Tag Archives: mechanised cutting

Sandvik makes mechanised cutting, autonomous equipment sales in Q2

The performance of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology continued to stand out in Sandvik Group’s June quarter results as orders for mechanised cutting and autonomous equipment helped revenues jump.

Order intake from Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology of SEK11.9 billon ($1.27 billion) represented a historically high level, slightly shading the SEK11.4 billion posted a year earlier. Revenues and operating profit, meanwhile, were 3% and 13% higher, year-on-year, at SEK11.8 billion and SEK2.1 billion, respectively.

This compared positively with lower year-on-year order intake from the Sandvik Machining Solutions and Sandvik Materials Technology divisions, which led to overall group order intake falling 5% and adjusted operating profit dropping 2% for the quarter.

While Sandvik noted the mining market remained stable during the quarter, it also said “somewhat protracted decision-making among customers” became apparent over the three months.

Orders for equipment remained at a high level, positively impacted primarily by the mechanical cutting and automation divisions, Sandvik said, while orders for underground mining equipment declined against high comparables from last year.

Aftermarket orders increased at a “mid-single-digit pace”, both for parts & service as well as for consumables, the company said, adding that the aftermarket business accounted for 62% of revenues with the equipment business accounting for 38%.

Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining on its way to tangible technology results

“It’s clear that the pressures on us are unsustainable, whether it is around our carbon footprint, water footprint, or physical footprint, and we are always looking for different ways to push us in this future direction where our footprint will be very different.”

Tony O’Neill, Anglo American Technical Director, knows the company he works for is up against it when it comes to retaining its reputation as one of the world’s leading sustainable mining companies.

It’s clear from the company’s 2018 sustainability report – which saw it achieve a best-ever performance in terms of injuries, a cut in energy use and an increase in greenhouse gas emission savings – that Anglo is going down multiple paths to reach its goals. O’Neill, who joined the company almost six years ago, believes Anglo’s FutureSmart Mining™ programme will play a major role in confronting and overcoming many of the issues it (and the industry) is facing.

“If you look at FutureSmart Mining, at its absolute essence, it is about footprint; how do you change the footprint of mining? How do you have a mine that draws no fresh water? Mines without tailings dams? Mines that look very different?” he told IM.

“It’s getting people to believe there is a different way for mining in an industry that has, to this point, been quite traditional. It is not going to happen overnight, but I think we have a genuine vision that is, in my view, quite feasible.”

IM spoke with O’Neill and Donovan Waller, Group Head of Technology Development, this week to get to the bottom of how technology is making Anglo ever more sustainable.

IM: Could you explain how the Anglo operating model facilitates and fosters innovation within the context of FutureSmart Mining?

TO: The Anglo American operating model is the chassis that underpins everything, giving us certainty in the delivery of our work. When you have got that stability – and the lack of variability – in your business outputs, it is much easier to overlay new technologies and processes. When you then see a difference in operating or financial results, you can confirm it is down to what you have implemented, rather than the underlying processes.

I look at it a little bit like a three-legged stool: you have the operating model on one leg, the P101 benchmark-setting on another, and technology and data analytics on the third leg. They all co-exist in this system and work off each other. Without one, the stool falls over.

The operating model has given us a drumbeat of delivery, and we get the licence to innovate because of this drumbeat.

IM: Do you think FutureSmart Mining is starting to be understood and valued by investors?

TO: They’re awake to it now. I think it is still in the early stages of the story, but they can see what we are doing and the ambition behind it. Ultimately, it will result in a different investment profile, or more investors because of it, but I am not sure that it’s translated in full up to now. The recognition has been more around the general results of the company.

With all these technologies coming through – much of them driven by higher levels of data and the ability to interrogate that data – the vision we imagined way out into the future, I think, is a lot more tangible than when we started out four years ago.

