Tag Archives: lead

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to contain significant quantities of residual metals due to refractory mineralogy and/or to the inefficiency of outdated technology used during legacy mining operations.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.”

Wagners to haul McArthur River zinc-lead concentrate for Glencore

Following the completion of a competitive tender process, Wagners says it has secured a new haulage services contract with McArthur River Mining Pty Ltd (MRM), a subsidiary of Glencore, for the haulage of zinc and lead concentrate from McArthur River Mine, in Queensland, Australia, to the Bing Bong Loading Facility and the Mount Isa Mines metal processing facility.

Glencore owns and operates combined surface mining, underground mining, processing and smelting operations in Queensland and Northern Territory for the production of zinc, lead and copper concentrate. This includes the mine which is operated by MRM.

Wagners’ scope of works will include the loading of the zinc and lead concentrate at the mine and its haulage to both the Bing Bong Loading Facility and the processing facility in Mount Isa. The haulage services will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the term with haulage services planned to commence in December 2021.

Based on forecast haulage requirements, the contribution to the company’s revenue over the contract term is expected to be in the vicinity of A$33 million ($24 million), Wagners said. This will remain subject to the mine’s production and ability to make the required volume of material available to meet the haulage tonnage forecast.

Wagners’ Chief Executive Officer, Cameron Coleman, said: “Wagners has a long-standing relationship with Glencore and is very grateful to be provided with the opportunity to service the McArthur River Mine operations in the delivery of these haulage services, which is a new project for us. This project will provide many employment opportunities throughout both the Northern Territory and Queensland and will require substantial capital investment to increase our haulage fleet, demonstrating Wagners’ commitment to this area of our business and the resources sector.”

Metarock set to leverage competitive contractor advantage

Mastermyne’s contract mining growth ambitions became very clear in September when it proposed a buyout of contractor PYBAR Mining Services in a deal valuing PYBAR equity at A$47 million ($35 million).

The deal, which has just completed, sees Mastermyne, up until this point a company focused on the Australian coal sector, expand into the domestic hard-rock space through exposure to PYBAR’s gold, copper, zinc and lead-related revenues. In the process, it has been restructured under Metarock Group Limited.

The transaction is expected to create a leading Australia-based diversified mining services business with material scale, Mastermyne said, adding that the combined group will have a A$1.7 billion-plus order book and an active tender pipeline of A$2.7 billion-plus after completion. PYBAR will continue to operate as an independent business unit within the group with the existing management team.

Tony Caruso, Managing Director of Metarock (pictured), said the company had identified some time ago the need to diversify into “adjacent markets” to ensure its business retained “resilient and sustained earnings”.

“To be clear, we are very supportive of the coal industry, and we will continue to grow our coal business,” he told IM. “What we do know from 30 years of experience of operating in this market is it is very cyclic.”

When coal prices are strong, it is a great market to be a contractor, Caruso explained. Yet, when prices come down, contractor workforces or scope reductions often follow as mine owners look to cut their “flex costs”.

A diversified Metarock would be able to better cope with such a market dip.

“The theory (behind the PYBAR acquisition) is that when coal is down, other commodities will be up,” Caruso said.

In addition to increased commodity diversity, there are also a huge number of synergies that could be realised with the combination of the two companies.

PYBAR offers raiseboring services that can be used in coal, while Mastermyne offers ground support services (through its recently acquired Wilson Mining business) that can be used in the hard-rock space.

Both have registered training organisations that could share industry best practice across sectors, too.

What Mastermyne learned in the coal boom when it developed the “clean skin” training program, using a simulated underground coal mine with a bespoke program to train people for working in an underground coal mine, may have relevance in the hard-rock sector given the recent ‘boom’ perceptions, according to Caruso.

There are also more specific technology synergies that could benefit both hard-rock and soft-rock customers.

PYBAR has embraced automation and digitalisation with, for example, teleremote loading operations at the Dargues gold mine in Western Australia (pictured below, credit: PYBAR) and the use of Digital Terrain’s Simbio data entry and processing solution on its mining fleet.

Mastermyne has been running a similar project where real-time data is “taken off” machinery and, through proprietary software, converted into real-time dashboards for the operators to track performance against operational targets. Mastermyne used such a system with great success at the Narrabri underground operation, owned by Whitehaven Coal.

Caruso said on the latter: “We were looking at building out that software into other areas of our business – we used that in our production machines when we were cutting coal, but we were starting to look at bringing that across to a lot of the other support services we provide to customers as well.”

Should PYBAR come on board, Simbio could end up being used on its coal development machines, according to Caruso.

It works the other way round, too, with Mastermyne’s proximity detection expertise in coal having applications in the hard-rock space.

“Not only are these solutions OEM-agnostic; they are sector-agnostic,” Caruso said. “The same technology is applicable for coal and metalliferous markets.”

