Tag Archives: Lithium

Chile’s SQM increases electric vehicle fleet to 34

The largest electric fleet of transport vehicles in the Chilean mining industry has been unveiled in Antofagasta by SQM in partnership with transport companies Viggo GrandLeasing, Transportes CVU and Andes Motor, as part of their sustainability plans to reduce their CO2 emissions, SQM says.

Consisting of 34 fully-electric vehicles, the fleet includes passenger buses, minibuses, vans, mobile solar checkpoints, and what it says is Chile’s first high-tonnage electric truck, making it the most diverse electric fleet in use across an entire mining operation in the country.

With the launch of the new fleet, SQM says it is on track to achieve carbon neutrality in all its products by 2040. This follows on from the company’s announcement at the end of 2021 that it was joining the UN’s Race to Zero program. SQM had already introduced Chile’s first high-tonnage electric truck, a 28 t Yutong ZKH5310ZLJP6BEV, to be used in large-scale mining onto an 86-km route from the company’s Coya Sur plant in María Elena to the port of Tocopilla, saving approximately 3,840 t/y of CO2.

The vehicles were presented on the esplanade of the Huanchaca Ruins in Antofagasta, at an event that was attended by various regional and community leaders, as well as executives and representatives from SQM and its partners. The introduction of the electric vehicles in northern Chile is especially significant as it supports efforts at a national level to decentralise electric mobility in Chile, SQM said.

José Miguel Berguño, Vice President of Corporate Services at SQM, said: “As a company we are proud to launch this fleet, contributing to the development of national electromobility and promoting the use of electric vehicles in the north of Chile, covering the regions of Antofagasta and Tarapacá, focusing on operational areas of our sites and on the transfer of all workers of SQM who live throughout the national territory.”

ABB to help Savannah with move towards carbon-neutral lithium production at Barroso

ABB and Savannah Resources have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore industrial automation and smart electrification solutions for the development of the Barroso lithium project in northern Portugal.

Under the early-stage agreement, ABB will apply its technical expertise to outline production control and process solutions for lithium concentrate production and integrated spodumene mining operations in line with Savannah’s target of zero emission operations by 2030.

Barroso is 143 km northeast of Porto and is Europe’s largest known resource of hard-rock spodumene. Savannah’s objective is to develop an operation producing premium, carbon-neutral lithium concentrate as a strategic raw material in Europe’s electric vehicle battery supply chain. Local electricity, produced mainly from hydro, solar and wind energy with zero carbon emissions, would be used to provide power to the project.

ABB says its technology solutions are well aligned and would maximise the use of the renewable energy and electrification to move the project towards carbon-neutral production.

Savannah is focused on responsible development of Barroso by using 238 individual measures to eliminate or mitigate environmental impacts. These measures will be included in the definitive feasibility study on the project, which Savannah is currently completing. This will also incorporate the actions from the current project decarbonisation study, which supports Savannah’s commitment to target a zero emission operation by 2030 or earlier.

Just last month, Savannah signed an agreement with ECOPROGRESSO − Quadrante Group − a Portuguese consultant in environmental, sustainability, climate change and resources management to lead on the creation of a decarbonisation strategy for Barroso.

“ABB is at the forefront of the automation and electrification that is required for our decarbonisation journey,” David Archer, CEO of Savannah, said. “We are pleased to have their expertise as we continue to execute on our decarbonisation strategy to build Europe’s first lithium spodumene production facility, as a critical supplier of low carbon raw materials for more sustainable batteries.”

Frederik Esterhuizen, Hub Manager Central and South Europe & Australia, Process Industries, ABB, said: “The development of Savannah’s Barroso lithium project provides us with an additional opportunity to showcase ABB’s leadership in industrial automation and smart electrification in Europe, applied towards key operations for the emerging European battery supply chain. This is another step as we continue to enable more sustainable and fossil fuel free industrial operations.”

ABB will also work towards binding agreements with Savannah in relation to the electrification, automation and digital solutions in the future.

