Tag Archives: Iron ore

Ferrexpo to decide on trolley assist-backed haulage project by year-end

Ferrexpo’s decarbonisation and electrification plans in Ukraine are continuing to accelerate, with the company confirming it will make a decision by the end of the year on the selection of a provider for the installation of pantograph network to enable trolley assist haulage at the group’s iron ore mines.

The iron ore pellet producer previously said it was embarking on scoping studies investigating trolley assist technology at its Poltava mine in Ukraine, as part of its plans to reduce both C1 costs and Scope 1 carbon emissions.

In its first half interim results, Ferrexpo said the installation of the network of overhead power cables will enable haul trucks to ascend from the group’s open-pit mines using electricity rather than diesel fuel.

“This technology is expected to provide a significant reduction in each truck’s diesel consumption whilst driving up haul ramps, which will directly reduce the group’s Scope 1 emissions footprint per tonne,” it explained.

In the first half of the year, the group achieved a 6% reduction, year-to-date, in Scope 1 and 2 emissions combined. Following upgrade work on its pelletiser in this period, the group expects production volumes to increase in the second half of the year and, as a result, lower the group’s CO2e footprint on a per tonne basis.

Alongside the company’s latest electrification plans, Ferrexpo also updated investors and interested parties on its progress deploying autonomous haul trucks at the Yeristovo iron ore mine. These were the first large-scale haul trucks to be deployed in Europe when they were introduced in 2020 as part of an agreement with Epiroc and ASI Mining.

Ferrexpo said it now has five Cat 793D haul trucks operating in production areas in autonomous mode, with the conversion of the group’s remaining 793Ds planned as this project advances.

“Fleet automation represents a significant advancement in modern mining techniques, removing individuals from potentially hazardous production areas, whilst also providing benefits in terms of productivity and maintenance,” it said.

Highlights from the company’s first half results included a 74% year-on-year rise in revenues, to $1.35 billion, reflecting positive market conditions and investments in increasing pellet quality. It also increased its underlying EBITDA by 147% ($868 million) compared with the first half of 2020.

NRW Holdings to deliver solar power solution for Rio’s Gudai Darri

NRW Holdings has secured two new contracts from Rio Tinto, one of which will see it enter the renewable energy fold with an agreement to deliver a 34 MW solar photovoltaic system at the Gudai Darri mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

This contract is part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations with a stated target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, NRW said, adding that the contract value is approximately A$60 million ($44 million).

The scope of work for the solar farm includes design, procurement, construction, testing and commissioning of all equipment including a 33 kV substation to be integrated into the overall Rio Tinto Iron Ore infrastructure, including remote control and monitoring via the Rio Tinto Iron Ore Remote Operation Centre.

The solar farm will be connected to the Rio Tinto grid at the Gudai Darri Central Substation via a 6-km long overhead powerline and fibre-optic link, which is not included in the NRW scope.

Design and procurement will commence immediately followed by commencement of construction in August 2021. Construction and commissioning are scheduled for completion in early 2022, it said.

Jules Pemberton, NRW’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, said: “Securing this work recognises the broader delivery capability of the business and NRW’s long-standing experience of delivering projects for Rio Tinto in the Pilbara. Renewable energy represents an increasing opportunity for the group in particular captive projects like this where the energy output is integrated to the client’s network.”

Alongside this announcement, NRW said it had been awarded the Stage 3 Expansion Works at the Nammuldi Waste Fines Storage (WFSF) facility. The works to be undertaken for this project are the Stage 3 expansion to the existing WFSF for Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, a Rio subsidiary that manages the joint venture Nammuldi operation (53% owned by Rio, 33% owned by Mitsui Iron Ore Development, 10.5% owned by Nippon Steel Australia and 3.5% owned by Sumitomo Metal Australia), at the Nammuldi Below Water Table (NBWT) project.

The site is around 60 km northwest of Tom Price, with the WFSF Stage 3 expansion consisting of raising the existing earth fill embankment by a further 6 m using the downstream method with associated earthworks along with mechanical upgrades to water management structures, waste fines deposition lines and pond decant infrastructure.

