proven at pilot scale to extract high-purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining at its ilmenite mine in Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec.

Scandium oxide is used to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used as a power source for data centres and hospitals, as well as in niche products such as lasers and lighting for stadiums or studios. It is also used to produce high-performance aluminium-scandium master alloys for the aerospace, defence and 3D printing industries, according to Rio.

Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Managing Director, Stéphane Leblanc, said: “We are proud to offer North America’s first reliable supply of scandium oxide using an innovative and sustainable process, with the construction of this new plant. Rio Tinto has been engaged in the exploration and production of rare earths and critical minerals globally for a number of years, to meet the demand in new and emerging technologies. With the support of Rio Tinto’s aluminium business, we are uniquely positioned to deliver aluminium-scandium master alloys and develop synergies with North America’s manufacturing supply chain.”

Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonatan Julien, said: “RTFT’s scandium oxide valorisation project is a concrete example of how we can extract value from our mining wastes. It demonstrates our ability to innovate and seize business opportunities in a growing market as we strive to ensure secure supplies of critical minerals. This business has the potential to become a major scandium supplier outside China.”

Both the high-quality scandium oxide and aluminium-scandium master alloy will be commercialised under the business brand name Element North 21.

Primero, Mineral Technologies enlisted for Strandline’s Coburn mineral sands project

Primero Group has been awarded preferred EPC status on a substantial contract with Strandline Resources on the Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia.

The total volume of awarded engineering procurement and construction (EPC) works totals around A$150 million ($107 million), according to Primero, and follows an initial eight-week Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) process that provided further definition of the delivery strategy and project deliverables between the groups. It also coincided with the appointment of Mineral Technologies (MT), a global services provider and leader in the design and supply of mineral sands processing facilities (and a subsidiary of Downer Group), as the strategic technology partner alongside Primero for the project delivery.

Strandline said the contract involved the engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning and performance testing of the Wet Concentration Plant (WCP), Mineral Separation Plant (MSP) and associated processing circuits at the operation.

The Coburn WCP is designed to beneficiate the heavy minerals (ilmenite, leucoxene, rutile, zircon and monazite) and reject the non-valuable, lighter minerals through multiple stages of high capacity gravity separation and classification, according to Strandline. The rich heavy mineral concentrate produced from the WCP will be transported to the MSP and stockpiled ready for processing.

“The WCP infrastructure is relocatable and is planned to be moved several times during the mine life as the mine advances along the orebody,” Strandline said. “The MSP design comprises conventional electrostatic separation, gravity and magnetic fractionation to recover a range of premium-quality final products, including chloride ilmenite, rutile, premium zircon and zircon concentrate.”

The full project award is subject to Strandline Resources approving a Final Investment Decision in the coming months, Primero said. The ECI process came after Strandline’s recent A$18.5 million equity raising.

Primero Managing Director and CEO, Cameron Henry, said: “This award is an excellent example of Primero’s ECI phase in action and adds to our growing book of projects in preferred contractor status. We have worked intensively with Strandline over the past two months in designing a delivery solution that best meets the key project objectives and value drivers, while also minimising execution risks.”

Strandline has also already appointed Piacentini & Son to design and construct three mobile dozer mining units for the project, while Macmahon has been named as the principal contractor to provide site-wide civil and bulk earthworks construction services for the project.

Outotec continues to invest in technology as sales rise

Outotec registered a year-on-year improvement in financial performance in 2018, excluding a €110 million ($125 million) ilmenite smelter project provision, the company reported today.

The company’s sales increased 12% in 2018 to €1.28 billion, while its order intake jumped 4% to €1.25 billion. The €110 million provision for the Saudi Arabia project saw adjusted earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) come in at -€46.2 million, compared with €33.5 million in 2017, yet President and CEO, Markku Teräsvasara, said adjusted EBIT would have almost doubled to €64 million had it not been for this deduction.

“In 2018, we made significant progress in several areas,” Teräsvasara said. “In the beginning of the year, the market for minerals and metals technologies improved, but global macroeconomic uncertainties and reduced metal prices started to affect the market sentiment, and we saw several larger investment decisions being delayed into 2019.

“This was demonstrated in our order intake, which increased 4% year-on-year (in comparable currencies 8%) but declined in the fourth (December) quarter from the comparison period,” he said.

The company’s largest order in the December quarter – around €34 million – was for the delivery of battery chemicals technology in Finland for the Terrafame plant to be built in Sotkamo. The company has since followed this up with a contract in Australia to convert spodumene to lithium hydroxide.

Teräsvasara said profitability continued to improve in the Minerals Processing segment, with EBIT coming in at €78.5 million, compared with €60 million a year earlier.

Outotec said copper, gold, and battery metals projects were the most active during 2018, with demand for minerals processing equipment and spare parts stable throughout the year. In the company’s Metals, Energy & Water divisions, meanwhile, “solid demand” was registered in hydrometallurgical and pelletising solutions, as well as sulphuric acid plants, Outotec said.

Outotec said the €110 million provision related to possible costs for an ilmenite smelter project in Saudi Arabia. Back in October, the company said it was working with the client to investigate the reasons why one of the repaired furnaces in a first-of-its-kind ilmenite smelter had issues starting up.

“The currently estimated provision is based on progress made with the analysis of the furnace,” the company said today, adding that the provision was booked in its December quarter results.

Teräsvasara highlighted the “leading technologies” that were part of the company’s core strength in the 2018 results.

During the year, the company continued to develop its technological capabilities and grow its patent portfolio, with Outotec’s R&D investments representing 5% of its sales and totalling €57 million last year, he said.

Outotec went into a little more detail about this in its 2018 and Q4 review.

The first two industrial references of Outotec TankCell® e630s are running at the Buenavista del Cobre concentrator in northern Mexico, the company said.

“The site has reported an increase of more than 3% in overall recovery with a higher-grade copper concentrate. The TankCell® e630 flotation cell has a nominal volume of 630 m³ and is equipped with a FloatForce mechanism with a diameter of 2,200 mm,” Outotec said.

The company has also developed and filed a patent application for a thermal leaching process to convert spodumene concentrate into battery-grade lithium hydroxide. The lithium hydroxide process has been piloted at the Outotec Research Center in Pori for Critical Elements Corporation in Canada and Keliber Oy in Finland. Lithium hydroxide corresponds to the change in demand in the metal salt markets, it said.

Meanwhile, the new Hybrid filter plates that are 40% lighter, and, therefore, more competitive than conventional plates, were introduced to the spare and wear parts markets during 2018, Outotec said. “The new plates also improve the filtration capacity, provide low residual moisture in the cake, and reduce operational costs,” it added.

Outotec has also designed a skid-mounted, modular prefabricated sulphuric acid plant which significantly lowers the installation cost and time. In addition, the modular plant offers lower operation costs, increased availability and maintainability, as well as environmentally sound and safe operation, it said. “The innovative plant concept is based on Outotec’s technology and expertise gained from 650 plants delivered globally,” Outotec said.

Meanwhile, Outotec is in the middle of a pilot study with Sweden-based miner LKAB to treat industrial waters at its Svappavaara mine in the country. The pilot started in August and consists of nanofiltration and chemical precipitation of sulphate with Outotec’s Ettringite process. The pilot has shown sulphate concentration can be significantly reduced from the inlet value of 1,800 mg/l to the level of 150 mg/l, Outotec said.

A new digital product, Outotec Health Indicator, was also introduced last year. This produces data for flotation process control when used together with Courier on-stream elemental analysers. It enables higher performance in terms of concentrate quality and recovery of valuable minerals, according to the company.

Lastly, Outotec has been developing MesoTherm™ bio-oxidation technology for leaching base metals. The development work has shown it to be effective on certain copper sulphides, yielding 98% copper dissolution.