SensOre signs DPT machine-learning tech pacts with Barton Gold, Deutsche Rohstoff

SensOre Ltd and its artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning DPT® technology are continuing to gain traction across the exploration sector, with the ASX-listed company having progressed work with Barton Gold Holdings Limited and Deutsche Rohstoff AG.

SensOre says its exploration tools predict the location and economic viability of deposits, generating information on endowment (size), grade and depth at a cell dimension small enough to quicken decision making and move directly from predicted target to drill testing cost effectively and with a narrower environmental footprint.

The company has, first, signed a terms sheet with Barton Gold to adapt and refine its Discriminant Predictive Targeting (DPT) technology to a circa-60,000 sq.km portion of the Gawler Craton in South Australia surrounding Barton Gold’s assets (pictured). The companies will focus on the targeting of gold and copper mineralisation.

Second, the company has agreed terms with Deutsche Rohstoff on the identification, acquisition and exploration of SensOre-generated lithium targets in Western Australia following what it says were “exciting results” from its first lithium-targeting program completed in December 2021.

The agreement with Barton is worth up to A$400,000 ($295,662) in co-funding to add data to the company’s South Australian data cube in the area surrounding Barton Gold’s tenements, with SensOre and Barton Gold operating in exclusive partnership on DPT targets generated in that area. Barton will also become a SensOre client and, subject to production from new gold and copper targets identified via DPT, SensOre will be entitled to additional royalty fees linked to gold ounces produced (or copper equivalent), it said.

Under the contract, Barton Gold will also join SensOre’s South Australian gold and copper prospectivity mapping initiative, which includes Hillgrove Resources, Argonaut Resources and Aroha Resources. The subsequent DPT engagement includes provision for integrating Barton Gold’s extensive data sets and deploying SensOre’s DPT in the area.

SensOre and Barton Gold will now advance the terms sheet to a detailed binding agreement ahead of commencement.

In the Western Australian lithium sector, meanwhile, SensOre stands to benefit from Deutsche Rohstoff as a partner through agreed targeting, acquisition and geological consulting fees for a minimum of eight accepted lithium targets, worth A$125,000 per target for a total of A$1 million.

The company will hold an initial participating interest of 30%, with Deutsche Rohstoff holding the balance. A preliminary budget of A$4 million has been agreed to fund exploration activity (A$2.8 million contributed by Deutsche Rohstoff and A$1.2 million by SensOre).

SensOre’s agreements with Deutsche Rohstoff and Barton Gold are the latest of several client engagements that leverage the potential of SensOre’s multidimensional Data Cube and AI-enhanced targeting technology, it said.

SensOre Chief Executive Officer, Richard Taylor, said: “We are excited to collaborate with Barton Gold who understand the tremendous upside potential that machine learning can bring to exploration and are already trialling machine learning technologies in the area including CSIRO’s machine-learning adaptive sampling platform. This partnership is an important milestone in offering Australia-wide prospectivity mapping and AI-enhanced minerals targeting to innovative explorers.”

He added on the agreement with Deutsche Rohstoff: “We look forward to collaborating with Deutsche Rohstoff to find the mines of tomorrow to reinforce Europe and Australia’s supply chain of battery and critical minerals needed to underpin global energy transition demand.”

Thiess to deliver mining services to Mount Holland lithium mine JV

Thiess says it has been awarded a four-year contract by Covalent Lithium to deliver mining services at the Mount Holland lithium mine in Western Australia.

Covalent Lithium is a joint venture between Wesfarmers and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), one of the world’s largest lithium miners.

Under the contract, Thiess will deliver drill and blast services, mining of overburden and ore, and equipment maintenance with a strong focus on community development and environmental protection, it said. Thiess commenced mobilisation and early mining operations in January.

Thiess Executive Chairman and CEO, Michael Wright, said: “We are very pleased to be selected by Covalent to undertake mining at the Mount Holland mine. This award recognises our team’s ability to deliver sustainable mining solutions and deliver enduring value for our clients across diverse commodities.

“We look forward to working with Covalent Lithium to safely position their operations for optimal efficiency, productivity and cost performance, and contribute strongly to a clean energy future.”