The expansion works to be undertaken will achieve the ultimate limit currently permitted for the WFSF, NRW said.

Construction works will start in mid-August 2021 with all works complete in June 2022. A work force of about 75 personnel will be engaged on the project which has a contract value of circa-A$26.5 million.

Fortescue hits new automation milestone in the Pilbara

Fortescue Metals Group’s autonomous haulage (AHS) fleet has marked a significant milestone, moving two billion tonnes of material, doubling the amount hauled since reaching the one billion tonne milestone in September 2019.

In 2012, Fortescue was the first in the world to deploy Caterpillar’s AHS technology on a commercial scale at its Solomon Hub operations in the Pilbara of Western Australia and the multi-class fleet has since expanded across the company’s operations with a total of 193 autonomous trucks now in operation.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Fortescue is a leader in the implementation of autonomous haulage across our iron ore operations. Our fleet represents one of the largest in the world, with 79 trucks currently in operation at Solomon, 74 at Christmas Creek and 40 at Cloudbreak. Moving over two billion tonnes of material without a driver at the wheel is a significant milestone and a reflection of Fortescue’s ongoing commitment to increasing operational efficiency through technology and innovation.

“Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology has led to significant safety improvements for our team members, with our fleet safely travelling over 70 million kilometres to date – the equivalent of 91 return trips to the moon.”

The continued expansion of autonomous capability across the business has demonstrated that autonomy doesn’t need to be at the expense of jobs, with the transition to autonomous haulage providing significant new opportunities for Fortescue’s workforce through the provision of training and redeployment to new roles, Fortescue said.

Gaines added: “Significantly, the adoption of autonomous haulage has allowed us to relocate many traditional site-based roles to our integrated operations centre in Perth, providing opportunities for parents and women in particular to remain engaged in our workforce. Today, almost 50% of our workforce in the Fortescue Hive are women.”

Metso Outotec to help Karara Mining expand tailings filtration at iron ore mine

Metso Outotec has signed a contract with Karara Mining Limited for the design of its tailings filtration plant expansion project at its iron ore mine in Western Australia.

This agreement includes the delivery of key filtration and material handling equipment and associated services, with the typical value for an order like this is in the range of €15-20 million ($11-15 million) depending on the scope of delivery. The order has been booked in Minerals’ June quarter 2021 orders received.

Karara produces a premium, high-grade (65-68% Fe) magnetite concentrate at a design production rate of 8 Mt/y, Metso Outotec said. With this expansion, the operation will increase the current tailings filtration capacity from 30,000 t/d to over 45,000 t/d enabling safe and sustainable storage of the process mine waste, with improved utilisation and recovery of water.

Kai Rönnberg, Vice President, Minerals Sales − Asia Pacific, said: “The Karara mine represents one of the largest filtered tailings facilities in the world. We are very proud that Karara Mining Limited has chosen Metso Outotec to deliver the plant design and key equipment in this expansion project. This is a continuation of earlier delivered proprietary key process equipment and long-term on-site maintenance service agreements.”

Metso Outotec’s scope in this expansion will include the Larox® FFP3512 filter press as primary filtration equipment, material handling conveyor systems and peripheral items. Additionally, spare parts and supervisory services will be supplied to support commissioning and plant ramp-up. Delivery will take place during 2022, and the plant is expected to start production late in the December quarter of 2022.

Rio and POSCO look to combine iron ore processing and steel-making technologies

Rio Tinto and POSCO, the largest steel producer in South Korea and one of the world’s leading steel producers, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly explore, develop and demonstrate technologies to transition to a low-carbon emission steel value chain.

The partnership will explore a range of technologies for decarbonisation across the entire steel value chain from iron ore mining to steelmaking, including integrating Rio Tinto’s iron ore processing technology and POSCO’s steel-making technology.

The MoU with POSCO underlines Rio Tinto’s commitment to working in partnerships with customers on steel decarbonisation pathways and to invest in technologies that could deliver reductions in steelmaking carbon intensity of at least 30% from 2030 or with potential to deliver carbon-neutral steelmaking pathways by 2050, the company said. Both Rio Tinto and POSCO share the ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it added.

