Tag Archives: mineral processing

Nouveau Monde Graphite turns to Metso Outotec for key Matawinie processing equipment

Nouveau Monde Graphite has launched civil construction works at its flagship Matawinie graphite mining project in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Québec, having steadily advanced detailed engineering and engaged in the procurement of key service providers, long-lead equipment and contractors to deliver the project, billed as a “zero-emission mine”, in Québec by the end of 2023.

One of these service providers has been confirmed as Metso Outotec, which has been engaged to supply key mineral processing equipment required for the Matawinie concentrator plant for high-purity graphite flake production.

The agreement with the OEM will support the development of design and integration efficiencies through process equipment chain optimisation objectives, NMG said. It also seeks to promote planning efforts, optimisation of the project cost curve and support the company during the construction, commissioning and operation phases.

“This agreement complements Nouveau Monde’s de-risking strategy and helps ensure a rapid progression of final design elements and construction of the ore processing facility,” the company added.

Following the governmental authorisation of the project in February, Nouveau Monde executed its phased program to initiate preliminary works in March. For the site preparation of the mine industrial platform and the access road connecting the project to the local highway, tree clearing was completed before the nesting season to limit impacts to avifauna.

To protect the environment and the community’s well-being, Nouveau Monde has developed an environmental surveillance and monitoring program to oversee the construction, operation and closure activities of the Matawinie project. Nouveau Monde has hired an environmental coordinator to support construction and environmental monitoring activities on-site and enlisted third-party biologists to conduct inspections for the presence of vulnerable species.

Nouveau Monde is also delivering on its commitment to maximise local opportunities and support service providers by engaging with Atikamekw, local and regional contractors and service providers via dedicated activities related to its construction procurement strategy, the associated business opportunities, as well as health, environment and safety requirements for bidding.

The company has retained mining contractor L Fournier & Fils to build the access road connecting the main Highway 131 to Matawinie’s industrial platform. Works for the 7.8-km access road began in July as part of the company’s 30-month construction and commissioning timeline. Construction of the access road is scheduled to be completed in September 2021 to facilitate subsequent civil works and on-site activities.

Eric Desaulniers, President and CEO of Nouveau Monde, said: “This first milestone kick starts the construction of the Matawinie mine, as we strive to build the high-quality, ethical and sustainable project that can cater to the growing electric vehicle and energy storage markets. We have spent the past months refining our execution plan to carry out engineering, procurement and construction activities safely and with a focus on cost and timeline efficiency. I am confident in the expertise of the technical team that we have assembled, coupled with the support of Tier 1 service providers such as Metso Outotec, L Fournier & Fils and many local contractors, to deliver on our commitments of safety, responsible practices and excellence.”

In the 2018 definitive feasibility study on Matawinie, the mine, scheduled to produce 100,000 t/y of graphite concentrate, was expected to use an electric in-pit mobile crusher and overland conveyor system to feed crushed material to the plant.

Yamana Gold retains electrification path for Wasamac in new study

Yamana Gold has reiterated a plan to minimise the amount of carbon emissions generated with the development and operation of the Wasamac gold project in Quebec, Canada, in its first study since acquiring the asset from Monarch Gold.

Monarch, prior to being taken over by Yamana Gold, had laid out plans for an underground mine at Wasamac producing 6,000 t/d, on average, with an expected mine life of 11 years. It expected to use a Rail-Veyor® electrically powered, remote-controlled underground haulage system in addition to an almost entirely electric fleet of production and development equipment.

The December 2018 feasibility study by BBA indicated the Wasamac deposit hosted a measured and indicated mineral resource of 29.86 Mt at an average grade of 2.7 g/t Au, for a total of 2.6 Moz of gold, and proven and probable mineral reserves of 21.46 Mt at an average grade of 2.56 g/t Au, for a total of 1.8 Moz of gold. The study forecast average annual production of 142,000 oz of gold for 11 years at a cash cost of $550/oz.

With drilling, due diligence and further studies, Yamana Gold, in studies forming the new feasibility level studies, has come up with baseline technical and financial aspects of the Wasamac project that, it says, underpin the decision to advance the project to production.

This has resulted in a few changes to the Wasamac plan.

For starters, the company plans to use the extract the now 1.91 Moz of reserves quicker than Monarch’s strategy, with a rapid production ramp-up in the first year followed by sustained gold production of approximately 200,000 oz/y for at least the next four years.

Including the ramp-up phase, average annual production for the first five years of operation is expected to be 184,000 oz, the company said, with life of mine production of 169,000 oz/y. Mill throughput has been increased to 7,000 t/d, on average, but the plant and associated infrastructure were being sized for 7,500 t/d. Production could start up in the December quarter of 2026, the initial capital expense was expected to be $416 million and all-in sustaining costs over the life of mine had been calculated at $828/oz.

The use of a conveyor is still within this plan, but a company spokesperson told IM that Yamana was now considering a conventional belt conveyor rather than the Rail-Veyor system.

Yamana explained: “The optimised materials handling system uses ore passes and haul trucks to transport ore from the production levels to a central underground primary crusher. The haul trucks will be automated to allow haulage to continue between shifts. From the underground crusher, ore will be transported to the crushed-ore stockpile on the surface using a 3-km-long conventional conveyor system in two segments.”