The Mount Holland Mine produces lithium-bearing ore that is concentrated and refined to produce lithium hydroxide, a mineral used to enable electric vehicles and battery-based energy storage systems. EPC contractor, Primero, is currently constructing the Mt Holland concentrator to process ‘run of mine’ ore at a rate of circa-2 Mt/y and produce an output of circa-400,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate to feed the company’s integrated lithium hydroxide conversion refinery situated in Kwinana.

Savannah Resources signs up Quadrante Group company for Barroso ‘net zero’ lithium plan

Savannah Resources, the European lithium development company, has signed an agreement with ECOPROGRESSO − Quadrante Group − a Portuguese consultant in environmental, sustainability, climate change and resources management to lead on the creation of a decarbonisation strategy for the Barroso lithium project in Portugal.

The appointment of ECOPROGRESSO, a leader in multiple aspects of environmental management including carbon management and mitigation and adaptation strategies on climate change, follows on from Savannah’s commitment last November to move towards net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions for the project while also targeting the reduction of its Scope 3 emissions.

The pact could see Savannah responsibly produce a ‘net zero’ lithium product at the project to help to ensure lithium entering the European value chain results in the production of ‘net zero’ lithium-ion batteries, it said.

ECOPROGRESSO’s work will consist of three phases:

  • Phase 1: Updating the estimate of the project’s greenhouse gases (‘GHG’) emissions based on international guidelines, and defining targets for overall greenhouse gas reductions;
  • Phase 2: Working with sector specialists in zero-emissions vehicle and equipment manufacturing, automation and control systems, to define and prioritise the key
    decarbonising initiatives;
  • Phase 3: Defining the implementation of a decarbonisation roadmap aligned with the overall project’s operational strategy, and designing a stakeholder engagement plan with specific initiatives to involve the main stakeholders across the value chain in the global emissions reduction strategy

Savannah said it expects the decarbonisation strategy to be defined and ready for implementation in the June quarter of 2022.

David Archer, CEO of Savannah, said: “The appointment of ECOPROGRESSO follows on from the commitment Savannah made last November on moving towards reducing the Scope 1 and 2 emissions at the Barroso lithium project to net zero once we are in production and, ultimately, to a position of net zero life-of-mine and targeting the reduction of its Scope 3 emissions in collaboration with ECOPROGRESSO and its future customers.

“Quadrante is a Portuguese company with significant domestic and international experience in disciplines such as carbon management meaning it is ideally placed to help us to devise and implement a focused strategy which will help to deliver our net zero goal in a timely manner. Their work, along with additional work we expect to undertake with other expert consultants and service providers in related fields, will be crucial in making the Barroso lithium project a source of low-carbon, ideally zero-carbon, lithium for use in the battery value chain of Europe. Making this commitment is not only an appropriate action for Savannah to take in terms of its own environmental responsibilities, but also helps to identify the Barroso lithium project to the growing number of consumers which place considerable emphasis and value on minimising the environmental impact associated with raw material supply.”

Margarida Magina, Head of Environment and Sustainability at QUADRANTE Group, said: “ECOPROGRESSO is delighted to be working with Savannah on devising and delivering its decarbonisation strategy for the Barroso lithium project. As a QUADRANTE Group company, we have specific environmental, mining, industry and energy know-how, which allows us to have a holistic approach, envisioning mining operations from development to decommissioning, with a strong commitment with mining decarbonization strategies. We believe we will deliver an integrated package which will cover all three scopes, driving the Barroso lithium project towards ‘net zero’.

“We propose to develop The Barroso lithium project’s decarbonisation strategy, identifying a set of initiatives, its benefits-cost assessment based on carbon abatement cost curve and a consolidated roadmap for implementation. Once the work is complete, all stakeholders will be able to see that the Project, and Portugal, can be a responsible, low carbon source of this critical raw material for Europe’s energy transition.”

Savannah Resources says Barroso is Western Europe’s most signicant spodumene lithium deposit with 27 Mt at 1.06% Li2O plus further mineral resource potential. The company is working on a definitive feasibility study for the project, but a 2018 scoping study outlined the building of a $109 million, 1.3 Mt/y run of mine project able to produce around 175,000 t/y of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate and generate a base case, post-tax net present value (8% discount) of $241 million.