Rio Tinto Chief Commercial Officer, Alf Barrios, said: “This partnership with POSCO, a valued and long-standing customer, demonstrates our combined commitment to working together to identify ways to reduce emissions across the steel-making process. The agreement also complements Rio Tinto‘s partnerships with other customers as the industry focusses on developing technologies that support the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

POSCO’s Head of Steel Business Unit, Hag-Dong Kim, said: “Tackling climate change is a critical item in achieving sustainable development for a better future. On the journey to achieving carbon neutrality with Rio Tinto, we can play an important role of finding a way to build a low-carbon steel industry”

Warraikal to provide maintenance and shutdown services to Fortescue’s Pilbara ops

Following a competitive tender process, Warrikal Pty Ltd, has been awarded a five-year A$350 million ($263 million) contract as one of the providers of maintenance and shutdown services across Fortescue’s Pilbara operations.

Founded by Koori businesswoman, Amanda Healy, and her business partners, Roy Messer and David Flett, Warrikal was established in 2017 to provide innovative engineering solutions across the mining, marine and resource sectors. The company has been providing mechanical maintenance, shutdown and project services across Fortescue’s sites over the last three years.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Fortescue is committed to supporting sustainable long-term opportunities for Aboriginal businesses. Procurement is one of the most powerful levers for social and economic change, and from experience we know that a strong Aboriginal business sector is best placed to create employment and development opportunities for their communities.

“I am pleased to announce this significant contract with Warrikal, the largest to be awarded by Fortescue and also among the biggest contracts to be awarded in Australia to a majority-owned Aboriginal business.”

Warrikal Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Healy, said the contract built on the company’s longstanding relationship with Fortescue.

“We look forward to further developing our relationship over coming years, continuing to grow our operational footprint in the northwest of Western Australia and strengthening our long-term commitment to the region and the communities in which we operate.

“The award of this contract and the continual business growth is a testament to our amazing personnel and our reputation for delivering ‘Innovative Engineering Solutions’ across multiple disciplines, whilst maintaining a high standard of safety and quality as a true reflection of each and every Warrikal team member.”

Fortescue’s Billion Opportunities program was established in 2011 as part of the company’s commitment to deliver business development opportunities for Aboriginal people with a strong focus on Traditional Custodian involvement. Since its inception, the program has awarded over A$3 billion in contracts to Aboriginal businesses and joint ventures.

Magnetite Mines plots Razorback DFS path that includes ore sorting

Magnetite Mines is preparing to commence a definitive feasibility study at its Razorback iron ore project in South Australia after receiving positive results back from a pre-feasibility study (PFS).

The PFS supports declaration of a maiden ore reserve of 473 Mt based on 12.8 Mt/y plant throughput and 2 Mt/y of high-grade concentrate, but it has opened the door for two other options.

Process plant optimisation, for instance, could see a nominal 15.5 Mt/y feed using three grinding stages, three stage magnetic separation and flotation to generate a premium-grade magnetite concentrate with 67.5-68.5% Fe content. And a “Head Grade Improvement Case”, based on higher mining rates with a head grade upgrade from selective mining or ore sorting, could see around 2.7 Mt/y of high-grade concentrate produced.

Razorback would involve initial capital investment of $429-$506 million for a post-tax internal rate of return of 14-33%. This is based on the range of throughput and concentrate production options, in addition to 62% Fe iron ore prices of either $110/t or $150/t.

Magnetite Mines said preparation for a prompt commencement of a definitive feasibility study is well advanced with further drilling, test work, metallurgical investigation and engineering workplans in progress.

Magnetite Mines Limited CEO, Peter Schubert, said: “The PFS is a significant milestone for the company, and defines our optimised go forward scope, which has been developed following rigorous and methodical testing of various options. The resulting scope meets our objectives of practical scale, capital efficiency, attractive returns, high quality product and an expected low emissions footprint.

“This small-scale start-up allows for a practical development of a long life, high quality business with a targeted date for first ore on ship at the end of 2024.”