Yamana added: “Using a conveyor rather than diesel trucks to transport ore to surface reduces CO2 emissions by 2,233 t/y, equivalent to taking 500 cars off the road. Over the life of mine, the company expects to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 20,000 t.”

The aim to use electric vehicles wherever possible remains in place.

“The Wasamac underground mine is designed to create a safe working environment and reduce consumption of non-renewable energy through the use of electric and high-efficiency equipment,” the company said. “Yamana has selected electric and battery-electric mobile equipment provided that the equipment is available at the required specifications.

“Battery-electric underground haul trucks are not yet available at the required capacity with autonomous operation, so diesel trucks have been selected in combination with the underground conveyor. However, Yamana continues to collaborate with equipment suppliers with the expectation that the desired battery-electric equipment will be available before Wasamac is in operation.”

In tandem with this, the company plans to use a ventilation on demand solution and high-efficiency fans to reduce its power requirements. This will likely rely on an underground LTE network.

“Heating of the underground mine and surface facilities is designed with the assumption of propane burners, but an opportunity exists to extend the natural gas line to the project site,” it added. “Yamana has initiated discussions with the natural gas supplier and will study this opportunity further as the project advances.”

The site for the processing plant and offices is confined to a small footprint strategically located in a naturally concealed area, and the processing plant has been designed with a low profile to minimise the visual impact as well as minimise noise and dust, according to Yamana.

The primary crusher, previously planned to be located on surface, has been moved underground, with the crushed material transported to surface from the underground mining area using conventional conveyors and stored on surface in a covered stockpile to control dust.

Several design improvements to the previous Wasamac plans have also been made to reduce consumption of fresh water to minimise the effect on watersheds, according to Yamana. Underground mine water will be used in the processing plant, minimising the draw of fresh water and reducing the required size of the mill basin pond.

The Wasamac tailings storage strategy is designed to minimise environmental footprint and mitigate risk, it added.

“Around 39% of tailings will be deposited underground as paste fill and 61% of tailings will be pumped as a slurry to the filter plant located approximately 6 km northwest of the processing plant and then hauled to the nearby dry-stack tailings storage facility,” Yamana said.

Strategic phasing of the tailings storage facility design allows for the same footprint as previously planned, even with the increase in mineral reserves, the company clarified. Also, the progressive reclamation plan for this facility minimises the possibility of dust generation and expedites the return of the landscape to its natural state.

Metso Outotec, Mineral Resources deliver the next generation of crushing

What will crushing plants of the future look like? Mineral Resources Ltd and Metso Outotec have pondered that question and have since gone on to answer it with the delivery of a modular, scalable and relocatable plant at an iron ore operation owned by one of the world’s biggest miners.

Called ‘NextGen II’, the solution represents a ground-breaking approach to delivering safe and reliable production to the hard-rock crushing industry, Mike Grey, Chief Executive of Mining Services for Mineral Resources, says.

And it all started with a test for one of the company’s most technically minded individuals.

“We were sitting around the boardroom table with David De Haas, one of our key engineers on this project, and gave him the challenge to come up with a crushing plant that we could literally relocate anywhere very quickly, build on a very small footprint, and have it plug and play,” Grey told IM in a recent IM Insight Interview.

Mineral Resources, which counts CSI Mining Services (CSI) as a wholly-owned subsidiary, was in a unique position to deliver on this.

A provider of world-class tailored crushing, screening and processing solutions for some of the world’s largest mining companies, CSI specialises in build, own, operate (BOO) projects where it provides both the capital infrastructure and the operational expertise to ensure these crushing plants operate to their potential on site.

It carries out crushing services for Mineral Resources’ own mines, as well others across the mining sector.

Crushing collaboration

When offering such ‘crushing as a service’ type of contracts, the service must be underpinned by the best equipment possible.

Enter Metso Outotec.

Having initially commenced discussions with the global OEM in early 2019 (when it was still Metso), Mineral Resources, later that year, agreed with Metso on the design and delivery of a new type of crushing solution.

The pair recognised early on in these conversations that the industry was changing and they, as service and solution providers, needed to change with it.

The largest bulk commodity operations in the world are made up of multiple pits that get mined over time. As these operations expand, miners are left with a dilemma: extend the haulage time from the pit to the plant or build another plant.

The NextGen II crushing plant has provided a third option.

(Credit: Mineral Resources Ltd)

De Haas, collaborating with Metso Outotec, has delivered on the board’s brief with the design for a crushing plant able to produce 15 Mt/y using a modular design made up of several stations. The plant can move with the mining, being erected and taken down quickly without the type of in-ground services that can scupper such moves.

The first plant delivered under this collaboration is now operating in the Pilbara at a very well-known iron ore operation.

Customised crushing

Guillaume Lambert, Vice President of Crushing for Metso Outotec, provided some specifics.

“The NextGen II is a crushing and screening plant to crush iron ore and produce lump and fine products,” he said in the IM Insight Interview. “The process starts with a primary station made up of a Metso Outotec apron feeder (below left), followed by a vibrating grizzly scalper.” Then starts the size reduction process with a Nordberg C150 jaw crusher (below middle).

