Tag Archives: lead

South32 making engineering and design headway at Hermosa project

A stellar set of annual financial results has provided the ideal backdrop for South32 to update shareholders on its rapidly progressing Hermosa project in Arizona, USA.

Released late last month, the company’s 2022 financial year results showed off record earnings of $2.6 billion, record free cash flow from operations of $2.6 billion and record return on invested capital of 30.1%.

With group copper-equivalent production expected to increase by 14% in the next financial year, South32 looked to be well leveraged to in-demand metal markets at the right time.

The company has progressively been repositioning its portfolio toward metals critical for a low-carbon future, having already established a pipeline of high-quality development options. One of these high-quality development options is Hermosa.

Hermosa, which the company acquired outright back in 2018 as part of a takeover of Arizona Mining, is key to the company’s critical metals pursuit, having exposure to base and battery metals that are expected to grow in demand – both domestically in the US and internationally.

It is being designed as South32’s first ‘next generation mine’, according to Hermosa President, Pat Risner, with a series of technical reports highlighting its use of automation and technology to minimise its impact on the environment and target a carbon-neutral mining scenario in support of the group’s goal of achieving net zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

These same reports also highlighted the potential to develop a sustainable, low-cost operation producing zinc, lead and silver from the Taylor deposit, with the bonus of possible battery-grade manganese output for rapidly growing domestic markets from the Clark deposit.

In the latest results, the company said it was devoting $290 million of growth capital expenditure in the 2023 financial year to progressing Hermosa as it invests in infrastructure to support critical path dewatering and progress study work for the Taylor Deposit. This is ahead of a planned final investment decision expected in mid-2023, which should coincide with the feasibility study.

South32 is devoting $290 million of growth capital expenditure in the 2023 financial year to progress Hermosa

Some $110 million of this was assigned to construction of a second water treatment plant (WTP2) to support orebody dewatering at the asset, alongside dewatering wells, piping systems and dewatering power infrastructure.

An additional $95 million was slated for engineering and initial construction ahead of shaft sinking at the operation, plus work to support power infrastructure and road construction.

The remaining amount was expected to support work across the broader Hermosa project, including Clark study costs and the Taylor feasibility study.

All signs from these results are that the company is laying the groundwork to develop this project ahead of that mid-2023 deadline.

In another sign of progress, South32 recently signed a “limited notice to proceed” for shaft engineering and design at Hermosa with contractor Redpath, Risner confirmed, adding that the award represented a positive step forward for the project.

“We look forward to continuing our engagement with local communities and all of our stakeholders as we make further progress with the project,” he said.

Redpath will no doubt be evaluating the technical studies that have been signed off to this point and informing future reports.

The PFS design for Taylor is a dual shaft mine which prioritises early access to higher grade mineralisation, supporting zinc-equivalent average grades of approximately 12% in the first five years of the mine plan. The proposed mining method, longhole open stoping, is similar to that used at Cannington, in Australia, and maximises productivity and enables a single stage ramp-up to the miner’s preferred development scenario of up to 4.3 Mt/y.

Yet, the Clark deposit opportunity – which has become even more tantalising with the US Government invoking the Defense Production Act and supporting the production of critical metals including manganese – could see the plan change.

The company says it may accelerate the prefeasibility study for the Clark deposit, which is spatially linked to the Taylor deposit. A scoping study has previously confirmed the potential for a separate, integrated underground mining operation producing battery-grade manganese, as well as zinc and silver from the deposit.

South32 previously said Clark has the potential to underpin a second development stage at Hermosa, with future studies to consider the opportunity to integrate its development with Taylor, potentially unlocking further operating and capital efficiencies.

With a PFS selection study expected later this year, investors and interested parties will soon know the role Clark could play in the wider Hermosa project.

What is easy to gauge already is that Hermosa is progressing on a track that many other development projects in in-demand sectors have gone down.

Redpath awarded underground mining services agreement at MMG’s Dugald River mine

Redpath Australia says it has been awarded a new underground mining services contract at MMG Limited’s Dugald River mine in northwest Queensland.

Dugald River is one of the world’s top 10 zinc producers, located some 65 km northwest of Cloncurry. It produced 41,655 t of zinc concentrate and 4,740 t of lead concentrate in the June quarter.

The contract involves all underground development activities and will require up to 200 personnel in various management, operational and trades roles, with mobilisation commencing in the coming months, Redpath said.

Back in September 2020, Barminco agreed the terms of a variation and extension to its development and production contract at Dugald River, with the variation extending the term of the contract by 18 months to December 31, 2022.

FLSmidth to highlight full flowsheet expertise with ShalkiyaZinc project delivery

FLSmidth has signed a contract, valued at around DKK950 million ($130 million), to supply a range of mineral processing equipment to ShalkiyaZinc, the operator of a zinc-lead mine in the Kyzylorda Region of Kazakhstan.