The mining strategy involves a simple, small-scale mining operation, using mining contractors at start-up to simplify development and leverage the advantages of low strip ratio and short, flat hauls due to orebody geometry and outcropping nature, it said.

“The potential for selective mining is a key criterion and a simple truck and shovel operation was selected as a flexible, reliable and selective method of resource extraction,” the company said. “Bulk methods such as electric rope shovels, in-pit crushing and conveying and continuous miners were investigated but not selected.”

The selected fleet used a single 350 t excavator as primary unit with wheel loader back-up loading medium class (150-190 t) rear dump trucks. The 350 t excavator class was chosen as the maximum size of excavator that can achieve the 1 m of selectivity required to take advantage of the orebody characteristics. Ancillary gear has been sized to a size class appropriate for the excavator productivity and road geometry.

“During the definitive feasibility study, as further geological drilling and geo-metallurgical testing is undertaken, the fleet mix will be reassessed match capacity requirements once selective mining strategies are finalised,” the company said.

During the PFS, investigations and modelling showed there is significant potential in accelerating mining activities and realising higher plant feed grades, from some combination of accelerated and selective mining, stockpiles strategy and/or ore sorting, the company said.

Magnetite Mines has been investigating the potential application of a NextOre magnetic resonance analyser (MRA) with ore sorting technology to the Razorback resource. The use of the MRA allows for a high throughput, high accuracy bulk sorting application that is typically added to the front-end of a processing flow sheet to divert waste ores away before processing, it said. “This has the effect of improving mining grades by pre-concentrating the ore that will be subject to processing, whilst rejecting significant tonnages of low-grade material to tailings via a diversion method such as a chute flop gate or dead box diverter,” the company added.

In October, the company announced it had entered into an agreement with NextOre to supply a mobile bulk ore sorting plant using a magnetite resonance sensor for a trial of the NextOre technology. While the bulk trial was originally scheduled for later in 2021, NextOre and the company have agreed to reschedule this trial until later in the development schedule to allow for the results of planned infill drilling and metallurgical test work that are part of the planned definitive feasibility study to be incorporated in the bulk trial design, the company said.

To assess the impact of improved head grades in the PFS, meanwhile, results from an ore sorting case have been developed, using an increased mining rate and the block model used for reserves, then applying the previously released ore sorting results to generate improved plant head grades and mass recoveries.

“These results are consistent with the analysis earlier in the year on the discrete mineralised bands of the deposit and the gridded seam model,” it said. “Due to these encouraging results, the go-forward case for Razorback will be based on the higher head grades available from selective mining and ore sorting, which will be investigated further with comprehensive infill drilling of the Razorback orebody planned and designed to inform a selective mining schedule to definitive feasibility study standards.”

For the PFS, in addition to the test work completed as part of the 2013 PFS and additional high resolution DTR (Davis Tube Recovery) test work, a comprehensive mineralogical test program was completed to better understand the mineralogical composition of the Razorback and Iron Peak deposits, complementing the existing data from the previous test work program. This was informed by the results of the 2013 PFS study, which was completed for a two-module processing plant for a total of 6.2 Mt/y, and an optimised business case for a third module bringing it to 9.3 Mt/y.

Designed by the company’s process engineering consultants, the test work was used to improve the flowsheet. The flowsheet in the 2019 scoping study had three stages of grinding, three stages of magnetic separation and a final cleaning stage with a hydro separator producing final magnetite concentrate at a grind size of a P80 of 25 μm. This is a widely used, low risk flowsheet, but has significant power requirements and generates a very fine magnetite concentrate with potential filtration and product use issues, the company said.

The company has now generated a preferred flowsheet and plant layout for the PFS, which has significant advantages in efficiency and separation over the conventional configuration used in the scoping study estimates, it said. The inclusion of fine grinding and flotation allows efficient production of high-quality concentrate. The final scale of the preferred go-forward option is plant feed of approximately 15.5 Mt/y with ability to process up to 20% DTR with a capacity of up to 3.1 Mt/y concentrate.

