Tag Archives: mineral sands

Richards Bay Minerals secures 140 MW of wind energy for mineral sands ops

Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) has signed a renewable power purchase agreement (PPA) with Khangela Emoyeni Wind Farm (Pty) Ltd to secure 140 MW of wind energy from a new wind farm situated in the Western and Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The project is expected to reduce RBM’s annual carbon emissions by 20%, Rio Tinto says.

Parties to the 20-year PPA include African Clean Energy Developments (Pty) Ltd (ACED), The IDEAS Fund (managed by African Infrastructure Investment Managers), investment holding company Reatile Group and Rand Merchant Bank. EIMS Africa will be responsible for asset management for the project.

Once constructed, the Khangela Emoyeni Wind Farm is expected to produce approximately 460 GWh of renewable energy annually and, through a wheeling agreement with Eskom, will help power RBM’s operations located in Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal. The project, with an export capacity of 140 MW, is expected to reach commercial operation within 28 months.

Werner Duvenhage, Managing Director Richards Bay Minerals and Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium African Operations, said “As a world leading mineral sands operation, we are determined to find better ways to produce the materials the world needs and decarbonizing our operations is one of them. Rio Tinto has committed to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. The Khangela Emoyeni Wind Farm has the potential to reduce RBM’s annual carbon emissions by 20% and reduce our existing reliance on traditional energy sources by 26%.”

In 2022, RBM signed a similar agreement for the Bolobedu Solar PV plant in Limpopo with Voltalia. The Bolobedu solar PV project, currently in progress is anticipated to meet 17% of RBM’s power consumption by generating up to 300 GWh of renewable energy per annum.

Combined, the Khangela Emoyeni Wind and Bolobedu Solar projects will supply approximately 42% of RBM’s existing energy needs and present opportunities for job creation, skills development and knowledge transfer within local communities, surrounding the project sites, during both the construction and operational phases.

James Cumming, General Manager at ACED, said: “We are immensely proud to have achieved financial close and commenced construction on Khangela Emoyeni Wind Farm, with Rio Tinto’s Richards Bay Minerals. Not only will it provide RBM with clean energy for their operations, but it will also help alleviate South Africa’s power crisis.”

RBM, which Rio Tinto owns 74% of, is a world leader in heavy mineral sands extraction and refining. RBM mines mineral-rich sands in the northern KwaZulu-Natal province and produces materials used in a wide range of everyday products, from paints to smartphones. RBM is committed to sustainable practices and making a positive impact on the communities it serves.

Piacenti & Son wins mineral sands mining contract at Thunderbird project

Kimberley Mineral Sands, the Sheffield Resources and Yansteel joint venture steering the Thunderbird mineral sands project in Western Australia, has awarded Piacentini & Son Pty Ltd a nine-year mining services contract the project.

The agreement, which could be extended by a further five years following the initial contracting period, builds on Piacenti’s work delivering three dozer mining units to the Coburn mineral sands project, also in Western Australia.

In accordance with the latest agreement, Piacentini shall provide a Mining Unit Plant (MUP) to support Thunderbird and undertake mining activities using all necessary heavy mobile equipment to excavate and deliver ore to the MUP in a dozer push ore mining operation, ahead of delivering processed materials to the Wet Concentrator Plant, Sheffield Resources said.

Piacentini, Sheffield says, is a very experienced mineral sands mining contractor and has supported a range of mining companies, in mineral sands and other commodities, in Australia and overseas for over 40 years.

Sheffield Resources Executive Chair, Bruce Griffin, said: “The award of the mining services contract to mining services operator Piacentini & Son Pty Ltd is one of the final remaining commercial steps to completing the project financing arrangements for Thunderbird and we look forward to Kimberley Mineral Sands and Piacentini establishing a long and successful partnership as we bring the world-class Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project into production in the near future.”

The Coburn definitive feasibility study, released in June 2020, outlined a mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.

Woodside Energy and EDL to help power up Thunderbird mineral sands project

Sheffield Resources says the joint venture that manages the Thunderbird mineral sands project in Western Australia has secured a supply of LNG for at least five years from subsidiaries of Woodside Energy Group Ltd and EDL.

Kimberley Mineral Sands, owned 50:50 by Sheffield Resources and Yansteel, has executed a binding five-year agreement, with the ability for the parties to extend for a further five years, with Woodside Energy (LNG Fuels & Power) Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Woodside Energy Group Ltd (Woodside) and EDLLNG Fuel to Power Pty Ltd (EDL) for the supply and delivery of approximately 650 tj/y of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the project.

LNG will be supplied by the Woodside/EDL joint venture (WEJV) from Woodside’s Pluto LNG Truck Loading Facility, near Karratha in Western Australia, and transported to the KMS LNG storage facility by WEJV. WEJV will own and operate a purpose-built road tanker fleet to safely and reliably deliver the LNG to Thunderbird.

The agreement enables flexible, long-term gas supply to KMS for power generation, Sheffield said, adding that it was subject to a number of customary conditions precedent, including KMS making a final investment decision toward the development of Thunderbird, following the completion of project financing of Thunderbird.

Sheffield Resources Executive Chair, Bruce Griffin, said: “We are extremely pleased KMS have established a strong relationship with Woodside and EDL as they support KMS by delivering a low cost, efficient energy solution for Thunderbird. Thunderbird construction is continuing to advance at a significant pace and remains on track for first production in early 2024.”