The equipment will transform the plant into a world-class facility that efficiently separates minerals with a minimised environmental impact, the OEM says.

Under the agreement, FLSmidth will supply two underground crushing stations with a materials handling system to the process plant; a full package of comminution and separation equipment, including SAG and ball mills, mill circuit pumps and cyclones; the zinc-lead concentrate flotation and regrinding circuit, including nextSTEP, VXP vertical mills, concentrate thickeners and Pneumapress filters; and reagents preparation and dosing area. Full plant automation is also included, as well as installation and commissioning supervision services.

The new concentrator will be supported from FLSmidth’s new in-country service Supercentre in Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

The equipment delivery is to be completed during 2024, with commissioning to start before the end of that year.

Mikko Keto, Group CEO at FLSmidth, said: “We are excited to receive this first order from ShalkiyaZinc, which highlights our full flowsheet expertise. The wide range of equipment included in the order will help ShalkiyaZinc save on both capital expenditure and operating expenditure; our new nextSTEP flotation technology will improve the quality of the concentrates, the SAG mill will provide more flexibility, while the automation and digital solutions will further enable water and energy savings alongside safer operations.

“We look forward to making this a success on so many levels.”

Assel Rakhimova, Chief Project Director of Tau-Ken Samruk, which owns ShalkiyaZinc, said: “After testing and basic design work executed by FLSmidth, we are pleased to enter this new phase of collaboration with the procurement of critical technologies to improve the productivity and sustainability of our plant. We believe in successful execution and look forward to receiving the ordered equipment according to the schedule for installation and to continue working with FLSmidth on commissioning services and spare parts.”

Epiroc to supply Boliden’s Kristineberg and Renström mines with battery-electric, autonomous solutions

Epiroc says it has won a large order from Boliden for mining equipment, including battery-electric and automation solutions, for use at some of the company’s underground mines in Sweden.

Boliden, one of Europe’s largest mining companies, has ordered battery-electric versions of the Boomer face drilling rig, Boltec rock bolting rig and Epiroc’s largest automated Scooptram loader, the ST18, with Batteries as a Service. The ordered equipment also includes, among other machines, the Easer raiseboring rig and Epiroc’s newest production and face drilling rigs, Simba and Boomer, in the E-series.

The machines will be used at the Rävliden Kristineberg and Renström mine sites in northern Sweden. Boliden is mining zinc, copper, lead, gold, silver and tellurium at the mines.

On the Scooptram ST18 Battery, specifically, Mattias Pettersson, Global Portfolio Manager Underground Loaders, confirmed that the battery-electric machine heading to Boliden’s operations would be upgraded to Scooptram Automation. This will coincide with several other BEV customers receiving automation upgrades around the same timeframe, according to Pettersson, adding that the battery charging process will not be automated in this instance.

At Rävliden Kristineberg, Boliden and Epiroc are also involved in a project to develop and demonstrate an electric trolley truck system on a test track, with ABB being the third project partner.

The order is valued at more than SEK100 million ($9.8 million) and was booked in the June quarter of 2022.

“Boliden is focused on making its operations as safe, sustainable, and productive as possible and to produce metals with a low carbon footprint, and we are proud to support them on this journey,” Epiroc’s President and CEO, Helena Hedblom, said.

The Simba production drilling rig and the battery-electric loader Scooptram ST18 will be equipped with the 6th Sense solutions Simba Automation and Scooptram Automation. This will enable operators to control the machines remotely from the comfort of a control room, according to Epiroc. All units will be equipped with Epiroc’s telematics system, which allows for intelligent monitoring of machine performance and productivity in real time.

DELKOR’s MAXGen-equipped BQR flotation cells gain traction in mineral processing space

TAKRAF Group says it is registering strong demand for its new generation DELKOR BQR flotation cell, now equipped with the MAXGen mechanism for best-in-class metallurgical performance across a wide range of commodities.

Its MAXGen-equipped cells were first commercially applied at a cement works in India, in order to maximise limestone recovery. In other, more recent orders, the cells are being applied across a range of commodities with the technology selected for both its superior metallurgical performance, as well as DELKOR’s ability to provide a cost-effective and customised solution, the company said.

The string of recent orders includes 12 BQR flotation cells for a fluorspar processing plant in Spain. Here, the cells are equipped with eDART internal dart valves for the larger cells and external pinch valves for the small cell. eDART valves are known globally for their superior and safe design, TAKRAF said.

Five BQR flotation cells are also being used for the processing of iron ore in Honduras.

As part of an economically viable package, the cells were supplied with a reagent system and an air blower, as well as conductivity-type level sensors for accurate froth level detection and control, TAKRAF said.

The company also dispatched 11 BQR flotation cells for two gold mines in Australia.