IM: Out of all the tailings dam elimination work you are carrying out (around passive resistivity, fibre-optics, micro-seismic monitoring, coarse particle recovery, polymers, and dry stacking), which innovation will have an impact on Anglo’s operations in the next three-to-five years?

TO: All of them. We started out with our tailings programme in 2013; in fact, our group technical standards were re-issued at the beginning of 2014 and they are now one of the main guidelines the ICMM (International Council on Mining and Metals) uses.

Tailings dams have always been at the back end of the mining process and, in a way, the science behind them has never been part of the mainstream operation. Our view, internally for many years, is tailings dams are one of the industry’s greatest risks.

“Our view, internally for many years, is tailings dams are one of the industry’s greatest risks,” Tony O’Neill says

Ultimately our aim is to eliminate tailings dams. Period. Coarse particle flotation – getting that coarser particle size that drains much more freely – is core to that and you can see a development pathway there. For example, with some of these new flotation techniques, we now only need 1% exposure of the mineral for it to be effective. In the past, it was much higher.

When we upgraded the capability of our tailings organisation, it became clear we needed to get a lot more data off these tailings dams. About three years ago, we started putting fibre-optic sensors into the dams. We have since developed, through our exploration arm, passive resistivity seismic monitoring, which basically tells you where your water sits in the dams. And, we’re putting into Quellaveco micro-seismic measuring techniques, which will be more granular again. You can see the day coming really quickly where tailings dams are a real-time data source for mining companies.

We’re also, with our joint venture partner Debswana, building the first polymer plant in Botswana, which could have an impact on dry tailing disposal.

The thing we need to crack – both ourselves and the industry – is how to dry stack at scale. At the moment, that is still a work-in-progress, but it is doable in the long term.

IM: How is the bulk sorter you have operating at El Soldado, which is equipped with a neutron sensor, working? How has it made a difference to recoveries and grades at the operation?

TO: With the bulk sorter, we’re taking packages of tonnes rather than individual rocks to enable us to get both speed and volume. At El Soldado, we are sorting in four tonne packages. You can adapt the sorting profile by the characteristics of the orebody. We’re generally looking to sort tonnages that are less than you would put in a haul truck body or bucket.

If you step right back, in the past, most processing plants wanted to blend to get an average feed. We are going the other way. We want to use the heterogeneity of the orebody to its advantage; the less mixing we can get ahead of these sorting processes, the better it is for recoveries.

Being able to remove an orebody above the cut-off grade alongside waste tonnages and upgrade the latter has led to an effective lift in head grade. It has been enabled by new sensing technology with a particular type of neutron sensor.

What we have seen in early results has surprised us on the upside. We thought we would see a 5% uplift in head grade, but in fact we have seen about 20% – to qualify that, it’s in its early stages.

O’Neill says the bulk sorting trial at El Soldado has seen about a 20% uplift in head grade in its early stages

If you take this to its logical conclusion, you can see the day coming where you would cut the rock – no drilling and blasting – immediately sort the rock behind the machine cutting it and distribute said rock efficiently into its value in use; you don’t have stockpiles, you have plants sensing the material right through and adapting in real time to the change in mineralogy. I think there is another 3-4% increase in recovery in that whole process when we get it right.

Our sweet spot when we created FutureSmart Mining was always the orebody and processing plants, more so than automation (although that is part of the potential mix). That was different to a lot of the other players in the industry. This focus could lead to the development of different types of plants; ones that are flexible, more modular and you can plug and play.

IM: Do you see these type of neutron sensors being applied elsewhere across a mine site?

TO: Yes, through processing plants and conveyors. In fact, we’re preparing for this on conveyors right now.

What we have found with all this new technology is that, when we implement it, quite often another opportunity arrives. They end up playing off each other, and that is the context for the bulk sorting and coarse particle flotation.

IM: How have Anglo’s Open Forums played into these developments?

TO: We have held eight Open Forums on sustainability, processing, mining, exploration (two), future of work, energy and maintenance.