Bartram comes back to TOMRA Mining ready for sensor-based sorting demand uptick

Having left TOMRA Mining more than a decade ago only to return to the Germany-based company in November, Kai Bartram’s re-arrival at the sensor-based sorting firm represents a good time to take stock and reflect on how far the mining sector has come with its understanding and acceptance of this type of pre-concentration technology.

Bartram, now Global Sales Director of TOMRA Mining and a member of TOMRA’s Mining Management Team, was happy to answer some of IM’s questions after getting his feet back under the table in the company’s offices in Wedel, Germany.

IM: How has the mining industry’s appreciation of the benefits of sensor-based ore sorting changed since you left TOMRA in 2010? What trends have led to a wider take up of the technology?

KB: In 2010, sensor-based sorting (SBS) was still seen as a niche technology in the mining industry. Some smaller, more innovative mining companies had seen the potential and effectively implemented SBS, but the mining industry, as such, had not accepted the technology. While in the industrial minerals sector several optical sorters – and, in the diamond industry, mainly X-ray luminescence machines – were operating, the rest of the industry was cautious about integrating sorters into their flowsheets.

That changed slowly with the introduction of Dual Energy X-ray technology. The technology is so robust and perfectly suited to the harsh environment of the mining industry that the economic benefits of pre-concentration became obvious. Another point that has strongly supported the adoption of sorting technology is the fact that average ore grades keep decreasing while energy costs keep increasing.

IM: Diamond and industrial mineral operations were typically the first adopters in the mining sector; what commodity sectors do you expect to see dominate demand for sensor-based ore sorting systems into 2030? What changes to the technology or wider industry understanding have led to this belief?

KB: In the beginning, sorters were seen as small machines, which would never meet the capacity requirements of large hard-rock mineral processing circuits. Therefore, only small mines saw the opportunity to implement sorting as a pre-concentration step in their process. Today, we see that our 2.4-m-wide flagship sorter, TOMRA COM XRT 2.0, can process up to 500 t/h, so that large operations can also implement the technology. An example of such a trend is the Ma’aden Phosphate Umm Wu’al processing plant, where 2,000 t/h are processed with TOMRA XRT sorters.

I am sure we will see more of these bigger projects in many different commodities. Of course, the current market trend is towards ores that are required for the electric revolution, like lithium, copper, cobalt and rare earth elements. TOMRA has proven that we have the right solution to upgrade those ores efficiently and can contribute to more economical output. So, I expect to see more installations in the future.

The TOMRA COM XRT 2.0 units can process up to 500 t/h

IM: Are there any regions more willing to apply these solutions than others? Why is this the case?

KB: If you look at our global reference list, you can see that the larger installed base resides in Europe, Africa and the Americas. The Asian markets are a little behind, but this is easily explained by history. As a European company, we focused more on the better known and established markets. In general, the mining market is a very global industry with big players active in all continents.
I do not believe there are regions more willing to apply the technology than others. It is just a matter of supporting all regions in the same way. TOMRA is investing heavily to ensure we have a good global support network, to be there for and with our clients.

IM: Do you expect to see more collaboration with OEMs over the next decade when it comes to implementing ore sorting solutions with process flowsheets? How do you see the input of both TOMRA and OEMs benefitting the wider mining industry?

KB: Collaboration is essential in any industry. We need specialists who are experts in their field, and TOMRA is one of the global leaders in sensor-based sorting. In order to achieve the best results in one field, one must focus. Therefore, big projects can only be undertaken by a group of companies or experts who collaboratively work together. We, as a solution provider, are very dependent on well-engineered and integrated plant designs and believe we have to collaborate and have close relationships with plant builders to ensure the best possible solution for our clients.

SQM to highlight ESG lithium credentials with IRMA audit

Lithium leader, SQM has commenced a third-party audit against what it says is the world’s most rigorous standard of best practices in environmental and social responsibility at industrial scale mines: the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)’s Standard for Responsible Mining.

According to a United Nations Environment Programme report published in 2020, IRMA “is the only mine-site focused multi-stakeholder standard for industrial-scale mining that offers independent external verification and certification, that requires corrective actions and continuous improvement”.

IRMA is also the only mine-site standard that requires community engagement in all steps of the process, an aspect of focus for SQM, the miner said. The IRMA standard has the most robust criteria related to fair labour and terms of work, occupational health and safety, and community health and safety, it added.

By commencing a publicly-noticed, independent third-party audit, the company can now participate as a Member in the IRMA scheme. This makes SQM the second lithium mining company and the first Chile-based mining company to initiate an independent IRMA audit and, through this, become a full IRMA Member.

An audit report will also be shared publicly upon completion, allowing reviewers to understand both strengths and challenges at the operation, and will guide improvements.

This membership is part of SQM’s established process of working to a high standard of transparency and public accountability in its corporate objectives on environmental matters, sustainable operations and social responsibility, it said.

At the end of 2021, SQM also announced it is participating in the UN’s Race To Zero program, and trialling Chile’s first high-tonnage electric truck to be used in low-emission mining operations.

SQM’s CEO, Ricardo Ramos, said: “This is a fantastic step forward for SQM in our ongoing efforts to continue to lead the industry in terms of sustainability commitments and public reportability of our ESG objectives. SQM’s IRMA membership represents the newest development in a slew of green initiatives, but we are not stopping here. Our aim is to achieve the IRMA Transparency Level by 2022 and IRMA 50 by 2025, and we are firmly optimistic that we can make the changes necessary to meet these carefully considered goals.

“This is an exciting time for SQM as we continue to explore innovative ways to make our lithium production more environmentally friendly, while listening and supporting our local communities.”

Liontown secures Metso Outotec SAG mill ahead of Kathleen Valley lithium FID

Liontown Resources Ltd says it has awarded a key contract to Metso Outotec for the design, fabrication and delivery of a SAG mill for its flagship Kathleen Valley lithium project in Western Australia.

Following the completion of the definitive feasibility study (DFS) for Kathleen Valley in November 2021, the company has completed further engineering optimisation to confirm the scope and duty of the SAG mill to a sufficient level of detail to enable it to place the order with the OEM.

The contract, which has a value of circa-A$10 million ($7.2 million) and is in accordance with DFS estimates, is for the design, fabrication and delivery of a 7.9 m diameter and 4.4 m effective grinding length 5.5 MW SAG mill. This is inclusive of all lining, lubrication, cooling, electrical and mechanical drive systems necessary for installation and commissioning.

The SAG mill, from Metso Outotec’s Premier™ range (an example above), will accommodate both base production of 2.5 Mt/y and the planned expansion to 4 Mt/y in year six of the mine plan, Liontown said.

The SAG mill is one of several critical long-lead items identified for early award and represents the largest single piece of equipment required to be purchased for the project by size, value and lead time, the company added.

“Detailed engineering and design for the A$473 million Kathleen Valley project continues and Liontown is targeting the award of all key equipment packages over the next six months to maintain schedule and meet its target of first production of lithium concentrate in 2024,” it said.

Other key project deliverables including final permitting and securing the engineering, procurement and construction management partner to build and commission the Kathleen Valley project are progressing to meet the targeted Final Investment Decision milestone by the end of the June quarter.

Liontown’s Managing Director and CEO, Tony Ottaviano, said: “The SAG mill contract is the first of the long-lead items to be ordered and represents an important milestone for the Kathleen Valley project. Placing this significant order with a world-class partner in Metso Outotec is a great way to start the year and reflects our commitment to advance the Kathleen Valley project rapidly towards first production.”

The November 2021 DFS outlined base production of 2.5 Mt/y, producing around 500,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate with a 4 Mt/y expansion planned in year six, to deliver circa-700,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate.

The Metso Outotec Premier horizontal grinding mills are customisable solutions built on state-of-the-art grinding mill technology, process expertise and design capability, the OEM says. They are engineered to “excel and create vast possibilities” for customers and applications.