From this primary station, the ore goes to three secondary crushing stations, each comprised of an MF3072 banana screen (below right) and Nordberg HP400 cone crusher.

(Credit: Metso Outotec)

Fines and lump are the products from this secondary station, with the oversize arranged in close circuit with the screen, Lambert said.

The screen was designed specifically for the project – offering the compact dimensions that could fit inside the station’s footprint. Other customised add-ons included specialised cooling rooms for the lubrication units and extensive steel fabrication works.

Lambert added: “Really, the tailoring of design is around the modularity of the different stations. Each station is made up of several modules. All those modules can be pre-assembled and tested in a factory and transported by road to the site. This has been established to enable a fast erection process.”

This turned out to be the case with the very first NextGen II installation.

Despite a timeline setback caused by the global pandemic, the 1,500 t of steel needed for the plant construction was built in 16 weeks, starting in March 2020 and ready by July 25 of that year. It was shipped to CSI’s Kwinana facility in Western Australia for pre-assembly before delivery to site.

Final commissioning took place in early 2021, and the crusher has been working well since.

(Credit: Mineral Resources Ltd)

R U OK?

A distinctive blue colour, the plant reflects Mineral Resources’ commitment to mental health awareness and support, carrying the phone number and colour of Lifeline, a Western Australia-based charity formed to prevent suicide, support people in crisis and reduce the stigmas which can be a barrier to seeking help.

“It is really important for us to promote mental health; our fly-in fly-out workforce has matured over some years, but the challenges around working remotely remain,” Grey said. “It is important that we demonstrate we have the support mechanisms in place to support our workers and their families.

“The NextGen II plant is at the forefront of that – it is the first thing people see when they come to work and the last thing they see when going home. They can always reflect and make sure their work mates are OK.”

(Credit: Mineral Resources Ltd)

Support and service

The plant’s operating success has been helped by a local service and support network from both companies, with Metso Outotec providing critical spares and all large “rotable refurbishments” serviced by CSI’s Kwinana facility.

This is underwritten by a remote condition monitoring service that can see personnel and parts from both companies deployed to site at a moment’s notice.

This comprehensive offering has seen close collaboration between Metso Outotec’s Minerals (capital equipment) business, Service business and MRL’s own service team.

Understanding the challenges and potential delays for parts deliveries due to MRL’s remote location, the companies agreed to a specific consignment inventory close to the site to ensure parts availability and exclusivity for MRL to better support the operation.

In addition, a Metso Outotec service expert is present for maintenance and shutdown events to provide expertise and support to the MRL maintenance team.

Grey and Lambert said the collaboration has been a win-win for both companies.

“Working with Metso Outotec on this project has allowed us to define the scope together, rather than remotely,” Grey reflected. “That allows us to ensure we deliver to the timelines and then make any necessary changes on the run, hand-in-hand. We deliver the solution together.”

Lambert added: “Metso Outotec is an indisputable leader in crushing and screening technology, as well as plant. However, working with MRL, we learned a lot about improving the design of our station to maximise safety and improve accessibility in a very, very compact environment for high-capacity plant.”

In demand

This is unlikely to be the first and last next generation crushing plant to come out of the OEM/service provider collaboration.

While iron ore was the commodity of choice for the first installation, Lambert said there was potential for these types of plants featuring in base and precious metal operations.

“The NextGen II plant is very flexible,” he said. “Each station is individually plugged into the solution, and we can easily upgrade the crusher, the screen, etc throughout the year depending on capacity needs.”

Adding or removing some stations could see the throughput reduced or increased, with Lambert even talking about the ability to construct a 30 Mt/y plant that can be built, erected and relocated in the same way as the first 15 Mt/y plant.

“In addition, NextGen II, today, is designed for iron ore applications with lump and fine products,” he said. “If we want, we can add a tertiary crushing stage in order to produce only fines for iron ore. This can match with copper and gold operations also.”

There are plenty of gold miners extracting ore from multiple pits that could provide a strong business case for the installation of such a plant. Similarly, there is potential for this working at major open-pit copper mines.

Lambert concluded: “There is, for sure, global demand for modular crushing plants. Today, having a fast and safe erection process is a must in many countries and locations. In addition, we have more and more short-term operations emerging in very remote locations, so having the possibility to minimise civil works is key for a lot of our customers.”

To watch the full IM Insight Interview on ‘Mining’s next generation of crushing solutions’, click here.

Weir-backed report highlights decarbonisation opportunities in mineral processing

An independent report, commissioned by the Weir Group, has highlighted the global mining industry’s energy usage, illuminating where energy is consumed and linking it with opportunities and pathways for sector-wide decarbonisation.

The report analyses mine energy use from over 40 published studies, centred on five commodities – copper, gold, iron ore, nickel and lithium. For these five metals, it finds comminution – the crushing and grinding of rocks – alone accounts for 25% of final energy consumption at an ‘average’ mine site. Extended across all hard-rock mining, this is equivalent to up to 1% of total final energy consumption globally.

The report reconfirms comminution as a key target for energy and emissions reduction efforts.

These findings align with the mission of the Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC), a global initiative to accelerate eco-efficient minerals, with a focus on energy-efficient comminution. It also extends on previous CEEC messaging, indicating up to 3% of global electrical energy is used in comminution when considering all mined commodities, quarrying and cement production.