Out of those eight, I think we have got around 10,000 ideas from them. These forums have been specifically designed where only about a third of participants are from the mining industry, with the other two thirds coming from the best and brightest analogous industries we can tap into – automobile, oil & gas, food, construction, even Formula 1 racing and NASA.

The reality is that out of those 10,000 ideas, the success rate is about 1:1,000, but the one that makes it is quite often a game changer.

IM: Going back to the bulk sorters, am I right in thinking you plan to put these into Mogalakwena and Barro Alto too?

TO: The aim is to have them across our business. At El Soldado, the copper angle is very important. The technology – the sensing and using the data – is probably a touch more advanced in copper, but we are building one currently in our PGMs business at Mogalakwena and a bit behind that, but ready to be built, is one in nickel, yes.

In terms of our programme, you will see them spread across our business in the next, hopefully, 18 months.

IM: Where does your approach to advanced process control (APC) fit into the FutureSmart Mining platform?

TO: We want to have APC in some form across all our business by the end of this year. We have probably come from a little behind some of the other players in the industry, but we’re pushing it quite aggressively to give us the platform for data analytics. The upside we have seen just by putting the process control in so far has surprised me a bit – in a good way; power reductions, throughput, having this different level of control. All of it has been pleasing.

We spent about 12 months looking at the whole data analytics space to see how we were going to implement our solution. If you look around at the sector, everyone wants to be involved and profit share. If you add it all up, you could end up with not a lot of profitable pieces at the end. We have strategically chosen the pieces we think are important to us and our profit pool and have been happy to be a little looser on some of the non-core areas.

The other key plank to the APC is that we own the data. The reality is, in the new world, data is like a new orebody and we’re not willing to let go of that.

IM: Your Smart Energy project involving a haul truck powered on hydrogen has certainly caught the attention of the market: how did you come up with this innovation?

TO: Initially, we couldn’t make renewables work from an investment criteria perspective – it was always close, but never quite there. Donovan’s team then took an approach where they said, ‘forget the normal investment criteria. All we want to do is, make the business case wash its face.’ In doing so, it enabled them to oversize a renewable or photovoltaic energy source – the power plant – using that extra power to produce hydrogen and putting that hydrogen to use in the haulage fleet. Re-engineering the haulage fleet gave us the business outcomes we were looking for.

DW: These business cases bring you to temporary barriers. When you hit that temporary barrier, people normally stop, but what we said was, ‘OK, just assume it is not there and go forward.’ That brought the whole business case back again by looking at it differently again.

Anglo’s Smart Energy project is aiming to power a 300-t class truck with hydrogen fuel

IM: Where is this project likely to be situated within the group?

TO: We’re still not 100% fixed as the initial work will be done here (the UK). You are talking about quite specialist skills working with hydrogen.

When the system has gone past its initial testing, it will go to a site, probably in South Africa, but we are not 100% locked into that at this point.

IM: On the 12-month timeline you have given, when would you have to be on site?

TO: The infrastructure will be pre-built here in the UK. We’re effectively testing it here. In a way, the physical truck is the easy bit.

It’s going to be using a 300-t class truck. The guys have already done quite a bit of the detailed measuring and the design elements are well under way.

We’ve also taken the approach to use pre-approved technology, which Donovan can talk about.

DW: This minimises the risk on the first go and allows us to, later, tailor it. For example, if you don’t have a right sized fuel cell currently available off-the-shelf, you just use multiple standard-size fuel cells for now. Then, when you get into the final version you could tailor them into something more specific.

IM: On mechanised cutting, you recently mentioned the building of a “production-sized machine” for at least one of your mines in South Africa. Is this a variant of the Epiroc machine – the Rapid Mine Development System – you have been using at Twickenham?

TO: It’s the next generation of machines. It’s fair to say that, in the last 12 months, the technology has come to the point where we are confident it is viable.