Rio makes Rincon lithium play as part of portfolio decarbonisation plan

Rio Tinto has entered into a binding agreement to acquire the Rincon lithium project in Argentina, an undeveloped brine project that, Rio says, has the potential to have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry and can help deliver on the company’s commitment to decarbonise its portfolio.

The agreement has been signed with Rincon Mining, a company owned by funds managed by the private equity group Sentient Equity Partners, for $825 million.

Rincon is in the heart of the lithium triangle in the Salta Province of Argentina, an emerging hub for greenfield projects. The project is a long life, scaleable resource capable of producing battery-grade lithium carbonate, according to Rio. The direct lithium extraction technology proposed for the project has the potential to significantly increase lithium recoveries as compared with solar evaporation ponds, according to the company. This process uses a resin to adsorb the lithium, with clean water used to wash off the lithium in desorption, and adsorption and desorption conducted with raw brine and water at ambient temperature to significantly reduce the energy consumption, Rincon says.

A pilot plant is currently running at the site and further work will focus on continuing to optimise the process and recoveries.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jakob Stausholm, said: “This acquisition is strongly aligned with our strategy to prioritise growth capital in commodities that support decarbonisation and to continue to deliver attractive returns to shareholders. The Rincon project holds the potential to deliver a significant new supply of battery-grade lithium carbonate, to capture the opportunity offered by the rising demand driven by the global energy transition. It is expected to be a long life, low-cost asset that will continue to build the strength of our Battery Materials portfolio, with our combined lithium assets spanning the US, Europe and South America.”

Once acquired by Rio Tinto, the Rincon project will be subject to the completion of studies to confirm the resource and define an JORC Code compliant resource statement. Work will be undertaken to determine the development strategy and timing, secure updates to existing Environmental Impact Assessment permits to allow development and production, and undertake ongoing engagement with communities, the province of Salta and the Government of Argentina, the company said.

As the project is currently held through an Argentine branch of an Australian company, completion of the transaction is conditional upon approval by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). Subject to this FIRB approval, the transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.

Kati makes biofuel drilling switch at Keliber lithium project

Oy Kati Ab, a drilling contractor, has started to use biofuel in the drill rig operating at Keliber’s lithium exploration site in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland.

Tapani Niskakangas, Acting Managing Director at Kati, said: “Taking the environment into consideration and minimising the negative impacts is a guiding principle for us at Kati as well as Keliber. When we learned that Neste MY Non Road Diesel™ was available also in northern Finland this autumn, Keliber was the first company we proposed to introduce it, and we received a positive answer right away.”

According to calculations made at Kati, the switch from regular fuel oil to biofuel makes it possible to reduce emissions by at least 50%. It is estimated that, during 2020, drilling at the Keliber work site generated emissions of 78.04 t of CO2e, of which 95.2% was caused by fuel usage. If biofuel had been used, the estimated emissions would have been 37.90 t CO2e or 51% less. The emission reduction (40.14 t CO2e) is equivalent to a 286,714.3 km journey by car.

Keliber’s CEO, Hannu Hautala, regards the fuel switch as a good example of sustainable operation, which Keliber is committed to: “We are continuously looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact and improve our operations when new possibilities emerge. I am happy about this opportunity to switch to renewable energy at the drilling site.”

Kati started to use biofuel at the Keliber site during the second week of December. According to Niskakangas, the switch was easy: the machines run on biofuel as smoothly as they do on fossil fuels. And there is an added safety benefit as biofuels do not endanger water organisms or human health. This more than offsets the additional 25% price tag for biofuel over fossil fuels, which translates into an increase of about 2% in the total drilling cost.

Niskakangas said: “Keliber is the first of our customers to use biofuel. We are interested in expanding its use, but its popularity has a lot to do with logistics. Today, we transport the MY renewable fuel from Kemi harbour to our storage tank in Kalajoki.”

Kati has been working with Keliber on its lithium project for some 20 years. In recent years, Keliber has had continuous exploration and resource drilling operations, and the annual total drilling has varied from 10-20 km.

The planned Keliber operations include lithium mine sites and a concentrator plant in Kaustinen, Kokkola and Kruunupyy, and a lithium hydroxide plant in Kokkola.