Tag Archives: Kibali

MacLean Engineering up to the Africa mining challenge

MacLean Engineering’s investment in Africa is paying off, with multiple production support vehicle sales recently secured on the back of an increased presence in South Africa.

Having last month bolstered its largest single fleet in Africa to 11 vehicles at the Kibali gold mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the company is now busy assembling equipment for delivery at an underground mine in Namibia, while making manufacturing and delivery plans for a successful tender for five units that will head to a underground gold mine in Mali.

John-Paul Theunissen, MacLean’s General Manager for Africa, says recent sales could be put down to the company boosting its manufacturing and service capacity on the continent close to two years ago.

“We are now manufacturing for Africa out of South Africa,” he told IM. “Towards the end of 2018/beginning of 2019, we commissioned another 900 sq.m of manufacturing space at our South Africa facility. This means we now have 1,000 sq.m of workshop and assembly space.”

The Free State facility, the first international branch MacLean set up back in the 1990s, also offers maintenance and service support.

These attributes, plus the ability to access MacLean engineers across the globe for equipment troubleshooting, have allowed Africa-based mining companies to get comfortable with the Canada-based brand, according to Theunissen.

“We have really started to build momentum in Africa, increasing the level of service and support closer to home,” he said.

“It is this local aspect that really sells fleets, as opposed to individual machines.”

MacLean now has 1,000 sq.m of workshop and assembly space, Theunissen says

This increased local offering has arrived at just the right time.

While the stricter lockdown measures in South Africa have been lifted – the country has moved from Level 5 to Level 3, allowing mines to return to full capacity (with COVID-safe procedures in place) – companies procuring equipment for Africa are conscious intercontinental deliveries could face upheaval again if a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 hits.

Some mining companies influenced by recent lockdowns are also making longer-term pledges to adjust their supply chains to take advantage of local expertise, at the same time reducing potential risks that come with buying machines and solutions from overseas suppliers.

This recently enlarged presence in Africa could see MacLean benefit from such moves.

Recent orders

The latest orders Theunissen mentioned could reflect this reality.

In securing a contract to supply three MacLean 3-Series Cassette Trucks (CS3) and four cassettes to the Murray & Roberts Cementation and Lewcor Mining joint venture set to establish the underground stoping horizon at the Wolfshag zone at B2Gold’s Otjikoto mine, in Namibia, the company achieved several ‘firsts’, he said.

“It’s a new customer, Murray & Roberts; a new country, Namibia; and a new miner, B2Gold,” he said.

These units will be assembled in South Africa – another MacLean first – and are due to be delivered to the mine by the end of the last quarter of the year, according to Theunissen.

And, as mentioned before, the company recently bolstered the fleet at the Barrick Gold/AngloGold Ashanti majority owned Kibali gold mine in the DRC.

The latest piece of equipment for the mine – which arrived at the end of July – was one of the company’s personnel carriers.

This adds to the three EC3 Emulsion Chargers, a WS3 Water Sprayer, a FL3 Fuel Lube Truck, and a BT3 Boom Truck – all from MacLean’s trusted Mine-Mate™ Series – that Byrnecut, the original mining contractor at Kibali, brought in from 2013 onwards.

When the Kibali mining model changed to ‘owner-operator’ under the management of Randgold (now Barrick), the fleet got bigger, with the miner adding four new rigs: another EC3, another BT3, an SL3 Scissor Lift with pipe handler attachment, and a TM2 Mobile Concrete Mixer.

MacLean says its expanding presence at Kibali, from the development phase all the way back in 2013 up to achieving record production numbers in 2019 and 2020, illustrates the “MacLean Advantage in action”.

It explained: “MacLean’s dedicated team in South Africa has worked closely with mine management and operators to provide the training, maintenance and support needed to keep Kibali running smoothly. With operations forecast to continue at Kibali through 2036, MacLean looks forward to providing dependable support for years to come.”

Tech take-up

Mines like Kibali – one of the most technologically advanced in Africa – are gradually becoming more and more automated in an effort to increase productivity and safety.

Already one of the world’s most highly automated underground gold mines, Kibali’s backbone is Sandvik’s AutoMine Multi Fleet system, supervised on surface by a single operator. This system, in a world first, allows a fleet of up to five LHDs to be operated autonomously, 750 m below the surface, within the same 6 m x 6 m production drive while using designated passing bays to maintain traffic flow, Barrick says. A similar system is used in the production levels to feed the ore passes, according to the company.

While MacLean’s production support vehicles often interact with these autonomous loaders, for the time being they are still manned by operators.

This is set to change into the future, according to Theunissen.

“The Advanced Vehicle Technology Team (AVT) in Canada is moving into the automation space,” he said. “We’re looking to integrate our own digitalised systems into those of OEMs such as Sandvik and Epiroc to ensure fully interoperable autonomous operation.”