Fe Ltd locks in Campbell Transport for JWD iron ore haulage

Fe Limited says it has executed a haulage contract with David Campbell Transport Pty Ltd under which the company will act as lead haulage contractor for the JWD iron ore project in Western Australia.

Under the contract, Campbell Transport will provide haulage of a minimum of 1,200 t/d, which comprises circa-60% of the intended initial JWD volumes, and will also provide road train loading services to the other haulage contractors performing the remainder of the haulage.

Campbell Transport is an experienced haulage contractor that has been established for more than 20 years with a long history of bulk commodity haulage with a focus on iron ore, Fe Ltd said.

Under the terms of the contract, the haulage rate is fixed for the first six months and then reverts to a floating rate (above a floor rate) that is based on FEL’s realised iron ore price. “This provides upside to the contractor in times of elevated pricing such as presently exists and also provides protection for FEL by reducing haulage costs if iron ore prices decline in the future,” the company said.

At the same time as the contract announcement, Fe Ltd reported that the crush and screen plant has mobilised to site, with assembly complete. Commissioning is underway, with first production of saleable product expected to be on the product pad over the course of this week.

Mining operations at JWD are now fully established with the load and haul of ore and waste progressing in accordance with the mine plan, the company reported. Run of mine ore stocks are available for commissioning and first production from the crush and screen plant.

FEL Executive Chairman, Tony Sage, said: “We are pleased to have secured the services of Campbell Transport as our lead haulage partner for JWD. It has been well documented that road trains are in short supply at present so to secure the services of an experienced contractor in this market speaks volumes for the Fe Ltd team and the potential of the JWD project.”

He added: “Port and offtake remain the key items for us to complete. These are well advanced, and we expect to update shareholders shortly.”

FEL classes the project as a low capex, direct shipping ore development, which will produce a high-grade (resource average circa-63.7% Fe), low impurity iron ore. A January 2021 presentation claimed the mining and transport of the first 300,000 t of iron ore is required by September under the iron rights agreement.

Nordic Iron Ore plotting entry into steel’s circular economy at Blötberget

With the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron having just been produced, most of the globe’s iron and steel companies are evaluating how they can continue to play a role in the steel-making industry of the future.

The HYBRIT project milestone in Sweden has global ramifications for a sector that is among the three biggest producers of carbon dioxide, according to McKinsey. Incorporation of fossil-free technology to produce ‘green iron’ that can lead onto ‘green steel’ is viewed as one of the ways the sector can clean up its act and stay relevant in a society that is increasingly focused on greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability.

Nordic Iron Ore, the owner of the Blötberget iron ore project in the Bergslagen mining region of Sweden, is one of a few companies blessed with the potential to produce higher-grade magnetite that could fit into this brave new steel-making world.

Paul Marsden, Technical and Marketing Advisor for Nordic Iron Ore, explains: “There is a lot of investment interest in Sweden and elsewhere for projects associated with these goals. We’re looking at how our place in that might work, but, as we have demonstrated that we can make products in excess of 71% Fe, I would suggest that we can definitely fit the bill.”

It is not only the grade of iron Nordic Iron Ore intends to produce that is in its favour in this regard; the asset it intends to extract ore from is a past producer, having last closed up shop in 1979.

The old headframe in Blötberget

The most recent estimates state that the company could produce upwards of 4 Mt/y of high-quality iron ore at full tilt from an underground operation. The initial development, Blötberget, is planned as an underground post pillar cut and fill (PPCF) mine using backfill to reduce surface impact and maintain the high-grade of the run-of-mine ore after extraction. Construction is envisaged to take around two years, with an aim to use as much of the project’s magnetite resources as possible.

“At the moment, we’re still going to be a niche producer with low tonnages,” Marsden told IM. “Phase one is likely to start at around 1.65 Mt/y, but phase two and three could get us up to 4-5 Mt/y of high-quality products.

“At the same time, we see ourselves fitting into a changing European steel scene where you have got to be looking at lower carbon output, higher productivity per unit and a move into pelletising or DRI (sponge iron) as a high priority.”