Special features of this application included a dual outlet froth discharge box with dart plugs to divert the froth to different pipelines based on the metal grade of the froth. In addition, adjustable froth lips enable flexibility of froth discharge into the launders. Given the high ultraviolet (UV) levels of the environment, UV resistance paint was provided to protect the rubber lining, the company added.

In South Africa, four BQR flotation cells for iron ore recovery from a zinc, lead, silver and copper concentrator tailings stream were installed.

At this operation, a built-in cell by-pass system with external dart valves and a backpressure pipe were included in the flotation circuit. The bypass system allows bypassing of a cell for maintenance without having to shut the circuit down completely, while the rest of the cells can keep running with a proportionately reduced flow rate, TAKRAF explained. Backpressure piping ensures consistent slurry level management in the last cell, resulting in superior circuit metallurgical performance, meanwhile.

Finally, six BQR flotation cells were supplied for a nickel restart project in Australia. Features include a dual outlet froth discharge box with dart plugs, adjustable froth lips and a gearbox drive for the largest cell. UV resistant paint was also provided to protect the rubber lining.

Rajiv Krishnamurthy, Sales Manager – Europe DELKOR Products, said: “Our MAXGen mechanism is the result of extensive research and development. Our mechanism provides superior recoveries with higher mineral grade, along with faster flotation kinetics, which is achieved by generating favourable bubble size distribution and energy efficient hydrodynamics in the cell.

“Other outstanding benefits include the rotor and stator configuration, which enables the rotor to operate at a lower tip speed, reducing operational costs with lower power consumption and wear. These benefits also going a long way to supporting our group’s sustainability efforts.”

He concluded: “The demand for our new generation cells is testimony both to the excellence of our in-house developed technologies, as well as our global team’s commitment to providing our clients with a solution that exactly meets their needs. These projects are a great reference for DELKOR and serve to entrench our new generation flotation cells as a premier global flotation technology.”

EnviroGold highlights sustainable metal reprocessing credentials at Hellyer, Buchans Tailings projects

EnviroGold Global Limited says the precious (gold, silver) and battery metals (copper, zinc, lead) to be produced at the company’s Hellyer Tailings and Buchans Tailings reprocessing projects are expected to show a 96% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity per gold-ounce-equivalent produced and an over 80% reduction in energy intensity relative to industry averages for conventional mining.

EnviroGold Global’s circular-economy business model is designed to produce precious, critical and strategic metals while reprocessing mine waste (tailings), which often contain significant quantities of valuable precious, critical and strategic metals.

EnviroGold Global’s analytics-driven approach to project origination and development leverages extensive mine production data, mill production data and geological records to identify tailings sites that are expected to contain significant quantities of residual metals due to refractory mineralogy and/or to the inefficiency of outdated technology used during legacy mining operations. In addition to recovering precious, critical and strategic metals, the company says it remediates the tailings consistent with environmental best practices, thereby reducing the environmental footprint of legacy mining. Further, by eliminating the extractive phase (mining) of metal production, the company expects to reduce the energy intensity of metal production by over 80%.

Leveraging the framework set forth by the World Resources Institute’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol, EnviroGold Global’s detailed assessments of expected Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions for the company’s planned operations at the Hellyer Tailings and Buchans Tailings reprocessing projects indicate that the carbon intensity of the gold-equivalent ounces of precious, critical and strategic metals produced by the company will be 96% lower than industry averages for conventional mining. S&P Global Market Intelligence reports that the typical conventional mining operations generated nearly 1 tonne of CO2 per gold ounce produced.

Just last month, EnviroGold Global executed a binding definitive agreement with Hellyer Gold Mines Pty Ltd to reprocess the tailings owned by HGM at its namesake mine in Tasmania, Australia (pictured). Hellyer is owned by NQ Minerals, with the company having a plan to increase its financial year production to 1.5 Mt of tailings reprocessing in 2022, from the estimated 1.4 Mt in 2021. Earlier this month, EnviroGold announced that test work completed to date on its proprietary flowsheet demonstrated gold recovery rates of 83.5% and silver recovery rates of 94.6% from the refractory, volcanogenic massive sulphide tailings at Hellyer.

In 2021, it announced the execution of binding commercial agreements, which saw the Buchans River Delta Reclamation Project added to its portfolio of environmental remediation and asset reclamation projects, saying that it planned to deploy proprietary modular, scalable reclamation technology & systems able to process up to 1,000 t/d of reclaimed tailings to remediate the legacy tailings while removing environmental contaminants and reclaiming valuable commodities at the project.