Within the AVT, the Advanced Vehicle Technology group embedded at the MacLean Research and Demonstration Facility, in Sudbury, Ontario (pictured below), has over 20 engineering staff working on remotely controlled to fully autonomous vehicle operation, using radar, LiDAR, and vehicle monitoring technology, according to MacLean.

This team has already come up with vehicle telemetry hardware and software, and virtual reality training tools. It is also transitioning to a cloud-based platform for documentation, parts ordering, and training content called Documoto.

The Advanced Vehicle Technology group is embedded at the MacLean Research and Demonstration Facility, in Sudbury, Ontario (photo: James Hodgins)

While these technology developments will, in the future, underwrite the company’s transition to offering machines capable of fully autonomous operation, MacLean is already at the front of the pack when it comes to facilitating the industry’s electrification movement.

In Canada, it has more than 30 battery electric mining vehicles (BEVs) working underground – at 10 mine sites, across four provinces, with more than 50,000 operating hours amassed.

While Africa as a whole might not yet have the energy infrastructure in place to fully leverage these ‘green’ BEVs – many mines remain off grid and reliant on diesel power – Theunissen has seen grid-connected miners in South Africa show interest in taking on these machines.

“In South Africa there is already appetite for BEVs,” he said. “We see it coming through in the RFIs (request for information) we get on projects.”

MacLean has an advantage over some of its competitors when it comes to converting these RFIs into sales.

Not only has it got thousands of operating hours under its belt, it also has engineers in place that can calculate the total cost of ownership savings a specific mine will achieve should they bring BEVs into their fleets. Due to the increase in upfront cost currently seen when comparing diesel- with battery-powered vehicles, this type of analysis is crucial to securing orders.

“We can show them how the machine will fit into the mining cycle and provide in-house calculations on ventilation and mine design savings,” Theunissen said. “This helps assist end users when it comes to long-term decision making for the mine.”

For countries in Africa to get on board the electrification train like those mines in Canada have, Theunissen thinks governments will need to introduce incentives for mines to change their energy inputs and adopt BEVs.

Should this happen, MacLean will be equipped both within the continent and internationally to take on that challenge.

Barrick trialling autonomous and battery-electric tech at North America mines

Barrick Gold’s automation and electrification efforts look to be gaining pace, with the leading gold miner revealing it has been testing out new technology at some of its operations in the US and Canada.

In its recently released annual report, Barrick said the first stage of a project designed to retrofit an autonomous system at its Carlin gold mine, in Nevada, had been completed successfully.

Matthew Majors, Open Pit Operations Superintendent at Carlin Surface, said in a presentation last month that multiple underground evaluation deployments, surface drilling OEM evaluation, and non-OEM surface production haulage options had been evaluated across the Barrick and Newmont jointly-owned Nevada Gold Mines business.

While the company didn’t provide any more details on the project, Barrick has previously leveraged ASI Mining’s OEM-agnostic autonomous solution at its jointly-owned South Arturo gold operation, also in Nevada. This saw the completion of a proof of concept (POC) using five haulage units “that have delivered over 5.5 Mt faster than any other similar POC in the industry”, Barrick said last year.

At Kibali, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which remains a world leader in underground automation with multiple autonomous machines operating on the same haulage level, the company recently completed a trial to use this technology on the mine’s production levels. This means a single operator can now control up to three machines acting semi-autonomously in different zones, Barrick said.

It added: “An additional system, which will provide real-time visibility of the underground operations, including personnel and equipment tracking, is currently being commissioned.”

And, lastly, on the electric vehicle front, the company said its Hemlo gold mine, in Ontario, Canada, has introduced a battery-powered development drill “as a first step towards establishing the potential of this new technology”.

Hemlo recently moved from a combined open-pit and underground owner-operated mine to an underground-only contract mining model as part of a plan to transition Hemlo into a Tier Two asset with a life of mine well into the future.

Barrick’s Turquoise Ridge gold operation is also evaluating new battery-electric technology, with the company confirming a battery-powered underground haul truck is being trialled at the mine.

Kibali automation journey to be discussed at SME Conference

One of the most autonomous underground mines in the world, Barrick Gold’s Kibali operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recently hit another annual production record.

The mine soared past its 2019 production guidance of 750,000 oz of gold, with 814,027 oz being delivered. This topped the previous 2018 record of 807,251 oz.

At this year’s SME MineXchange Annual Conference & Expo, in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 26, Ismali Traore, Kibali Technical Services Manager, is to reveal more about how the operation has continued to surpass expectations and how safety has become front and centre at the mine, owned 45% by Barrick, 45% by AngloGold Ashanti and 10% by SOKIMO.

In his conference abstract, Traore said, in recent years, the mine has made significant progress by implementing a fully automated production level and material handling system (MHS) at the underground mine.