In addition to optimising comminution, the report also highlights other energy and emissions reduction opportunities such as the redesign of grinding circuits at greenfield sites, improved drill and blast approaches, pre-concentration, and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve decision making.

The report emphasises the mining industry’s crucial role in supporting the transition to net zero emissions, needed to limit global temperatures in line with the Paris Agreement, CEEC says. This includes more efficient and sustainable technologies if the industry is to meet the challenge of decarbonisation.

“Despite the scale of the challenge, the report underlines that small improvements in existing mines can lead to large savings in both energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” CEEC said.

Report author, Marc Allen, states a 5% incremental improvement in energy efficiency across comminution could result in greenhouse gas emission reductions of more than 30 Mt of CO2e.

Allen said: “A relatively modest 5% improvement in comminution across the industry may result in emissions reductions close to the total emissions for New Zealand (35 Mt CO2e).

“A more robust energy audit process and implementation of low-cost opportunities across a mine and process plant may result in total energy savings of up to 10-15% and overall emissions reductions of over 200 Mt of CO2e per annum, depending on the source of electricity.

“Large-scale introduction of renewable energy provides the potential to reduce emissions significantly in the industry – hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas savings when there is widespread adoption of renewable energy and energy storage.”

CEEC CEO, Alison Keogh, commended Weir for commissioning this timely work, and all industry leaders taking proactive steps to reduce mining’s footprint. She said outstanding CEEC Medal winning work and 700 published advances have already shared good options for miners to consider, thanks to CEEC sponsors, volunteers and authors.

She urged industry to collaborate to accelerate decarbonisation steps.

“More open knowledge sharing helps speed installations of renewables and energy-efficient approaches across all of industry,” Keogh said. “Benefits also include increased productivity, shareholder value, and financing as companies demonstrate performance towards net zero emissions sooner.”

She cited three key collaboration actions vital to success: (1) sharing best practices, to ensure existing mines and processing plants are better informed and take actions earlier to become more energy and water efficient; (2) sharing new technologies, designs and innovations; and (3) supporting test work and pilots of novel technology on sites and at increasing scales.

Keogh called for greater industry dialogue, noting: “This report highlights both a challenge and an opportunity to revitalise cross-industry discussion and actions on decarbonisation and ESG solutions. Weir is one of many visionary CEEC sponsors supporting public good initiatives like CEEC; we invite industry leaders to actively contribute and collaborate through mining-vendor-research partnerships and share knowledge, site case studies and net zero plans via independent organisations such as CEEC.

“Together, we can accelerate improved energy, emissions and water footprint across industry faster.”

Weir Group Chief Executive, Jon Stanton, commented: “Mining needs to become more sustainable and efficient if it is to provide essential resources the world needs for decarbonisation while reducing its own environmental impact. This report is an important contribution to that debate which we hope will spark thoughtful conversations around the world on the way forward.”

NextOre’s magnetic resonance tech up and running at First Quantum’s Kansanshi

Australia-based NextOre is onto another ore sorting assignment with its magnetic resonance (MR) sensing technology, this time in Zambia at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine.

NextOre was originally formed in 2017 as a joint venture between CSIRO, RFC Ambrian and Worley, with its MR technology representing a leap forward in mineral sensing that provides accurate, whole-of-sample grade measurements, it says.

Demonstrated at mining rates of 4,300 t/h, per conveyor belt, the technology comes with no material preparation requirement and provides grade estimates in seconds, NextOre claims. This helps deliver run of mine grade readings in seconds, providing “complete transparency” for tracking downstream processing and allowing operations to selectively reject waste material.

Having initially successfully tested its magnetic resonance analysers (MRAs) at Newcrest’s Cadia East mine in New South Wales, Australia, the company has gone onto test and trial the innovation across the Americas and Asia.

More recently, it set up camp in Africa at First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi copper mine where it is hoping to show off the benefits of the technology in a trial.

The MRA in question was installed in January on the sulphide circuit’s 2,800 t/h primary crushed conveyor at Kansanshi, with the installation carried out with remote assistance due to COVID-19 restrictions on site.

Anthony Mukutuma, General Manager at First Quantum’s Kansanshi Mine in the Northwestern Province of Zambia, said the operation was exploring the use of MRAs for online ore grade analysis and subsequent possible sorting to mitigate the impacts of mining a complex vein-type orebody with highly variating grades.

“The installation on the 2,800 t/h conveyor is a trial to test the efficacy of the technology and consider engineering options for physical sorting of ore prior to milling,” he told IM.

Chris Beal, NextOre CEO, echoed Mukutuma’s words on grade variation, saying daily average grades at Kansanshi were on par with what the company might see in a bulk underground mine, but when NextOre looked at each individual measurement – with each four seconds representing about 2.5 t – it was seeing some “higher grades worthy of further investigation”.

“The local geology gives it excellent characteristics for the application of very fast measurements for bulk ore sorting,” he told IM.

Mukutuma said the initial aim of the trial – to validate the accuracy and precision of the MRA scanner – was progressing to plan.

“The next phase of the project is to determine options for the MRA scanner to add value to the overall front end of processing,” he said.