EnviroGold Global CEO, Dr Mark Thorpe, said: “Whether serving as critical components for batteries, electric vehicles and clean-energy infrastructure, or as a store of value and hedge against inflation, metals have never been more critical to the modern, global circular economy. EnviroGold Global’s Metals Without Mining business model is designed to sustainably satisfy the world’s increasing demand for precious, critical and strategic metals by eliminating the most carbon and energy intensive phases of metal production, creating a win-win for corporate, community and environmental stakeholders.”

The Global Tailings Review reports that the total number of active, inactive and closed tailings storage facilities worldwide exceeds 8,500. The global footprint of tailings exceeds 280,000 Mt with an additional 12,700 Mt produced annually. The value of precious, critical and strategic metals contained in global tailings sites is estimated to exceed $3.4 trillion.

EnviroGold Global’s commercial strategy involves identifying, qualifying and developing tailings reprocessing opportunities, generally targeting tailings sites with at least 6 Mt of tailings and gross recoverable metal value of $124/t of tailings. Tailings sites meeting EnviroGold Global’s internal assessment criteria pass through an advanced screening process, which includes detailed technical/economic modelling incorporating expected recovery rates and site-specific process-level economic analysis.

The company has reviewed over 325 global tailings sites to date and has eight “major projects” in its global tailings reprocessing portfolio. EnviroGold Global expects to commence commercial metal production in 2022 at its Hellyer Tailings reprocessing project. The company will continue to acquire the rights to tailings reprocessing opportunities around the globe and subsequent to achieving commercial metal production at the Hellyer project will leverage strategic operating partnerships to scale up commercial metal production at multiple projects simultaneously.

Hudbay’s Constancia continuous improvement quest leads to MineSense XRF trial

Hudbay Minerals has one of the lowest cost per tonne copper sulphide operations in Peru on its hands at Constancia, but it is intent on continuously improving the mine’s margins and environmental performance through a commitment to continuous improvement. This has recently led it to exploring the potential of sensor-based ore sorting.

Hudbay’s operations at Constancia include the Constancia and Pampacancha pits, an 86,000 t/d ore processing plant, a waste rock facility, a tailings management facility and other ancillary facilities that support the operations.

The company increased reserves at the mine, located in the Cusco department, by 33 Mt at a grade of 0.48% Cu and 0.115 g/t Au last year – an increase of approximately 11% in contained copper and 12% in contained gold over the prior year’s reserves.

With the incorporation of Pampacancha and Constancia North, annual production at Constancia is expected to average approximately 102,000 t of copper and 58,000 oz of gold from 2021 to 2028, an increase of 40% and 367%, respectively, from 2020 levels, which were partially impacted by an eight-week temporary mine interruption related to a government-declared state of emergency.

Constancia now has a 16-year mine life (to 2037) ahead of it, but the company thinks there is a lot more value it can leverage from this long-life asset and it has been looking at incorporating the latest technology to prove this.

In recent years it has, for instance, worked with Metso Outotec to improve rougher flotation performance at Constancia using Center Launders in four e300 TankCells and installed a private LTE network to digitise and modernise its open-pit operations.

Peter Amelunxen, Vice President of Technical Services at Hudbay, said the Constancia ore sorting project – which has seen Hudbay partner with MineSense on a plan to trial the Vancouver-based cleantech company’s ShovelSense X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)-based sorting technology – was one of many initiatives underway to further improve the operating efficiency at Constancia.

“The ore sorting program is separate from the recovery uplift program at Constancia,” Amelunxen said, referring to a “potentially high-return, low capital opportunity” that could boost milled copper recovery by 2-3%.

He added: “The ore sorting program is expected to yield positive results at the mining phase of the operation and is expected to increase the mill head grade and reduce metal loss to the waste rock storage facility.”

Back in April 2021 during a virtual site visit, Hudbay revealed it was trialling bulk sorting at Constancia as one of its “optimisation opportunities”, with Amelunxen updating IM in mid-January on progress.

Hudbay has previously evaluated particle sorting at its Snow Lake operations in Manitoba – with the benefits outlined in a desktop study “muted” given “bottlenecks and constraints”, Amelunxen said – but, at Constancia, it considered XRF sorting from the onset for copper-grade only pre-concentration, due to its perception that this application came with the lowest potential risk and highest probability of success.

The company has a three-phase evaluation process running to prove this, with phase one involving a “bulk sorting amenability study”, phase two moving up to laboratory-scale testing and phase three seeing trials in the field.

The “bulk sorting amenability study” looked at downhole grade heterogeneity to estimate curves of sortability versus unit volume, Amelunxen detailed. Laboratory testing of drill core samples to evaluate the sensor effectiveness was then carried out before an economic analysis and long-range-plan modelling was conducted.

With the concept and application of bulk sorting having cleared all these stage gates, Hudbay, in November, started pilot testing of XRF sensors on a loader. This involved fitting a ShovelSense unit onto the 19 cu.m bucket of a Cat 994H wheel loader, with around 20 small stockpiles of “known grades” loaded onto the bucket and dispatched into a feeder and sampling system (pictured below, credit: Engels Trejo, Manager Technical Services, Hudbay Peru). With this process completed, the company is now awaiting the results.