What we’re looking for is a fundamental breakthrough where, for example, we can take the development rates up three or four times from what you would usually expect. That is what we’re chasing. It would involve some sort of pre-conditioning of the rock ahead of the cutting, but the cutting, itself, works.

For us, mechanised cutting is a real solution to some of the safety issues we have had on our plate. Regardless of whether it goes into South Africa or another underground mine, we see it as a key part of our future underground design and operation.

IM: What type of rock pre-conditioning is this likely to be?

TO: I think around the world, people are looking at electricity, microwave, laser, a whole suite of things. None of them have yet quite landed, but they all have potential.

IM: Where does haul truck automation fit into the pipeline for Anglo American?

TO: All the equipment we buy, going forward, will be autonomous-capable, which means we can run it in either format (manned or unmanned). You are then left with a number of decisions – have you got the design to retrofit automation? Is there a safety issue to be considered? Is there a weather issue to contend with? There are a whole series of gates that we’ll take it (automation projects) through.

It’s good to go back to P101 here. Where P100 is getting all of our key processes to world-class benchmarks, P101 is about establishing a new benchmark. By definition, if you get your operations to that point, the gap between that manned performance and autonomous performance is not that great.

Autonomy is part of our future armoury, but when and where and how, we’ll have to wait and see. For example, we are currently looking at the option of autonomous haulage trucks at one of our open-cut mines in Queensland.

When you look at our portfolio of operations, it’s often a more complex environment than when you are just working in the wide open Pilbara.

Second Sandvik roadheader heading to Turquoise Ridge gold mine

The transition of Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining’s Turquoise Ridge gold mine (owned 75:25) in Nevada, US, to a Tier One operation is tracking to plan, the Canada-based miner said recently, with the Sandvik MR361 roadheader it took delivery of back in 2017 continuing to prove its worth.

Barrick said in its December quarter results that it is looking to increase production and resources at Turquoise Ridge through mechanisation, automation, and innovation.

The ramp up of the roadheader over 2018 improved safety, increased throughput, and dropped mining costs per tonne, the company said in its results statement. This has led to Barrick ordering a second roadheader, manufactured by Sandvik, which will be delivered to the operation later this year. On top of this, Barrick said it is evaluating the opportunity associated with increasing the level of mechanisation and automation for the operation.

Barrick already has extensive experience using Sandvik roadheaders, with the company having employed a MH620 unit at its Cortez gold mine, also in Nevada, US. Weighing 125 t and driven by a 300-kW cutting motor, the MH620 cutting the Range Front declines at Cortez is one of the world’s largest roadheaders.

Construction of a third shaft at Turquoise Ridge continues to advance according to schedule and within budget, Barrick said in the results statement, with efforts in 2019 focused on earthworks and shaft sinking.

“The construction of this shaft is expected to increase annual production to more than 500,000 oz/y (100% basis), at an average cost of sales of around $720/oz, and average all-in sustaining costs of roughly $630/oz,” Barrick said.

“As of December 31, we have spent $62 million (including $3 million in the December quarter of 2018) out of a total estimated capital cost of $300-$325 million (100% basis) on the construction of this shaft.”

Initial production from the new shaft is expected to begin in 2022, with sustained production from 2023.

Since the end of 2015, reserves at Turquoise Ridge have increased by 3.5 Moz (100% basis), primarily through driving down mining costs per tonne, which has allowed for a lower cutoff grade, thereby optimising the way the orebody is mined.

“The focus in 2019 is to realise the potential to further grow reserves, extend mine life, and grow production over and above the current mine plan, through reducing costs to further lower the cutoff grade, as well as extending mineralisation at depth,” Barrick said.

Sandvik and SUEK sign major mechanical cutting machine contract

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is to supply SUEK (Sibirskaja Ugolnaja Energetitscheskaja Kompanija) with 12 mechanical cutting machines for various coal mines in Siberia, Russia, the mining OEM has confirmed.

SUEK is one of the world’s leading coal producers, the largest coal producer, supplier and exporter in Russia, as well as a leading heat and electricity producer in Siberia.