This sees up to three LHDs operated simultaneously from ore passes to the crusher and multiple LHDs from the stope to the finger raises. The entire automation system is remotely operated from a control room located on surface.

In a recent presentation, the Kibali partners said the system was designed to have autonomous Sandvik LH621 LHDs work in combination with a Sanvdik AutoMine loading system (ALS). The ALS Mission Control System is incorporated with features such as traffic management, auto-loading and tipping with real time tonne-kilometres/h, and a real-time bucket weighing system that is within 3% accuracy level for each bucket trammed to the coarse ore bins (COB) at the operation.

The MHS, meanwhile, uses data obtained from the ALS to interface with SCADA via an OPC interface, according to the partners. COB levels from the SCADA system are then interfaced with ALS to manage the loading of the bins.

All information is interfaced to achieve the nameplate capacity of the hoisting system – which WorleyParsons provided the operating philosophy for and Winder Controls (member of the SIEMAG TECBERG Group) provided the winder design for – while taking into consideration the availability of the ALS to equate the total MHS availability, they said.

In its objective of becoming one of the most efficient Tier One mines globally where safety is a focal point of the operation, a significant amount of time was spent on the traffic management and human interaction with the autonomous mining equipment, Traore said.

This is something Barrick President and Chief Executive, Mark Bristow, picked up on last month, saying the mine is continuing its technological advance with the introduction of truck and drill training simulators and the integration of systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation demand control.

Traore is to expand on the important safety protocols implemented to mitigate the risk of collision between this equipment and humans within the automated system during his presentation.

Barrick continues to adopt new technologies at Kibali gold mine

Barrick Gold says its 45%-owned Kibali gold mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is continuing its technological advances with the introduction of truck and drill training simulators and the integration of systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation on demand.

The mine, which is owned 45% by AngloGold Ashanti and 10% by SOKIMO, surpassed its 2019 guidance of 750,000 oz in 2019, delivering 814,027 oz in another record year, Barrick said this week.

Barrick President and Chief Executive, Mark Bristow, told a media briefing that Kibali’s continuing stellar performance was a demonstration of how a modern, Tier One gold mine could be developed and operated successfully in what is one of the world’s most remote and infrastructurally under-endowed regions.

He also noted that, in line with Barrick’s policy of employing, training and advancing locals, the mine was managed by a majority Congolese team, supported by a corps of majority Congolese supervisors and personnel.

Kibali is already one of the world’s most highly automated underground gold mines, with the operation’s backbone being Sandvik’s Automine Multi Fleet system, supervised on surface by a single operator. In a world first, it allows a fleet of up to five LHDs to be operated autonomously, 750 m below the surface, within the same 6 m x 6 m production drive while using designated passing bays to maintain traffic flow, the company says. A similar system is used in the production levels to feed the ore passes, according to Barrick.

The company said it had now introduced truck and drill training simulators and integrated systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation demand control, adding that the simulators will also be used to train operators from Barrick’s Tanzanian mines.

Bristow also said that the company was maintaining a strong focus on energy efficiency at the mine through the development of its grid stabiliser project, scheduled for commissioning in the June quarter of 2020.

He said: “This uses new battery technology to offset the need for running diesel generators as a spinning reserve and ensures we maximise the use of renewable hydro power. The installation of three new elution diesel heaters will also help improve efficiencies and control power costs. It’s worth noting that our clean energy strategy not only achieves cost and efficiency benefits but also once again reduces Kibali’s environmental footprint.”

Bristow said despite the pace of production and the size and complexity of the mine, Kibali was maintaining its solid safety and environmental records, certified by ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 accreditations.

Barrick working with Sandvik on autonomous and manned equipment interaction

Barrick Gold says it is advancing autonomous production systems and projects as it looks to become the global leader in mining efficiency.

President and CEO Mark Bristow said in the company’s 2018 financial results that to achieve its goal of being the world’s most valued gold company, in a rapidly evolving environment where the industry’s shift to developing countries will continue, Barrick will have to be at the leading edge of automation.

“Kibali, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is currently at the forefront, with its mission control system which manages the underground ore handling logistics without human intervention from the surface, but across Barrick there are many automated operations and developments which are now being unified in a group strategy,” he said.

These include, Barrick said, underground drills that can be run from surface during shift changes; automated underground and open-pit haulage trucks; fully-autonomous backfill systems; remote-controlled open-pit drills; and autonomous drilling of development and production blastholes by multiple units controlled by a single remote operator.

Glenn Heard, Senior Vice President Mining, said ongoing projects currently cover five main areas: underground development and production drilling, production and haulage, and open-pit haulage and production.

“At present, all our systems have barriers which prevent human access to the autonomous operating zones. Our next big step will be to create a situation where autonomous and manned units can work together seamlessly within the same active areas, and we’re working with Sandvik and other providers to achieve this,” he said.