At a similar time, the company moved onto demonstration trials of a “production” ShovelSense sensor unit on the 27 cu.m bucket of a Hitachi ECX5600-6 shovel operating in one of the pits. It has collected the raw spectral data coming off this unit since the end of November, with plans to keep receiving and analysing sensor data through to next month.

“We should have the finalised XRF calibration in February, at which time we’ll process the raw data collected during the three-month trial period and compare it with the short-term mine plan (ie grades of ore shipped),” Amelunxen said. “So, by the end of February or early March, we’ll be able to validate or finetune the economic model.”

Should the results look favourable, Amelunxen is confident that leasing additional sensors and installing them on the other two Hitachi ECX5600-6 shovels will not take long.

Credit: Engels Trejo, Manager Technical Services, Hudbay Peru

“Plans may change somewhat as the program unfolds,” he said. “For example, we may have success sorting ore, but feel additional calibration is required for waste sorting at Pampacancha, in which case we may install production sensors on Constancia ores while doing another trial program at Pampacancha.

“It all depends on the precision of the XRF calibration.”

Higher head grades and potentially higher copper recoveries may be the headline benefits of using ore sorting technology, but Hudbay is equally focused on obtaining several key environmental benefits, including reduced consumption of energy and water.

On the latter, Amelunxen said: “This is expected due to the processing of less ‘waste’ by removing uneconomic material earlier in the process and reducing the hauling and processing costs of the uneconomic material.”

Looking even further forward – past a potential commercial implementation of XRF-based ore sorting at Constancia – the company plans to evaluate the application of other sensors, too.

“For our future development copper project in Arizona, we plan to look at other sensors as well,” Amelunxen said, referencing the company’s Rosemont asset.

This ore sorting project is not the only project the processing team at Constancia are examining, as Amelunxen already hinted at.

As part of the recovery uplift project, it is installing equipment that will allow the operation to increase the overall mass recovery of the roughers, which is currently constrained by the downstream pumps and cleaning circuit.

“This will allow us to achieve an expected 2-3% increase in copper recoveries without impacting concentrate grade,” Amelunxen said.

It has various initiatives underway under the “Moly plant improvement projects” banner, too. This includes flowsheet optimisation, pH control in the cleaners and pH reduction in the bulk cleaners.

“This project has been in the works since late 2019, and the new mechanical agitator installation in the cleaning cells was completed during the August 2021 schedule mill maintenance shutdown and the new nitrogen plant was commissioned in the second half of the year,” Amelunxen explained. “The next steps are pH control in the cleaners (with CO2), water balance optimisation and potentially installing a Jameson flotation cell as a pre-rougher (the cell is already on site and not in use, it will be repurposed pending results of the pH trials).”

A flotation reagent optimisation study is also on the cards, aimed at reducing zinc and lead contamination in the copper concentrate.

“A depressant addition system is on the way to site and should be installed in February, with plant trials commencing in March,” Amelunxen said, explaining that this followed laboratory test work completed in 2021.

Zinkgruvan Mining and Epiroc collaborate on teleremote drilling trial backed by LTE

Zinkgruvan Mining is feeling the effects of teleremote drilling using a 4G LTE network and Epiroc’s Simba E7 rig at its underground base metal mine, according to a case study from the Sweden-based OEM*.

In early spring 2021, Zinkgruvan Mining, working in conjunction with Epiroc and IT, and telecom operator Telia, first connected its Simba E7 rig to an LTE (Long Term Evolution) network. Since then, remote production has taken off like a shot in the areas where the LTE network has been commissioned, according to Epiroc, while acknowledging this is still in trial mode.

The mine has a total of four Epiroc Simba rigs, with, at present, one of these connected via Simba Teleremote, some 350 m underground. In the future, operators may move to an office 800 m underground to get closer to the rig.

“So far, we’ve drilled seven pallets remotely,” Operator, Jocke Lindblad (pictured on the left), said. “It runs very smoothly, and as soon as we find something that doesn’t work, I can call the Epiroc service engineer who has been there from the start.”

Lindblad monitors the rig from a quiet above-ground office, next to a window where daylight flows in.

“I like being down in the mine too, but it’s certainly safer and better for the body to sit here,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to take a coffee break or get a breath of fresh air when I feel like it.”

The fact the operators do not need to drive down into the mine on a regular basis means they can drill an average of four hours more per day, according to Epiroc. In purely technical terms, Lindblad can operate the rig from an office in the same way as he would down in the mine. The screens and levers are the same as on the rig.

“The only difference is that I can’t hear the drill,” Lindblad said. “But you do have to keep a close watch on the measurement values on the display.”