Beal was keen to point out that the MRA scanner setup at Kansanshi was not that much different to the others NextOre had operating – with the analyser still measuring copper in the chalcopyrite mineral phase – but the remote installation process was very different.

“Despite being carried out remotely, this installation went smoother than even some where we had a significant on-site presence,” he said. “A great deal of that smoothness can be attributed to the high competency of the Kansanshi team. Of course, our own team, including the sensing and sorting team at CSIRO, put in a huge effort to quickly pivot from the standard installation process, and also deserve a great deal of credit.”

Beal said the Kansanshi team were supplied with all the conventional technical details one would expect – mechanical drawings, assembly drawings, comprehensive commissioning instructions and animations showing assembly.

To complement that, the NextOre team made use of both the in-built remote diagnostic systems standard in each MRA and several remote scientific instruments, plus a Trimble XR10 HoloLens “mixed-reality solution” that, according to Trimble, helps workers visualise 3D data on project sites.

“The NextOre and CSIRO teams were on-line on video calls with the Kansanshi teams each day supervising the installation, monitoring the outputs of the analyser and providing supervision in real time,” Beal said. He said the Kansanshi team had the unit installed comfortably within the planned 12-hour shutdown window.

By the second week of February the analyser had more than 90% availability, Beal said in early April.

He concluded on the Kansanshi installation: “There is no question that we will use the remote systems developed during this project in each project going ahead, but, when it is at all possible, we will always have NextOre representatives on site during the installation process. This installation went very smoothly but we cannot always count on that being the case. And there are other benefits to having someone on site that you just cannot get without being there.

“That said, in the future, we expect that a relatively higher proportion of support and supervision can be done through these remote systems. More than anything, this will allow us to more quickly respond to events on site and to keep the equipment working reliably.”

Panoramic, Primero and Barminco get to work on restarting Savannah nickel operation

Panoramic Resources Ltd, after a 12-month review process, has approved the restart of the Savannah Nickel Operation, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The decision hinges on a 12-year mine life with an average annual production target of 9,072 t of nickel, 4,683 t of copper and 676 t cobalt in concentrate; as well as an offtake agreement with Trafigura that will also see the trading company provide a loan facility of up to A$45 million to cover the A$41 million of upfront capital cost required to restart the mine.

Savannah is set to operate at average site all-in costs of A$6.36/lb of payable nickel, net of copper and cobalt by-product credits and royalty payments. This equates to roughly $4.86/Ib or $10,714/t.

Savannah, with more than A$100 million already invested, has been maintained since the suspension of operations in April 2020 with a view towards operational readiness and project optimisation. This includes the recent completion of the FAR#3 ventilation raise, underground capital development on four mining levels at Savannah North and ancillary capital works on surface and underground infrastructure, which are currently being completed, Panoramic said.

The restart decision has led to divisions of Perenti and NRW Holdings being awarded significant contracts related to the resumption of mining activities.

Barminco, a subsidiary of the Perenti Group, has been awarded a four-year underground mining contract under a binding letter of intent and is scheduled to mobilise to site in July 2021. The contract will be serviced by new underground mining equipment including the use of tele-remote mining equipment, expected to deliver both safety and productivity benefits, Panoramic said.

The contractor was formally awarded the A$200 million contract back in February.

“Based on Barminco’s previous working knowledge at Savannah, opportunities to increase ore production and reduce dilution have also been identified,” the company added, explaining that underground mining is planned to commence in August, with ore to initially be sourced from both the Savannah and the Savannah North deposits.

Following an evaluation of an owner-operator model for the processing plant and a competitive contract tender process, Panoramic has also signed a non-binding letter of intent worth A$35 million with Primero (owned by NRW Holdings), which envisages a three-year agreement. The agreement relates to all processing and maintenance work at the Savannah processing plant, which has been maintained in “excellent condition” during the suspension, Panoramic said.

“A number of opportunities for improved recoveries through enhanced operating practices and minor capital projects have been identified,” the company added. As a result, the non-binding letter of intent with Primero has been structured to incentivise achieving higher than budget recoveries.

Panoramic is working with Primero to complete a binding contract in the coming months, but ore processing is set to restart in November 2021, allowing ore stockpiles to build for around three months (100,000 t) to de-risk ore supply issues.

The process plant at Savannah was commissioned in August 2004 and comprises a single stage crusher, SAG mill, flotation, thickening and filtering stages to produce a bulk nickel, copper, cobalt concentrate. Over the 2004 to 2016 initial operating period, metallurgical recoveries averaged 86-89% for nickel, 94-97% for copper and 89-92% for cobalt. The plant was originally designed for a throughput of 750,000 t/y, but consistently outperformed the design specifications with rates exceeding 1 Mt on an annualised basis, Panoramic said.

First concentrate shipment from the Wyndham Port is targeted for December 2021.

Metso Outotec gets to the core of hydrocyclone operation

To help ensure continuously optimal hydrocyclone operation, Metso Outotec is introducing CycloneSense™, a smart measurement system that, it says, provides direct, continuous and reliable online monitoring of the hydrocyclone air core.

“In order to optimise the process, hydrocyclones should be run so that the fraction of water returned to grinding is the smallest amount possible,” DSc., Professor Emeritus, Kari Heiskanen, a well-known expert in the field and the author of the book ‘Particle Classification’ says. “In order to do that, you need to know when you are approaching the limit of your hydrocyclone’s coarse discharge rate to avoid going too far and ending up with problems, such as roping,”

He continues: “CycloneSense allows you to see what is happening inside the hydrocyclone and helps to push the limits of the process.”

CycloneSense allows operators to visualise the performance inside the cyclone, facilitating continuous online measurement of the cyclone’s air core shape, size and location based on process tomography, thus helping to find and maintain the optimal operating point for the hydrocyclone, Metso Outotec says. In addition, the measurement system helps to detect and prevent potential problem situations, such as roping, where the slurry is not properly separated and, instead, some of the larger particles are sent to the overflow and directly to the next stage of processing.

Combining CycloneSense with the Metso Outotec PSI® particle size analyser allows easy optimisation of the cyclone cluster and grinding circuit, according to the company. Metso Outotec’s ACT Cyclone Control and Grinding Optimization is designed to take full advantage of the measurement data and to provide significant and continuous benefits to customers.

The CycloneSense measurement system is available for new Metso Outotec hydrocyclones and any existing hydrocyclone installations. As an optional service, Metso Outotec also provides Life Cycle Services with remote monitoring.

Artemis Gold locks in Blackwater EPC processing plant price with Ausenco

After a competitive bidding process, Artemis Gold has executed a binding memorandum of understanding with Ausenco Engineering Canada Inc providing for a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for a fixed-price engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to construct a 5.5 Mt/y processing facility and associated infrastructure at the Blackwater gold project in British Columbia, Canada.

The selection of Ausenco as the successful bidder was based on a proposal to engineer and construct the facilities for a GMP of $236 million ($188 million), subject to any technical or commercial changes requested by Artemis.

The MoU outlines the terms under which Ausenco will undertake further detailed engineering, which will form the basis of a final fixed EPC price that will not exceed the GMP. This Ausenco GMP is consistent with capital estimates in the company’s 2020 prefeasibility study on Blackwater.

A fixed price EPC contract on the processing facility and associated infrastructure represents by far the largest single component of the capital cost of Blackwater at approximately 40% of the PFS estimate of C$592 million ($470 million), Artemis says.

Ausenco has already undertaken a significant amount of detailed engineering work on the plant and will be working towards a final fixed-price EPC contract for the facilities scheduled for completion in the September quarter.

Artemis is also conducting a competitive bidding process for a GMP proposal in connection with a fixed price EPC contract for the construction of the electricity transmission line and associated offsite infrastructure, with an expected GMP award in the June quarter, it said.

Steven Dean, Chairman and CEO, said: “The execution of this MoU represents a significant investment of time and effort from management and multiple GMP bidders over the past several months. The Ausenco GMP bid serves as further validation of the initial capital costs estimated in the 2020 PFS with respect to the process plant and associated facilities, further de-risking the development of the project.

“Following a rigorous adjudication process of a number of competitive proposals, we are very pleased to be working with a world-class engineering firm such as Ausenco. Ausenco was also involved in the successful development at Atlantic Gold and the award of the GMP should give investors and potential project debt lenders greater confidence in the proposed schedule and initial capital cost to develop Blackwater on time and on budget.”

The 2020 prefeasibility study on Blackwater envisaged a three-stage development starting at 5.5 Mt/y from years 1-5, shifting to 12 Mt/y in years 6-10 and rising to 20 Mt/y in years 11-23. This would see gold production go from 248,000 oz/y to 420,000 oz/y, to 316,000 oz/y, respectively.

The Axora take on crushing and comminution

As we are continually told, comminution is one of the most energy intensive single steps in the resource extraction business.

One estimate is that it accounts for 36% of all the energy used in the extraction of copper and gold, which is only a shade over the 30% proposed as an average by another industry expert for all mining and mineral processing industries.

It also accounts for an estimated 3% of the global energy requirement for metal production.

These energy requirements are shocking from a sustainability and greenhouse gas emission perspective; they are also extremely costly regarding operating expenses on site.

It is with this in mind that IM touched base with Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director of Mining at Axora.

A spinoff from the Boston Consulting Group, Axora has emerged as a business-to-business digital solutions marketplace and community for industrial innovators. It says it allows industrial companies to discover, buy and sell digital innovations and share knowledge in its community, powered by an advanced marketplace.

“We exist to transform industries to be digital, safer, more sustainable and efficient,” the company states on its website.

Having recently gone to press with the annual crushing and comminution feature (to be published in the IM April 2021 issue), IM spoke with Carr to find out what the Axora marketplace has to offer on the comminution and crushing front.

IM: What are the main issues/concerns you continuously hear from your mining clients when it comes to designing and maintaining comminution circuits? How many of these problems/issues can already be solved with existing technology/solutions?

JC: One of key issues in this area we hear from our customers at Axora is the blending quality of the input ores.

Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director of Mining at Axora

This could be particularly relevant in the sulphide space, for instance.

I did some work years ago on Pueblo Viejo for Barrick. When I was there, one of the things we were working on was blending the sulphides as we were feeding the mill from numerous satellite pits with very different sulphide grades. Because we were processing the ore with an autoclave, high-grade sulphides would cause a temperature spike and the low-grade sulphides would lower the temperature. This constant yo-yoing of the feed into the autoclave was terrible for the recovery of metals against the plan.

Generally, the old school way of blending is setting up stockpiles of ore based on whatever variable you want to manage at your operation. You would put a defined amount of each into the primary crusher on the understanding this would create a ‘blended’ feed for the processing plant.

With the information we have at our fingertips today, this process seems outdated.

You could, for example, use HoloLens or another VR system in tandem with the shovel operator to be able to see exactly what material he or she is excavating. That can then be linked back to the geological block model, with this material then tracked in the trucks and onto the run of mine stockpile, before heading to the plant.

This is where something like Machine Max comes in. Machine Max is a bolt-on IoT sensor that tracks where your trucks are in real time – where they have been and where they are going. The processing piece requires block model integration into a mine plan system. If you have the building blocks in place – the networking, sensors, additional infrastructure, etc – Machine Max could, when integrated with this model, allow you to attempt real-time ore tracking.

“If you have the building blocks in place…Machine Max could, when integrated with this geological block model, allow you to attempt real-time ore tracking,” Joe Carr says

The issue is not that the technology doesn’t exist, but that the mining industry hasn’t yet cracked putting all of this together at an industry-wide scale, available to all miners.

You can carry out a project like this or go totally the other way and have a machine-learning or artificial intelligence algorithm in the plant that is constantly reading the incoming feed. These could be based around the block model inputs, or a digital XRF solution, which is able to constantly tweak or adjust the plant settings to the feed specifications. Process plants are generally setup to handle one type of feed. This is usually only tweaked in retrospect or for short periods of time when the mine plan moves into a different mining horizon.

We also have a comminution solution that understands the feed coming in and optimises the mill and power settings to get the optimal grind for flotation, maximising recovery at the back end. While the input is typically set up to be grind quality and hardness for optimal flotation, there is no reason why you couldn’t configure it for, say, sulphides going into an autoclave, tweaking the autoclave heat settings dependent on the feed.

Once that system is set up, it becomes a self-learning algorithm.

Saving operational costs is another pain point for mining companies we always hear about.

We have a solution on our marketplace from Opex Group, which is looking to optimise production while reducing power. Coming from the oil & gas space, this AI algorithm, X-PAS™, offers the operator an opportunity to adjust the settings while still achieving the same required outputs. This is tied to CO2 reduction, as well as power cost reductions.

Opex Group’s AI algorithm, X-PAS, offers the operator an opportunity to adjust the plant settings while still achieving the same required outputs

In mining, the plant is your largest drawer of power, hands down. Generally, if it is not powered on the grid, it is powered by diesel. Opex Group’s solution can save up to 10% of power, which is a significant amount of fuel and CO2.

The solution reads information from your pumps and motors, analyses the planned output of your plant using all the sensor feeds, and tweaks the variables while sustaining the required output. The algorithm slowly learns how you can change configurations to reduce power, while sustaining throughput. This results in lower power costs, without impacting the output.

Importantly, instead of automating the process, it offers the saving to the operator sat in the control room. Operators, in general, are incredibly reluctant to pass over control to an AI algorithm, but when faced with such power saving opportunities, they will often elect to accept such a change.

And, of course, plant maintenance is always on the agenda.

This is where Senseye, which has been used in the car industry by Nissan and the aluminium sector by Alcoa, is useful.

Essentially, this provides predictive maintenance analytics. It is also a no-risk solution with Senseye backed by an insurance guarantee. It is sold on the basis that if you do not earn your money back within the first 12 months, you get an insurance-backed refund.

There could also be openings in the plant for Razor Labs’ predictive maintenance solution, which is currently increasing the uptime of stackers, reclaimers and car dumpers for iron ore miners in the Pilbara.

IM: When it comes to future comminution equipment design, do you expect digitalisation, wear liner innovations, or equipment design to have more of a bearing on operational improvements at mine sites? Phrased another way; is more emphasis being given to refining and extending the life of existing products with digital technologies and wear solutions, than the design of brand-new equipment?

JC: We believe there is always going to be a focus on retrofit and extensions. Once a mill is built, changing the equipment, upgrading, etc is very hard and time consuming. The logistics of getting a new SAG mill to site, for example, are mind boggling. New technology will always come for new sites, but most of the world’s mining capacity is already in place. I would expect most digitalisation to focus on two areas:

  1. Getting more and longer life from all the assets. For example, extending liner life, reducing operating costs and shortening downtime between refits; and
  2. Drawing insights from the existing asset with a view to sweating it. No mill ever stays at nameplate; there is always an increase in production. One or two percent more throughput can put millions onto the bottom line of a company. No mill wants to be a bottleneck in the cycle. In a mine there are always two goals: the mine wants to produce as much ore as possible to put the pressure on the mill, and the mill wants to run as fast as possible to put pressure on the mine.

When it comes to extending liner life, we have a solution worth looking at.

One of the companies we work with out of Australia has an IIoT sensor all tied to wear and liner plates. It is a sensor that is embedded into a wear plate and wears at the same time as the wear plate itself wears. It provides this feedback in real time.