The benefits of the business combination do not stop here.

Growth in the coal space has mostly been tied to sustaining capital projects – the overall production levels have remained flat, if slightly increased – whereas, in the hard-rock sector, brownfield and greenfield projects have been the order of the day, catalysed by higher prices and projections of increased demand.

This means the pressure dynamics around skilled labour are slightly different between the two.

Mastermyne has, to this point, benefitted from the ongoing trend of majors exiting their thermal coal businesses to deliver on ambitious ESG targets, with smaller companies taking on these assets and outsourcing work to contractors. Mining contracts at Crinum (Sojitz Blue Pty Ltd) and Cook (QCoal) in Queensland are two examples of the company taking advantage of this trend.

This type of sustaining growth capital expenditure in the coal sector is very different to the greenfield growth witnessed in 2010-2012, Caruso said. “The significant volume increase in greenfield expansion, which drove real pressure on labour, is not there,” he said.

In the hard-rock space, the dynamic is much more reminiscent of that boom a decade ago.

“There are a lot of new projects in Western Australia opening up so there is a lot more pressure on resources because the demand is far outstripping the supply in the hard-rock labour pool,” he said.

While there has not, typically, been a transfer of labour between the coal and hard-rock contracting sectors, if Metarock is able to facilitate such a shift, it could gain a competitive advantage over peers scrabbling for talent that are focused wholly on the hard-rock mining space.

“We have a workforce of 2,000-2,500 people at the moment, and we want to have a fluid workforce that can move across sectors,” Caruso said. “This will enable us to send our best people to projects to make sure we replicate good performance at these operations, regardless of where they are, geographically, or what type of work they are doing.”

Not only could this provide Metarock with the ability to shift employees between sectors, but it could also allow them to offer employees long-term security beyond the current Australian coal demand horizon.

Redpath to take on underground mining work at Aurelia’s Hera operation

Redpath Australia has been awarded the underground mining services contract at Aurelia Metals’ Hera gold-lead-zinc mine in New South Wales.

The project will see production activities continue at Hera from January 2022 with a primarily NSW-based workforce.

While Hera produced 4,650 oz of gold in the September quarter, Aurelia is working on a feasibility study at the Hera-Federation Complex (including Hera and the Federation discovery), due in mid-2022, that could see production increase.

Redpath Australia has also been selected as the contractor for the exploration decline at this project.

APA Group to deliver solar power to MMG’s Dugald River mine

Stage one of APA Group’s plan to build an 88 MW solar farm in Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia, has got underway with a Final Investment Decision to construct 44 MW of capacity to serve MMG’s Dugald River zinc-lead mine in the state.

The investment of more than A$80 million ($60 million) will see APA Group provide solar power to the mine as part of a 15-year offtake agreement.

APA also entered into a 32-year lease agreement with the Queensland Government to locate the solar farm on a site near APA’s Diamantina Power Station Complex. The first stage of the solar farm is expected to be operational by the March quarter of 2023, while APA says it is in advanced discussions with a number of customers to commit to the development of stage two, reaching 88 MW.

APA CEO and Managing Director, Rob Wheals, said the Mica Creek Solar Farm will deliver lower emissions power underpinned by the reliability of APA’s gas-fired power, while reducing the average cost and emissions of power across Mount Isa.

MMG, meanwhile, said the solar agreement will supply Dugald River with renewable energy to reduce its carbon footprint and provide immediate energy cost savings once operational in early 2023.

“The new agreement further supports MMG’s commitment to supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy with the company’s key products, copper and zinc, playing a critical role in the development of sustainable technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and batteries,” it added.

Boliden invests $160 million in leaching plant, underground repository at Rönnskär

Boliden has opened a new leaching plant and underground repository at its Rönnskär operations in Sweden as it looks to extract additional metal from residual materials at the smelter and store any remaining waste in a sustainable way.

For many years, residual materials from smelting processes containing copper, zinc and lead, among other elements, have been stored temporarily at the Rönnskär site.

These residual materials, together with future residues from production, will from this point pass through the newly built leaching plant where further metal extraction will take place. The remaining material will then be transported straight down to the underground repository, which is located about 350 m below the site.

This will see Rönnskär become the only copper smelter in the world with a long-term, sustainable on-site storage solution, according to Boliden.

Investments in the two facilities have amounted to SEK 1.4 billion ($160 million), Boliden says.

Daniel Peltonen, President Boliden Smelters, says: “Our aim is to extract as much metal as possible from our raw materials while ensuring the best achievable environmental and climate performance. The investments we have now made represent a new chapter in Rönnskär’s history in both of these areas.”

Rönnskär produced 226,000 t of copper, along with 33,000 of zinc clinker, 28,000 t of lead, 506,000 t of sulphuric acid, 524,000 kg of silver and 14,000 kg of gold last year, according to Boliden.