An LTE future

Epiroc said: “Building a dedicated LTE network has been a challenge. It is much harder to bring together a design in a mine than above ground. However, the choice was easy.”

Craig Griffiths, Mining Manager at Zinkgruvan Mining, said the company, a Lundin Mining subsidiary, looked at running automation via Wi-Fi, but decided against this as it wanted the network to work for at least another 10 years and be able to handle the demands of the future.

He is convinced the investment puts the mine in a good position for years to come.

“This will give us better control over our production and reduce our costs,” he said. “It feels really good. But the greatest gain will be in respect of safety, with our employees having to spend less time in the mine.”

No-one to ask

While the Simba occasionally – under Lindblad’s supervision above ground – changes position for a new drill hole, Mattias Dömstedt, Technical Production Coordinator, and Håkan Mann, Project Manager, have time to explain how the technology works, and how the work of installing it has progressed.

“Once complete, the project will have seen about 70 remote radio units, ie transmitters and receivers of radio signals in the LTE network, installed in the mine, providing coverage of around 70 km,” Mann said. “The LTE network will then be extended as the mine expands. The portion of the LTE network currently in operation covers around 15 km.”

By then, hopefully some time in 2022, it will be possible to run another Simba rig by teleremote, provided that RCS4 can be used via LTE, Epiroc said. But Dömstedt, Mann and their colleagues on the project have already come a long way since the very first tests in December 2020, which were designed to show whether teleremote over the LTE network worked at all.

Dömstedt said: “We were in Epiroc’s workshop 800 m down in the mine. We had a remote station in the room next to the rig, and we looked out to see if it was moving around on the rig, and it was.”

The company sees LTE opening further possibilities. For example, Zinkgruvan has collaborated with Mobilaris to set up unique, full site coverage, communication and positioning infrastructure at the site, a project that led to the development of Mobilaris Virtual Tag™, which is running on LTE.

Mann said: “As we are the first to build something like this, we haven’t been able to ask anyone for help, we’ve had to solve all the problems ourselves along the way.”

According to Mann, the key to success lies in clear, short decision-making paths and a responsive way of working where everyone, including partners and suppliers, takes responsibility and is fully committed.

“This is exactly our approach to this project,” he said. “Everyone involved has had direct contact with each other. Even the operators have been able to talk directly to those building the network.”

The close cooperation with Epiroc has been crucial to the project, according to the OEM.

“Our development has gone hand-in-hand with that of Epiroc,” Mann said. “They’ve known that we were going to build an LTE network and then developed their teleremote system accordingly.”

Despite the fact Zinkgruvan is still a long way from bringing home the project, both Mann and Dömstedt are proud of what they have achieved. After completing 6,500 remotely drilled meters, they say the drilling is more efficient than ever, while the operators are satisfied and happy. The target is to reach 10,000 m, after which a thorough evaluation of the technology will be carried out.

Dömstedt said: “It’s been fantastic to work on this project. I’ve been working with automation in different ways for four years here in the mine and now have started drilling and see how it has developed – it’s been really fun! Of course, the fact that we’re getting such good feedback from the operators makes it even more exciting.”

*This story is an edited version of an Epiroc Customer Story here 

Hindustan Zinc accelerates growth plans as it partners with industry leaders

Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL), a Vedanta Group Company and the world’s second largest integrated producer of zinc and lead, is in acceleration mode, embarking on aggressive expansion and collaboration plans with technology and innovation partners from across the globe.

One of the first mining companies to commit to going “Net Zero” by 2050, it has a strong focus on ESG reinforced by plans to deploy battery-electric vehicles, tap into more solar and wind power potential and recycle waste heat from its captive power plants. Such ambitions are being delivered with up to $1 billion of finance in the next five years to “go green” and, by 2025, achieve focused sustainability goals.

At the same time as it is looking to become an ESG leader, it is boosting its mine and metal production by leveraging “smart mining” and an extensive resource and reserve base.

IM put some questions to Arun Misra, Hindustan Zinc CEO, to find out how the company intends to deliver on its lofty ambitions.

IM: HZL’s 2021 financial year to March 31, 2021, was characterised by record production volumes and profitability; how were you able to achieve such results given the COVID-19-affected constraints on your operations?

AM: The uncertainty has evolved continuously. If I give you an example, we started the year with the uncertainty of COVID only; that is people getting infected leading to absenteeism. It was so contagious, it spread so fast, half of our workforce were down. So, that struck us heavily, but, nevertheless, because we had experience of last year, and this time there was no lockdown of industry, we were able to figure out how to manage and we did manage well, compared to last year’s same quarter, which was also COVID-affected. We had introduced various measures to change the way of working to ensure a safer working environment for the employees. We also got our workforce vaccinated along with their families to further minimise the risks associated with the pandemic.

Hindustan Zinc CEO, Arun Misra, says Hindustan Zinc has been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of its employees or local communities

Furthermore, the automation and digitalisation efforts at Hindustan Zinc are equipped to better withstand these testing times while ensuring quick revival to a normal level of operations.

IM: During the height of the pandemic, HZL – like other socially responsible mining companies – supported communities within or close by to its operations. Can you highlight some of the actions you took over this period and what impact they had?

AM: We at Hindustan Zinc have been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of our employees or local communities. We have gone beyond and extended our support to the state of Rajasthan and the nation at large by contributing significantly to the PM Cares Fund and Rajasthan Chief Minister Relief Fund.

To meet the requirement of oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic, we had set up an oxygen bottling plant at our Dariba unit (Rajsamand district) in a record time of five days and had supplied over 14,000 cylinders of medical oxygen. We even arranged 500 oxygen concentrators to be imported and distributed for use across the state.

We had provided an insulated vaccine van to the Udaipur district medical health office to support a smooth vaccination drive and extended support to the local health administrations, by disinfecting villages by spraying and fumigating with sodium hypochlorite solution and providing medical gear like masks, sanitisers and PPE to local communities.

We even constructed an 8,000 sq.m air-conditioning dome hospital, based on German technology, which has a capacity of 100 beds – including 20 ICU beds – to accommodate patients and provide them with essential COVID treatment and medical facilities.

IM: ESG is obviously a major focus area for HZL, as these examples illustrate. Where specifically are you investing in your mining, power and smelting operations to make them more environmentally friendly?

AM: As a COP26 business leader, we have always been active in tackling the repercussions of climate change and have a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions. We are pioneers in India, declaring our ambition to convert all our mining equipment to battery-operated electric vehicles and will invest $1 billion over the next five years to make our mining operations environmentally friendly.

We are continuously expanding our renewable power of 274 MW of wind and 40 MW of solar under our greenhouse gas reduction goals by converting 50% of our total power to renewable forms in the next five years. We are among the only two metal and mining companies globally – and among four Indian companies – to be part of the coveted CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) ‘A List’ 2020.

Furthermore, we have even published our first Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) Report this year and have also joined the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) forum to understand nature-related risks and opportunities and accelerate the transition towards a nature-positive and carbon-neutral future.

We have set Sustainability Development Goals to 2025 for ourselves where we are aiming towards sustainable operations for a greener tomorrow.

Hindustan Zinc has embarked on a major growth push at its mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access

IM: At the same time as this, HZL has embarked on a major growth push at your mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access. How are you able to balance your sustainable expansion plans with pledges to reduce your overall footprint?

AM: We strive for operational excellence and cost efficiencies and continue to stay on the growth track while being equally cognisant of our environmental, social and governance commitments, as well as our sustainability goals. We are leveraging more digitalisation and automation than we ever have, as well as engaging with technology leaders to do ‘more with less’.

The SmartDrive equipment we plan to use enables higher productivity, lower operating costs and, most importantly, zero local emissions, featuring in-built energy recuperation technology to make the most of regenerative braking energy during downhill driving and deceleration.

Being a power-intensive business, our key focus is always on reducing dependence on non-renewable sources of energy and enhancing our renewable power base.

IM: How important has it been to partner with like-minded technology and solution providers to ensure you meet these ambitious goals? Can you provide some examples here?

AM: We always look for partners who align with our philosophy of running sustainable operations to achieve company goals. We don’t need one-off solutions from companies to meet our targets; we need companies that will engage throughout our medium- and long-term projects and provide an element of customisation that factors in the realities of operating in our underground mines. We look for global partners to work with us where we exchange ideas, insights and knowledge with them in our growth journey.

We believe in providing opportunities to our business partners to leverage collaboration on technology, innovation and digitalisation, for long-term value creation and mutual growth.

To support our expansion plan, it is crucial for Hindustan Zinc to collaborate with mine development and operation partners who share a similar vision to ours, which is to leverage cutting-edge technology to create a positive impact on the entire mining fraternity. We are currently working with companies like Sandvik, Epiroc, Normet, Barminco, RCT, Siemens, etc as our global partners. We have engaged with them to provide end-to-end solutions rather than sourcing a specific supply or service.

Hindustan Zinc has given an equal platform for women engineers in its mining operations, appointing India’s first female underground mine manager in 2021

IM: You have already stated a goal of 1.5 Mt/y of zinc production in the upcoming years and extending your lead as India’s largest integrated zinc-lead producer; what is your vision for the company to 2030 and beyond?

AM: We are excited about our next phase of expansion to take mining capacity from 1.2 Mt per annum to 1.35 Mt/a. We will surely cross 1 Mt and we should be above our guidance if we achieve the desired run rates in our third and fourth quarters.