The recently signed order includes the delivery of 10 Sandvik MB670-1 Bolter Miners (pictured) and two Sandvik MH621 Roadheaders – with an option for another two Sandvik MH621 Roadheaders. The new machines will provide improved reliability and operating performance for the mines as well as provide a wide range of productivity features, Sandvik said.

Delivery of all machines is scheduled for the second half of 2019.

The Sandvik MB670-1 Bolter Miner is purpose-built for longwall coal mining. These wide-head continuous miners combine special design features for cutting, loading, ground support and face ventilation in a balanced machine with superior productivity and strong environmental, health and safety performance, according to Sandvik.

Meanwhile, the Sandvik MH621 Roadheaders are equipped with powerful, geometrically optimised cutter heads, designed to continuously excavate roadways, tunnels and other underground caverns without using explosives. These electro-hydraulic machines cause no harmful vibrations and are ideal for mining coal and other soft rock minerals, according to Sandvik.

Roman Tonyshev, Business Line Manager, Mechanical Cutting Division, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, said: “Sandvik was awarded the contract having delivered a good technical proposal to the customer, showing the ability to provide excellent technical solutions based on Sandvik’s vast experience in designing bolter miners and roadheaders in the area of mechanical cutting equipment.”

Agnico Eagle Mines looks to roll out innovation across its operations

Automation, ore sorting, continuous mining and renewable energy solutions are all being examined by Agnico Eagle Mines as the company looks to the future of its gold operations in Canada, Finland and Mexico.

The company is already in the process of installing a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network at its La Ronde Zone 5 (LZ5) project in northwestern Quebec, Canada, which will be rolled out with an autonomous loading and hauling pilot later this. This will make LaRonde the first operation to use Sandvik’s AutoMine® system with an LTE communication network underground on a production scale.

In a company update this week, Agnico Eagle said two production trucks, one scooptram and the required material for automated mining at LZ5 were expected to be on site this quarter and testing was expected to take place in the December quarter. Sandvik originally said it would provide one LH517 17 t LHD and one TH551i 51 t haul truck as part of the initial pilot.

Now, even before the pilot has started, Agnico has said it is examining the potential to use the same LTE infrastructure as part of an automated loading and hauling solution at its La Ronde Zone 3 (LZ3) project.

LZ3 is envisaged as a phased development that could extend mining at La Ronde from 3.1 km to 3.5 km below ground and provide two or three additional production levels through 2022.

At the same time as this, representatives from Agnico Eagle Finland said on a site visit to the Kittilä gold mine in the north of the country – organised as part of the Finland Mine Safari tour for analysts and investors – that the company was weighing up autonomous hauling and loading solutions as part of the €160 million ($185 million) expansion to increase production capacity at the mine to 2 Mt/y by 2021.

With Kittilä set to go down to around 1.15 km below ground and mining due to take place in four distinct zones as part of this expansion, an LTE network will most probably be required for effective use of this technology.

And, this is not all in terms of technology and innovation at Agnico Eagle.

In its latest corporate update, the company said it was evaluating the use of Rail-Veyor technology at its mines across the group. A 3 km underground Rail-Veyor system is already hauling tonnes at the Goldex operation in Quebec.

And, Agnico is preparing to implement a pilot plant for ore sorting technology to potentially boost low-grade ore, while it is closely following a technology pilot for mechanical cutting.

Lastly, the company said it is looking at renewable energy solutions for its operations in Mexico and Nunavut, Canada.

This is part of a global approach to reduce energy costs at select regions by up to 30% and lower greenhouse gas emission, Agnico said.

The areas of study in Nunavut, where the company is currently building out a major production hub, include wind and solar power, the use of LNG and potential hydro options. The power solutions are also likely to include some sort of battery storage.

In Mexico, meanwhile, where the company operates its Pinos Altos gold mine, it is looking to solar power as a way of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions.