Tag Archives: Iron ore

FMG extends waste management services contract with PTK Environmental Services

Fortescue Metals Group has announced the extension of its waste management services contract to PTK Environmental Services (PTK), an Aboriginal business owned and operated by Palyku member Tammy O’Connor, for a further five years.

The extension of the contract with PTK brings the total value of contracts and subcontracts awarded to Aboriginal businesses and joint ventures under Fortescue’s Billion Opportunities procurement initiative to over A$2.5 billion ($1.7 billion) since the program began in 2011, FMG said.

Fortescue’s Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Our Billion Opportunities program is a critical element of our commitment to provide economic and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with over 120 Aboriginal businesses and joint venture partners and to support the growth and development of driven business leaders like Tammy O’Connor, to build capability and capacity and contribute to the ongoing sustainability of Aboriginal companies.

“We have worked with Tammy and PTK for a number of years and building on the initial services contract awarded in 2017. We are delighted to extend the contract for these significant waste management services for a further five years.”

PTK Director and Shareholder, Tammy O’Connor (pictured, middle), said: “We pride ourselves on the safe, high quality services we provide and it is great to have this recognised by Fortescue with the extension of our contract. The flow-on effect of our work with Fortescue has huge benefits for the community by providing real opportunities for people to get jobs and support their families.”

Fortescue’s Chief Operating Officer, Greg Lilleyman (pictured left), said reducing waste through the prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse of materials produced during operations is a priority for Fortescue.

“Last financial year, Fortescue recycled 91% of non-mineral waste, such as food, packaging and office consumables, from across our sites,” he said. “We look forward to working with Tammy and the PTK team as we continue to reduce and manage our waste.”

During the half year, Fortescue’s Billion Opportunities program supported Aboriginal companies with over A$258 million in new contracts awarded to 16 Aboriginal businesses, FMG said.

Epiroc and ASI Mining to automate Roy Hill haul truck fleet

Epiroc has signed a contract with Roy Hill to deliver a fully automated haul truck solution for the iron ore mining operation in Western Australia.

In partnership with automation specialist ASI Mining – which Epiroc owns 34% of – Epiroc is to convert Roy Hill’s haul trucks from manned to autonomous use. The two will deliver a safe and interoperable solution for Roy Hill’s mixed truck fleet, with an ability to expand to other mining vehicle types and manufacturers, and capability to integrate with existing Roy Hill systems, Epiroc said.

Epiroc and ASI Mining will also be working closely with Roy Hill and its partners Hitachi and Wenco on truck conversion and integration of the Wenco fleet management system.

The project will see a phased implementation, with testing and production verification of up to eight trucks undertaken in the initial phase prior to the second phase of full fleet expansion from mid-2021.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said: “Epiroc is proud to collaborate with Roy Hill, ASI Mining and other partners to automate Roy Hill’s haul truck fleet, boosting safety and productivity for a crucial aspect of its mining operation. This is a very strong example of how automation will take a mining company’s operation to the next level.”

Roy Hill CEO, Barry Fitzgerald, said the mining company was well positioned to transition to automation. “Our teams on site and in our Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Perth have demonstrated a clear capacity to deliver complex projects, sustainable change and operational excellence with the recent success of our autonomous drill program and fleet optimisation initiatives. Now is the right time to bring the combined expertise of Roy Hill, Epiroc, ASI Mining and Wenco together to convert our haul truck fleet.”

Fitzgerald added: “Care is one of our core values, with safety at the heart of everything we do. Roy Hill’s Smart Mine program is driving innovation across our business, and the automation of our haulage fleet is central to delivering safety and production improvements.”

Roy Hill is an iron ore mining project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Located 340 km southeast of Port Hedland, it has an integrated mine, rail and port facilities and produces 55 Mt/y of iron ore, with approval to increase to 60 Mt/y. Its ROC in Perth provides end-to-end integration of operations, according to Epiroc.

Vale to build New Steel plant and boost dry iron ore processing aims

Vale says it plans to invest up to $100 million to build an industrial plant for dry magnetic concentration of low-grade iron ore, bolstering its efforts to eradicate wet tailings facilities at its mines.

The technology, known as FDMS (fines dry magnetic separation), is unique, Vale says, and has been developed by New Steel – a company it acquired in late 2018.

The capacity of the plant, which is expected to be installed in Minas Gerais, will be 1.5 Mt/y, with the project due to start up by 2022. Vale estimates that, in 2024, 1% of all the company’s production will use this technology, whose patent is already recognised in 59 countries.

With New Steel, Vale estimates that, in 2024, 70% of production will come from dry or natural moisture processing, without adding water to the process and without using tailings dams. Today, the company produces 60% of its iron ore using natural moisture processing. Of the remaining 30% of production using wet processing, 16% will have filtered and dry-stacked tailings, it said.

By this point, only 14% will continue using the conventional method, with wet concentration and tailings disposal in dams or deactivated extraction sites, compared with 40% of current production. The investment is all part of Vale’s $1.8 billion filtering and dry stacking plan, which it laid out in 2019.

The first units to use the FDMS technique will be the Vargem Grande complex (in Nova Lima), Pico, Cauê and Conceição mines (in Itabira), and Brucutu mine (in São Gonçalo do Rio Abaixo).
According to the President of New Steel, Ivan Montenegro, a pilot plant for FDMS will start operating at the Ferrous Metals Technology Center (CTF, Centro de Tecnologia de Ferrosos), in Nova Lima (Minas Gerais) in the June quarter, with the investment amounting to almost $3 million. The unit will be able to concentrate 30 t/h of dry ore, using magnetic separation technology with rare earth magnets.

“Through this process, New Steel can deliver a concentrate with iron content up to 68%, from poor ore with content up to 40%, depending on its chemical and mineralogical composition,” Vale said. “Currently, this concentration is produced by the method known as flotation, which uses water. In flotation, the tailings are usually disposed of in dams. With the dry concentration technology developed by New Steel, the tailings will be stacked.”

Vale said it is already studying methods to use these dry stack tailings as an input for the civil construction industry, in addition to other initiatives, such as co-products.

The pilot project at CTF is the second carried out by Vale. Between 2015 and 2017, a similar plant was successfully operated at Fábrica mine, in Minas Gerais, it said. These results were essential for Vale to see the potential of FDMS, according to Montenegro. “The technology, however, has been tested since 2013. At the time, the equipment allowed a concentration of 5 t/h, rising to 15 t/h in 2015 and up to 30 t/h in 2017,” it said.

To be aligned with Vale’s future projects, the company is working on the development of large-capacity magnetic separators of up to 100 t/h.

According to Technical Director of New Steel, Mauro Yamamoto, more than 10,000 test samples of ore from the Iron Quadrangle region of Minas Gerais have already been analysed by the company. Yamamoto points out that, today, with technology, 90% of the iron ore from a low-content deposit can be efficiently recovered.

Currently, New Steel seeks to reduce operating costs by using industrial microwaves to dry the product. It aims to replace natural gas dryers, thereby cutting energy costs in half. “It is a sustainable process, but we have the challenge of making it more competitive,” Montenegro said.

Vale’s Director of Ferrous Metals Value Chain, Vagner Loyola, said the company has been developing technology to increase dry processing for years. Over the last decade, Vale invested almost $17.8 billion to deploy and expand the dry – or natural moisture – processing of the iron ore produced in Brazil. Over the next five years, it estimates it will invest $3.1 billion in similar processing facilities to achieve the goal of 70% dry production.

In Pará, almost 80% of production already uses this technology in Vale’s North System. The main plant in Carajás, Plant 1, is being converted to use natural moisture processing; from its 17 processing lines, 11 already use dry processing and the remaining six wet processing lines will be converted by 2023.

The treatment plants at Serra Leste (in Curionópolis) and the S11D complex (in Canaã dos Carajás) do not use water to treat the ore. At the S11D complex, for example, the use of the natural moisture processing route allows water consumption to be reduced by 93% when compared with the conventional method of iron ore production.

In Minas Gerais, dry processing was expanded from 20% in 2016 to 32% in 2019. Today, this type of processing is used by several units, such as Brucutu, Alegria, Fábrica Nova, Fazendão, Abóboras, Mutuca, and Pico. “In Minas Gerais operations, all the units that could be converted to dry processing production are already in operation,” Loyola explains. “Then, we are using tailings filtering and stacking as well as the dry concentration technology from New Steel to reduce the use of dams.”

Dry processing is associated with the quality of the iron ore from the mine face. In Carajás, as the iron content is already high (above 65% Fe), the material is only crushed and screened to be classified by size (granulometry). In some mines of Minas Gerais, the average content is 40% Fe in itabirite. To increase its grade, the ore is concentrated through processing with water and the tailings are disposed of in dams. Then, the high-grade ore resulting from this process can be transformed into pellets at the pelletising plants to increase the added value of the product.

The plants that use dry processing in Minas Gerais depend on the availability of high-grade ore – around 60% – that can be found in some mines of the state. To achieve the required quality and be included in Vale’s product portfolio, this ore must be blended with the ore from Carajás – this blending is carried out at Vale’s Distribution Centers in China and Malaysia.

Mondium chooses Kerman Contracting for Rio Tinto WTS2 work

Kerman Contracting is to work on Rio Tinto’s in-development Western Turner Syncline 2 (WTS2) iron ore project, in Western Australia, following a contract award from Mondium.

Mondium was last month awarded a contract to design and construct the WTS2 mine in the Pilbara of Western Australia. It has since agreed to contract out the design, construction and commissioning of non-process infrastructure facilities and an explosives compound to Kerman as part of a circa-A$55 million ($37 million) agreement.

The construction works are due to start in the June quarter, with the contract comprising a fixed plant workshop complete with amenities and office buildings, a heavy vehicle diesel storage and refuelling facility and two remote facility buildings inclusive of offices, ablutions and crib rooms as well as an ammonium nitrate and emulsion storage facility and explosives compound.

Kerman’s Managing Director, Chris Kerman, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to work with Mondium at the WTS2 project and looking forward to building a strong and lasting business relationship with Mondium.

“This contract award builds on Kerman’s previous successful project outcomes in the Pilbara region in particular for Rio Tinto and other major mining companies.”

Back in November, Rio said it would invest $749 million in the development of WTS2 at its Greater Tom Price operations, facilitating mining of existing and new deposits and including construction of a new crusher as well as a 13 km conveyor.

Fortescue continues to invest in power options for Iron Bridge development

Fortescue Metals Group is to invest $450 million as part of a program that will see hybrid solar gas energy delivered to the under-construction Iron Bridge magnetite project in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The Pilbara Generation project – as it is called – is the next stage of its Pilbara Energy Connect program, the company said. This complements the $250 million Pilbara Transmission project, announced in October 2019, and will provide low cost power to the energy efficient Iron Bridge project.

The $2.6 billion Iron Bridge Magnetite project is expected to deliver 22 Mt/y of high-grade 67% Fe concentrate production by mid-2022.

The Pilbara Transmission project consists of 275 km of high voltage transmission lines connecting Fortescue’s mine sites, while the Pilbara Generation project will include 150 MW of gas-fired generation, together with 150 MW of solar photovoltaic generation. This will be supplemented by large scale battery storage and will be constructed, owned and operated by Fortescue, the company said.

Together, the transmission and generation projects, totalling $700 million of investment, form the Pilbara Energy Connect program of works providing Fortescue with a hybrid solar gas energy solution that will enable low cost power to be delivered to Iron Bridge. “This allows Fortescue to leverage its existing energy infrastructure including the Fortescue River Gas Pipeline and generation capacity at the Solomon power station and support the incorporation of large scale renewable energy,” the company said.

The Pilbara Energy Connect project builds on the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid project which was announced last year. This landmark agreement with Alinta Energy will see up to 100% of daytime stationary energy requirements of the Chichester Hub iron ore operations powered by renewable energy.

Alinta will build, own and operate the 60 MW solar PV generation facility at the Chichester Hub and 60 km transmission line linking the Christmas Creek and Cloudbreak mining operations with Alinta Energy’s Newman gas-fired power station. On completion, this will integrate with the Pilbara Energy Connect program, via the Pilbara Transmission project.

Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Mining is a 24/7 operation and efficient, reliable, competitive energy generation remains an important consideration for the mining sector in Western Australia. The lack of an integrated transmission network in the Pilbara has been a key barrier to entry for large scale renewables and Fortescue’s investment will address this issue.

“Fortescue’s commitment of $700million in electricity generation and transmission infrastructure will complete the integration of Fortescue’s stationary energy requirements in the Pilbara into an efficient network, while lowering the overall cost of electricity to existing and future sites.

“By installing 150 MW of solar PV as part of the Pilbara Generation project, the modelling indicates we will avoid up to 285,000 t of CO2/y in emissions, as compared to generating electricity solely from gas.