While our growth plans are a key part of the company’s future, we are also focused on becoming the leading zinc-lead-silver producer from an environmental, social and governance point of view. Our DJSI Ranking of being among the Top 5 companies in the metal and mining sector is testament to this. We are already winning significant awards for our ESG and CSR efforts, and expect this recognition to continue and grow as we head towards mapping out our 2025 sustainability goals.

Also, the mining value chain is changing across the globe and more consumers are becoming aware of the origins of the products they buy and the emissions that come with their production.

To collaborate with Hindustan Zinc on its green growth mission, email [email protected]

Atalaya Mining approves construction of E-LIX-backed processing plant at Riotinto

Atalaya Mining has, following a feasibility study, approved the construction of the first phase of an industrial-scale plant using the E-LIX System to produce high value copper and zinc metals from the complex sulphide concentrates sourced from Proyecto Riotinto (pictured) in Spain.

Following its announcement on October 28, 2020, Atalaya concluded the study, which evaluated the technical and economic viability of producing cathodes from complex sulphide concentrates by applying E-LIX, a new, patented electrochemical extraction process developed and owned by Lain Technologies Ltd.

Relative to conventional flotation techniques, the value creation potential of E-LIX offers a unique opportunity for Atalaya, it said. As a result – and as previously disclosed – the company secured certain terms of exclusivity with Lain Tech for the use of E-LIX within the Iberian Pyrite Belt.

The E-LIX plant will dissolve the valuable metals contained within the concentrates. The test work and system design allows for the dissolution of chalcopyrite while avoiding the passivation of particles. After copper or other metals are brought into solution, they can be recovered by conventional precipitation or solvent extraction followed by electrowinning (SX-EW).

Phase I plant capacity has been designed to produce between 3,000-10,000 t of copper or zinc metal per year depending on the ratio of copper to zinc in the concentrate feed.

The estimated capex for Phase I is €12 million ($13.6 million) and the design allows for unlimited capacity expansion through the addition of multiple lines in parallel. Atalaya will start the construction of the plant in the coming weeks and it is expected to be operational in 2022, including commissioning.

The decision to approve and construct the Phase I industrial-sized plant follows over six years of evaluation and de-risking work including continuous tests at the laboratory, a small pilot plant and finally a semi-industrial pilot plant, Atalaya explained.

A semi-industrial E-LIX pilot plant was constructed in late 2019 and has operated during 2020 and 2021, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak. The results of the pilot tests were included in the feasibility study and successive optimisation work. The long run continuous tests demonstrated the feasibility of leaching complex polymetallic concentrates with global recoveries of over 95% for copper and zinc while producing clean metal precipitates and/or high purity metals.

Atalaya said the use of the E-LIX System has shown the potential to unlock the significant value from the polymetallic sulphides contained within Atalaya’s mineral resources, including:

  • The polymetallic deposits of San Dionisio, San Antonio, Masa Valverde and Majadales, all of which are located in the Iberian Pyrite Belt and within trucking distance of Proyecto Riotinto’s  15 Mt/y processing facility;
  • The significant contained metal within these historical drilled resources from San Dionisio and Masa Valverde contain over 1.1 Mt of copper, 2.4 Mt of zinc, 1.7 Moz of gold, over 110 Moz of silver as well as additional lead resources. These figures are in addition to the over 1 Mt of copper reserve at Proyecto Riotinto’s Cerro Colorado orebody and at Proyecto Touro; and
  • Historical applications of differential flotation within the Iberian Pyrite Belt in Spain and Portugal have typically resulted in recoveries of 60-80% into concentrates for complex copper-zinc polymetallic sulphides, with even lower recoveries historically reported for lead, silver and gold. The use of hydrometallurgical systems, such as E-LIX, has demonstrated that base metal recoveries of over 90% can be achieved.

E-LIX is, Atalaya said, also expected to reduce Atalaya’s carbon footprint. By producing high-purity metals on-site, Atalaya can reduce the transportation costs associated with delivering concentrates to smelters, avoid treatment and refining charges associated with converting concentrates into metal and eliminate penalties associated with deleterious elements often contained within concentrates produced in the Iberian Pyrite Belt and elsewhere. The E-LIX plant is also expected to use the renewable energy that will be produced by Proyecto Riotinto’s planned solar plant.

Alberto Lavandeira, Atalaya CEO, said: “The E-LIX System offers Atalaya a unique opportunity to unlock significant value from its portfolio of deposits that contain complex polymetallic mineralisation. Atalaya has worked together with Lain Technologies for many years in order to test, refine and demonstrate the E-LIX process, providing the company with confidence in its potential. In addition to enhancing recoveries, E-LIX will eliminate penalties associated with deleterious elements and reduce the costs of transportation and energy, thereby improving the company’s carbon footprint.”