How the company will do this is still to be confirmed, but some of the recent agreements Nordic Iron Ore has signed indicate there is intent behind the ambitions.

It has enlisted the help of Paterson & Cooke to evaluate alternatives for its waste management process (fine tailings were previously anticipated to be deposited in an existing tailing dam) that “significantly reduces the environmental impact of the mining operations but is also attractive from an economic standpoint”.

It has enlisted the help of Sweden-based VB Energi to supply electricity to the site from renewable sources.

Nordic Iron Ore took part in the Smart Exploration project, an EU-funded collaboration between universities and companies from eleven countries. One of the project’s aims was to develop environmentally-friendly methods of geophysical exploration, with Smart Exploration teams conducting several evaluations at Ludvika Mines (part of the Blötberget project) using prototype equipment producing more accurate measurements primarily in the fields of seismology and electromagnetics

It has also signed an MoU with Epiroc Sweden, with the two companies cooperating on the mining project development.

Nordic Iron Ore’s CEO, Lennart Eliasson, said this OEM partnership, in particular, was important to the company’s aims of operating a modern mine able to deploy the latest technologies for high productivity and safety, and long-term sustainability.

Marsden provided a bit more background on this agreement: “The definitive feasibility study we had previously completed with Golder Group by the end of 2019 was what you would consider a ‘traditional mine’ – it included diesel-powered loading and haulage with operators. It wasn’t really what we were aiming for, but it gave us an economic study to go to market with.

“We have since had conversations with the likes of Epiroc, ABB and others at the forefront of pushing new technologies like automation, electrification and digitalisation. They are interested in producing a ‘showcase mine’ for Sweden.”

Marsden says there is potential for leveraging the technology learnings on projects such as LKAB’s Kiruna and Konsuln mines, Boliden’s underground operations and Lundin Mining’s Zinkgruvan operation to make Blötberget “future ready”.

He added: “We cannot automate and electrify it all from the off, but we can lay the groundwork to eventually automate and electrify just about everything in the mine.”

What the company needs now is backing from investors to solidify its plan for Blötberget.

Some $8-10 million should allow the company to assess improvements – the potential to access old resources close to a planned underground decline, earlier revenue generators such as toll treatment of high-grade concentrate, and right-sizing the process flowsheet – and bolster the team to see it through mine construction.

After that, it will be a matter of aligning with offtake partners intent on sustainable steel production with a premium iron ore concentrate that suits the industry’s ‘green’ sentiment.

Fortescue backs Pilbara mine site rehabilitation CRC project

The Cooperative Research Centre for Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC TiME), along with partners Fortescue Metals Group (Fortescue), University of Western Australia (UWA) and Curtin University (Curtin), have announced a new project focusing on increasing plant nutrients in iron ore waste, enabling improved mine site rehabilitation in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The 12-month project is centred around the Fortescue’s Chichester Hub mine site and includes experimental glasshouse-based and laboratory testing undertaken at UWA, along with microbiology expertise from Curtin.

“The Pilbara region has a very thin layer of top soil which is essential for plant growth and is disrupted through mining,” CRC TiME said. “This project will formulate a process to increase plant available nutrient levels, specifically nitrogen for this study, in mineral waste (waste rock and tailings) and stockpiled soils (subsoils and topsoil) using novel plant-microbe systems, to improve the rehabilitation post-mining.”

Kirsty Beckett, Principal of Mine Closure at Fortescue, said: “This project is addressing a critical issue for the mining industry as available topsoil is a key limiting factor in the rehabilitation of large tracts of mining affected land. These areas can cover up to half of some of the Fortescue’s mine sites.”

CRC TiME CEO, Dr Guy Boggs, added: “Post-mining landscapes require the establishment of self-sustaining ecosystems over heavily altered landscapes constructed from mineral waste. Effectively and efficiently converting these landscapes into self-sustaining ecosystems delivers both environmental and financial benefits and provides more certainty on ecosystem resilience.”

CRC TiME receives grant funding from the Australian Government through the Cooperative Research Centre Program.