“Importantly, Pilbara Energy Connect allows for large scale renewable generation such as solar or wind to be connected at any point on the integrated network, positioning Fortescue to readily increase our use of renewable energy in the future.”

Pilbara Energy Connect builds on Fortescue’s previous energy initiatives, including the construction of the Fortescue River Gas Pipeline, the conversion of the Solomon Power Station from diesel to gas generation, as well as a partnership agreement with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to develop and commercialise hydrogen technology.

Miners need to do more in climate change, decarbonisation battle, McKinsey says

A report from consultancy McKinsey has raised concerns about the mining industry’s climate change and decarbonisation strategy, arguing it may not go far enough in reducing emissions in the face of pressure from governments, investors, and activists.

The report, Climate risk and decarbonization: What every mining CEO needs to know, from Lindsay Delevingne, Will Glazener, Liesbet Grégoir, and Kimberly Henderson, explains that extreme weather – tied to the potential effects of climate change – is already disrupting mining operations globally.

“Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 countries pledged to limit global warming to well below 2.0°C, and ideally not more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels,” the authors said. “That target, if pursued, would manifest in decarbonisation across industries, creating major shifts in commodity demand for the mining industry and likely resulting in declining global mining revenue pools.”

They added: “Mining-portfolio evaluation must now account for potential decarbonisation of other sectors.”

The sector will also face pressure from governments, investors, and society to reduce emissions, according to the authors.

“Mining is currently responsible for 4-7% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. Scope 1 and Scope 2 CO2 emissions from the sector (those incurred through mining operations and power consumption, respectively) amount to 1%, and fugitive methane emissions from coal mining are estimated at 3-6%.

“A significant share of global emissions – 28% – would be considered Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, including the combustion of coal.”

While there have been a number of high-profile mining companies making carbon emission pledges in the past 18 months – BHP pledging $400 million of investment in a low carbon plan being one notable example – the authors say the industry has only just begun to set emissions-reduction goals.

“Current targets published by mining companies range from 0-30% by 2030, far below the Paris Agreement goals, which may not be ambitious enough in many cases,” they said.

Through operational efficiency, and electrification and renewable-energy use, mines can theoretically fully decarbonise (excluding fugitive methane), according to the authors, with the disclaimer that building a climate strategy, “won’t be quick or easy”.

Water/heat

Water stress was one area the authors homed in on, saying that climate change is expected to cause more frequent droughts and floods, altering the supply of water to mining sites and disrupting operations.

The authors, using McKinsey’s MineSpans database on copper, gold, iron ore, and zinc, recently ran and analysed a water-stress and flooding scenario to emphasise the incoming problems.

The authors found that 30-50% of the production of these four commodities is concentrated in areas where water stress is already “high”.

“In 2017, these sites accounted for roughly $150 billion in total annual revenues and were clustered into seven water-stress ‘hot spots’ for mining: Central Asia, the Chilean coast, eastern Australia, the Middle East, southern Africa, western Australia, and a large zone in western North America,” the authors said.

The authors continued: “Climate science indicates that these hot spots will worsen in the coming decades. In Chile, 80% of copper production is already located in ‘extremely high’ water-stressed and ‘arid’ areas; by 2040, it will be 100%. In Russia, 40% of the nation’s iron ore production, currently located in ‘high’ water-stressed areas, is likely to move to ‘extreme’ water stress by 2040.”

And, mining regions not accustomed to water stress are projected to become increasingly vulnerable, according to the report.

By 2040, 5% of current gold production likely will shift from ‘low–medium’ water stress to ‘medium–high’; 7% of zinc output could move from ‘medium–high’ to ‘high’ water stress, and 6% of copper production could shift from ‘high’ to ‘extremely high’ water stress.

The authors said: “Depending on the water-intensiveness of the processing approach, such changes, while seemingly minor in percentage terms, could be critical to a mine’s operations or licence to operate.”

Mining executives in these regions are acutely aware of the water issue, according to the authors.

“For instance, Leagold Mining recently shut down its RDM gold mine in Brazil for two months because of drought conditions, even though it had built a dam and a water pipeline,” they said.

Even in areas with low water stress, certain water-intensive mining processes are jeopardised.

“In Germany – not a country known for being vulnerable to drought – a potash miner was forced to close two locations because of severe water shortages in the summer of 2018, losing nearly $2 million a day per site,” they said.

“The frequency and severity of these conditions are expected to increase along with the current climate trajectory.”

To improve resiliency, companies can reduce the water intensity of their mining processes, the authors said. They can also recycle used water and reduce water loss from evaporation, leaks, and waste. Mining companies can, for example, prevent evaporation by putting covers on small and medium dams.

In the long term, more capital-intensive approaches are possible, according to the authors. This could involve new water infrastructure, such as dams and desalination plants. Companies can also rely on so-called “natural capital”, like wetland areas, to improve groundwater drainage.

The authors said: “The option of securing water rights is becoming harder and can take years of engagement because of increased competition for natural resources and tensions between operators and local communities. Basin and regional planning with regulatory and civic groups is an important strategy but cannot alone solve the underlying problem of water stress.”

On the reverse, flooding from extreme rains can also cause operational disruptions, including mine closure, washed-out roads, or unsafe water levels in tailing dams, with flooding affecting some commodities more than others based on their locations.

The authors’ analysis showed iron ore and zinc are the most exposed to ‘extremely high’ flood occurrence, at 50% and 40% of global volume, respectively.

“The problem is expected to get worse, particularly in six ‘wet spots’ likely to experience a 50-60% increase in extreme precipitation this century: northern Australia, South America, and southern Africa during Southern Hemisphere summer, and central and western Africa, India and Southeast Asia, and Indonesia during Southern Hemisphere winter,” the authors said.

Companies can adopt flood-proof mine designs that improve drainage and pumping techniques, the authors said, mentioning the adaptation of roads, or the building of sheeted haul roads, as examples.

Moving to an in-pit crushing and conveying method would also help alleviate potential floods, replacing mine site haulage and haul roads with conveyors.

When it comes to incoming extreme heat in already-hot places – like China, parts of North and West Africa and Australia – the authors noted that worker productivity could fall and cooling costs may rise, in additon to putting workers’ health (and sometimes their lives) at risk.

“Indirect socioeconomic consequences from climate change can also affect the political environment surrounding a mine,” they said.

Shifting commodity demand

Ongoing decarbonisation is likely to have a major impact on coal – “currently about 50% of the global mining market, would be the most obvious victim of such shifts”, the authors said – but it would also affect virgin-ore markets.

“In a 2°C scenario, bauxite, copper, and iron ore will see growth from new decarbonisation technologies offset by increased recycling rates, as a result of the growing circular economy and focus on metal production from recycling versus virgin ore,” they said.

At the other end of the spectrum, niche minerals could experience dramatic growth. As the global electrification of industries continues, electric vehicles and batteries will create growth markets for cobalt, lithium, and nickel.

Emerging technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells and carbon capture would also boost demand for platinum, palladium, and other catalyst materials, while rare earths would be needed for wind-turbine magnets.

The authors said: “Fully replacing revenues from coal will be difficult. Yet many of the world’s biggest mining companies will need to rebalance non-diverse mineral portfolios.

“Many of the largest mining companies derive the bulk of their earnings from one or two commodities. Copper-heavy portfolios may benefit from demand growth due to widespread electrification, for example. And iron ore- and aluminium-heavy portfolios may see an upside from decarbonisation technologies, but they are also more likely to be hit by rising recycling rates.”

According to the authors, the mining industry generates between 1.9 and 5.1 gigatons of CO2-equivalent of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Further down the value chain (Scope 3 emissions), the metals industry contributes roughly 4.2 gigatons, mainly through steel and aluminium production.

To stay on track for a global 2°C scenario, all sectors would need to reduce CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by at least 50% by 2050, they said.

To limit warming to 1.5°C, a reduction of at least 85% would likely be needed.

“Mining companies’ published emissions targets tend to be more modest than that, setting low targets, not setting targets beyond the early 2020s, or focusing on emissions intensity rather than absolute numbers,” the authors said.

To estimate decarbonisation potential in mining, the authors started with a baseline of current emissions by fuel source, based on the MineSpans database of mines’ operational characteristics, overlaid with the possible impact of, and constraints on, several mining decarbonisation levers.

The potential for mines varied by commodity, mine type, power source, and grid emissions, among other factors.