So, instead of the standard routine changeout, it gives you real-time knowledge of what it is happening to these wear parts.

We have a great case study from Glencore where they installed the sensors for around A$200,000 ($152,220) and it saved several million dollars. The payback period was just weeks.

Where I want to take it to the next level is pairing the wear plate monitoring technology on chutes and ore bins and looking into SAG mills and crushers. Relining your SAG mill or primary gyratory crusher is a massive job, which takes a lot of time and cuts your productivity and output by a huge amount. Wear plates are made as consumables, so if you can use 5% less over the space of a year, for instance, there are huge cost and sustainability benefits. You can also more accurately schedule in maintenance, as opposed to reacting to problems or sticking to a set routine.

IM: When compared with the rest of the mine site, how well ‘connected’ is the comminution line? For instance, are gyratory crushers regularly receiving particle size distribution info for the material about to be fed into it so they can ‘tailor’ their operations to the properties of the incoming feed?

JC: Generally, not really. The newer, better financed operations tend to have this. Taking the example above, when designing a plant flowsheet, the close side settings are used. But are they updated on the fly to optimise the plant? Not really. Most processes are designed with a set number of conditions to operate at their maximum.

Most plants dislike, and are not set up to handle, variation in their system, according to Carr

Most plants dislike, and are not set up to handle, variation in their system. They like consistent feed quality and grade to achieve maximum recoveries. Over the next few years, the companies that develop the best machine learning or AI models to run plants in a more real time, reactive way will see the biggest growth. A mill will always say it’s the mine that needs to be consistent, but the nature of geology means that you can never rely on this. As one geologist I knew said, “geology, she is a fickle mistress”.

IM: Where within the comminution section of the process flowsheet do you see most opportunity to achieve mining company sustainability and emission goals related to energy reductions, water use and emissions?

JC: In terms of emissions, at Axora we are actively looking at technology that can help across the entire plant. There was a great paper published in 2016 around this specific topic ‘Energy Consumption in Mining Comminution’ (J Jeswiet & A Szekeres). The authors found that the average mine used 21 kWh per tonne of ore processed. Given diesel produces 270 g per kWh, this means a plant produces 5.6 kg of CO2 per tonne of ore processed, on average. For a 90,000 t/day site, this might represent 510 t of CO2 per day (186,000 t/y), just for processing. To put that into context, you would need 9.3 million trees to offset that level of carbon.

If the industry is serious about lowering its carbon footprint, especially Scope 1 and 2 emissions, then the focus has to come into the process. There are easy wins available from proven solutions in other sectors for companies that want to take them.

Roxgold lays Séguéla groundwork with Metso Outotec, Lycopodium contract awards

Roxgold says it has awarded a SAG mill order for the Séguéla gold project in Côte d’Ivoire to Metso Outotec as part of its efforts to advance the project through to construction in the coming months.

The move comes ahead of the release of feasibility study on the project next month, which will build on a 2020 preliminary economic assessment (PEA) that outlined an operation capable of delivering over 100,000 oz/y of gold over eight years at average all-in sustaining costs of $749/oz. This study also incorporated a single stage primary crush/SAG milling comminution circuit with 1.25 Mt/y throughput.

At the same time as selecting Metso Outotec for the SAG mill contract, Roxgold has awarded preferred contractor status to Lycopodium Minerals Pty Ltd and is currently negotiating the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) agreement with the company for the 1.25 Mt/y carbon-in-leach processing facility and other supporting infrastructure to be constructed at Séguéla.

The fixed price agreement increases confidence in the total capital cost for the project, as it is by far the largest scope at Séguéla, Roxgold said.

“With this agreement in the final stages of negotiation and several other key scopes now tendered and priced, approximately 65% of the pre-production capital estimate has now been fixed or finalised,” the company added. “This level of detail provides increased confidence around the pre-production capital estimate, which is expected to be in-line with the previous estimate of $142 million, as outlined in the PEA.”

In terms of progressing work on long-lead time items, Roxgold said it had awarded the plant site bulk earthworks tender, with a contract expected to be executed and works commenced in the June quarter to support the project critical path.

The company has continued to advance its early works program at site including upgrading of the site access road and construction of the accommodation village. Contracts were awarded for camp bulk earthworks and camp construction, with first concrete poured last month, it said.

Surveying has been completed for the 33 kV and 90 kV power lines to tie into the existing 90 kV transmission line running across the property, which is connected to the 225 kV ring main system around the country. These early work activities will enable a rapid ramp up to full construction upon completion of the feasibility study and mine financing in the June quarter of this year.

Roxgold says it has undertaken a competitive tender process and has conducted a detailed assessment of the contract mining proposals received. It is currently completing diligence on the shortlisted parties and plans to award the mining contract later this year to allow for contractor mobilisation, site establishment,and commencement of pre-production mining early next year.

John Dorward, President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “The Séguéla project has rapidly become a cornerstone asset for Roxgold, and we believe that the project will provide significant value to all our stakeholders.

“The feasibility study is on track to be announced in the second (June) quarter, which we believe will demonstrate the ongoing evolution of the Séguéla PEA with an enhanced mine life and project economics with the inclusion of the high-grade Koula deposit into the mine plan.”