“Across the industry, non-coal mines could fully decarbonise by using multiple levers. Some are more economical than others – operational efficiency, for example, can make incremental improvements to the energy intensity of mining production while requiring little capital expenditure,” they said. Moving to renewable sources of electricity is becoming increasingly feasible too, even in off-grid environments, as the cost of battery packs is projected to decline 50% from 2017 to 2030, according to the authors.

“Electrification of mining equipment, such as diesel trucks and gas-consuming appliances, is only starting to become economical. Right now, only 0.5% of mining equipment is fully electric.

“However, in some cases, battery-electric vehicles have a 20% lower total cost of ownership versus traditional internal-combustion-engine vehicles. Newmont, for example, recently started production at its all-electric Borden mine in Ontario, Canada.”

The authors said: “Several big mining companies have installed their own sustainability committees, signalling that mining is joining the wave of corporate sustainability reporting and activity. Reporting emissions and understanding decarbonisation pathways are the first steps toward setting targets and taking action.”

Yet, these actions are currently too modest to reach the 1.5-2°C scenario and may not be keeping up with society’s expectations – “as increasingly voiced by investors seeking disclosures, companies asking their suppliers to decarbonise, and communities advocating for action on environmental issues”.

They concluded: “Mining companies concerned about their long-term reputation, licence to operate, or contribution to decarbonisation efforts may start to consider more aggressive decarbonisation and resilience plans.”

BHP’s South Flank on course for 2021 first iron ore deadline

Fluor says BHP’s $3.6 billion South Flank iron ore project, in the Pilbara of Western Australia, is on track for first ore in 2021, with the engineering firm having erected the first 1,500 t of modules in the ore handling plant.

This construction milestone is in the critical sequence to first ore and comes after achieving 50% project completion, announced by BHP in October 2019, Fluor said.

Fluor is providing engineering, procurement and construction management services on South Flank.

In December, Mammoet said it had started transporting the first heavy components for the under-construction mine, with around 1,900 items including prefabricated and modular mine processing plant units of various sizes set to be moved from Port Hedland to the new mine site.

When operational, South Flank will be one of the largest iron ore processing hubs in the world. The project will include an 80 Mt/y crushing and screening plant, an overland conveyor system and rail-loading facilities. The mine will replace production from BHP’s Yandi mine, which is nearing the end of its life.

South Flank engineering and procurement work is being performed from BHP’s office in Perth, with Fluor working together with BHP as an integrated project team, it said.

Tony Morgan, President of Fluor’s Mining and Metals business, said: “We are extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish with BHP on this project including our commitment to achieve diversity through the hiring of indigenous and local team members.

“The pioneering integrated team approach on this project is truly a collaborative effort. We look forward to continuing our long and successful relationship with BHP on this project and beyond.”

Richard Gerspacher, Project Director, said: “Based on the project routines and culture we’ve created, I am confident that the project will continue to proceed in a positive manner as we work towards first ore.”

Fluor previously performed the feasibility study for the project before it was awarded the follow-on construction and project management scope. Over the life of the project, it is expected that more than 9,000 people will be engaged in the South Flank work force.

Construction began in July 2018 and first production of iron ore is anticipated in 2021.

Vale looks to smart meters for power cost, GHG emission reductions

To reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions, Vale is investing BRL20 million ($4.9 million) into the implementation of a smart energy management system to improve equipment performance and process automation across its production chain – from mine to port.

The system, known as SmartEnergy, should lead to the installation, by 2021, of 2,000 intelligent electric power meters at 57 of the company’s operating units and large equipment in Brazil – for example, in ore grinding circuits, long-distance conveyor belt systems and pumping systems.

The smart meters reduce production losses through continuous evaluation of the quality of power and identification of the causes of failures in power supply. Tests using this technology in two mines have saved BRL90 million per year, according to Vale, eliminating equipment shutdowns due to incorrect activation of the “electrical protective system”.

According to Vale’s Energy Efficiency Project Coordinator, Renato Arantes, smart meters can accurately detect voltage and electric current variations. These meters also register the power consumption and submit data to SmartEnergy, which enables interactions with several enterprise systems, including management of energy efficiency programs, among other functions.

Arantes said: “Often, the electrical protective system shuts down important equipment or processes due to electric power fluctuations that could be tolerated without adding any risks to operations. These small interruptions affect productivity as energy is wasted in restarting the equipment and processes as well as resuming normal operating capacity, not to mention the impact on production and increased CO2 emissions.”

SmartEnergy IT Coordinator, Laysa Mello, explained that the system will standardise the data generated by smart meters to analyse the energy use across the company.

“This standardisation enables better planning of energy consumption and demand in all operations, offering unprecedentedly higher data availability and accuracy,” she said. Although it is an off-the-shelf software already available on the market, SmartEnergy had to be customised for Vale’s needs, the company said. A team of 65 employees was trained to operate the system already deployed in mines in Pará and Minas Gerais and at the Ponta da Madeira port complex, in São Luís (Maranhão).

In 2017, Vale tested the smart meters at the S11D iron ore mine (pictured) and the Salobo copper mine, in southeastern Pará. Salobo saw a reduction of 107 hours of unexpected production shutdown caused by power quality issues, which translated into a production increase of 1.2 Mt/y compared with 2017 and 2018.

In the case of S11D, 18 hours of production shutdown were avoided at the plant, resulting in an increase of 130,000 t in annual production. By the end of 2019, more than 100 smart meters at S11D were connected to SmartEnergy, and, in 2020, Vale plans to deploy this equipment worldwide.

In an intermediate scenario over 10 years, the company expects to save BRL920 million worth of electric power through the installation of smart meters and process management automation in plants in Brazil and abroad. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 120,000 t/y, equivalent to the emissions – in terms of power consumption – of 14,400 average homes. Variables considered in this calculation included the cost of electric power; iron ore, nickel, and copper prices; and Vale’s own production.

In the long run, the project will also focus on reducing other fuels used by Vale, such as diesel, natural gas, and the bunker fuel used in ore carriers. “That brings an even greater potential to reduce emissions.”

At a December meeting with investors in New York and London, the company announced a long-term goal of neutralising CO2 emissions from its operations by 2050 and revised its emission reduction goal by 2030 to comply with the Paris Agreement. The percentage decrease will be announced in the first half of 2020.

NRW receives BGC contract win at FMG’s Eliwana project

NRW Holdings’ newly acquired BGC Contracting business has been awarded an infrastructure contract with Fortescue Metals Group at its Eliwana iron ore mine and rail project, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The new contract, which came just two weeks after NRW announced the completion of the BGC acquisition, will support the development of 143 km of rail for the Eliwana project, according to the contractor.

The scope includes the construction of circa-65 km of rail formation, including earthworks, roadworks, drainage works and construction of bridges and pre-cast structures. The contract is valued at close to A$138 million ($96 million) with mobilisation expected to commence soon (completion is scheduled for late 2020). At its peak, the project will employ an expected workforce of 400, utilising over 140 pieces of major plant in the process.

Jules Pemberton, NRW’s CEO and Managing Director, said: “Following the successful acquisition of the BGC Contracting business, NRW’s operational delivery capabilities in the Pilbara are further enhanced, through the addition of the highly skilled BGC workforce into the group, together with the strong technical skillset to safely and successfully deliver the large bridges and concrete structures required on the project.”

In addition to the building of 143 km of rail, Eliwana will include a 30 Mt/y dry ore processing facility and infrastructure. Production is expected to commence in December 2020 with a life of mine strip ratio of 1.1.

Anglo American receives Minas-Rio tailings approval

Anglo American says it has received an important licence for the tailings facility at its Minas-Rio iron ore mine, in Brazil, that will help the long life operation reach its full potential.

The company received the next phase of its operating licence for the facility following the work to raise the dam as part of the Step 3 licence area of the mine. The regulatory authorities in Brazil granted the installation licence for this work in January 2018 and the construction work was completed in accordance with that licence in August 2019, Anglo said.

Seamus French, CEO of Bulk Commodities at Anglo American, said: “This is an important milestone for our Minas-Rio iron ore operation in Brazil towards reaching its full potential. Minas-Rio has a long asset life of 48 years and produces a high grade, premium quality product for our customers, supporting lower emissions in the steel industry.”

He added: “We expect Minas-Rio to produce 23 Mt in 2019, with an FOB unit cost of circa-$24/t.”

The Minas-Rio tailings dam uses a downstream construction design and is an embankment dam structure, built using compacted imported earth-fill material, with carefully selected granular materials for the drainage and filter zones, Anglo explained. Tailings are not used to build the dam, and instead construction materials are placed in controlled layers.

“This is a conservative and high quality design for a tailings dam, being designed and built as a water-retaining type of dam,” the company said.