A bankable feasibility study released earlier this year outlined a A$484 million ($314 million) Stage 1 project using a Single Mining Unit Plant that underpinned a 10.4 Mt/y mining operation and a processing plant design feed rate of 170 t/h. The Stage 2 project saw a duplication in year five of Stage 1 mining underpinning a 20.8 Mt/y mining operation and an increase in the processing plant feed rate to 290 t/h.

Earlier this month, Pacific Energy signed a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement with KMS, wherby Pacific Energy will design, build, own and operate a 16 MW high efficiency gas power station combined with 2 MW of battery storage and an on-site LNG storage and re-vaporisation facility with 10 days’ storage capacity for the Thunderbird project.

Chemours kicks off commissioning at Trail Ridge South mineral sands mine

The Chemours Company has begun commissioning its newest mineral sand mine, Trail Ridge South, in Florida, USA.

The new mining operation represents a $93 million investment that will create approximately 50 new jobs in the three-county area, and will incorporate Mobile Mining Units (MMUs) that were previously tested out at the company’s Jesup, Georgia mining site, allowing for reduced dependency on traditional dredge or truck and shovel mining processes.

Commissioning work to test operational aspects of the new mine has begun, with startup anticipated later this year. Expansion of its mining operations will allow Chemours – the only domestic producer of titanium and zirconium minerals and one of only two domestic producers of rare earth minerals – to have additional access to these high-quality concentrated deposits used to produce Chemours’ Ti-Pure™ brand of titanium dioxide (TiO₂).

“The commissioning of our new Trail Ridge South mine is much more than an operational milestone – it represents a huge win for our customers, community, and our country,” Jody Sciance, co-Director of Minerals Operations for Chemours, said. “This secure, domestic mineral supply means more tonnes of TiO₂ for our pigment customers, more jobs for Clay County residents, and access to critical materials identified by the U.S. Department of the Interior as vital to our nation’s security and economic prosperity – all with minimal impact on our local environment. We are extremely proud to expand our footprint in Florida and look forward to partnering with this community for years to come.”

The MMUs to be used at Trail Ridge South, an expansion of its existing Trail Ridge operation, allow the site to have much lower emissions, reduced dust levels and improved safety by removing conventional hauling trucks, Chemours says. In addition, the Trail Ridge South facility will recycle 98% of its water used in the manufacturing process – providing sustainable solutions while still meeting the company’s commitment to process minerals. Trail Ridge South process water and water treatment ponds are all constructed above ground, with approximately 39 million gallons (177 million litres) of storage capacity.

A high-performance solution, the MMUs for both Jesup and Trail Ridge South have been designed by Carrara, Queensland, Australia-headquartered Downer company Mineral Technologies (MT). MT told IM in 2021 that these units are aimed at mining sites where traditional dredging is not an option, or not cost effective. The technology delivers improvements in availability, orebody yields, throughput and overall mineral recovery. Suited to sand environments that include organics such as tree roots, light clay and soft or friable rock, MMUs can reduce operating costs by also eliminating the need for conventional truck and shovel mining. MT said the Chemours MMUs are extracting difficult-to-reach mineral sand deposits where traditional mining methods don’t stack up as the best business case. The MMUs provide a far safer and substantially reduced cost per tonne solution compared with other options.

MT says the MMU has a 750 t/h nominal operation with peak at 900 t/h. It offers complete remote control via a tablet device eliminating the need for on-board personnel. Dozers push run of mine ore to the unit where a hopper is loaded via hydraulic excavator, with the material then crushed to a suitable size for pumping of slurried ore to downstream processes.

Strandline kicks off Coburn open-pit development with dozer mining units

Strandline Resources says rapid construction of its 100%-owned Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia has facilitated commencement of open-pit mine development (starter pits) two months ahead of schedule.

After successful early mobilisation of the mining contractor (MSCS) in April 2022, construction of the temporary tailings storage facility is almost finished, and pre-strip mining will commence from next week, it said.

Mine development will now run concurrently with finalising the construction of the processing and supporting infrastructure, which remains on-budget and on track for first production of heavy mineral concentrate later this year.

The Coburn definitive feasibility study, released in June 2020, outlined a mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.

Detailed mine planning optimisation by AMC Consultants, using the latest infill drilling data, has resulted in an enhanced pit design for the first two years of the mine plan, which contains less overburden (lower strip ratio) and potentially reduced mining costs compared with assumptions contained within this study, the company noted. The strip ratio has reduced from an average of 0.7 to 0.5 over the first two years of the mine plan, due primarily to optimising and scheduling more ore closer to surface on the eastern side of the deposit.

The three dozer mining units, in the meantime, have been delivered and assembled on site, ready to be moved into position for mining first ore later this year. These dozer units were designed and constructed by Piacentini & Son and form a key part of Coburn’s efficient dry mining methodology, capable of receiving, screening and pumping ore from the mine to the processing facilities at an average rate of 3,100 t/h, based on two units in operation at any one time, Strandline says. The in-pit dozer mining units are designed to be frequently relocated as the mine progresses through the mine plan.

Commissioning of the sub-systems associated with the wet concentration plant and hybrid power station is expected to commence from July as construction verification works ramps up, the company added.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said commencement of pre-strip mining represents another important milestone for the project, ensuring the company remains on track for first production of heavy mineral concentrate in the December quarter this year.

“Construction continues to advance strongly with commissioning of the wet concentration plant and hybrid power station set to commence next month,” he said.

GR Engineering to build Thunderbird mineral sands processing plant

GR Engineering Services has been awarded an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with Thunderbird Operations Pty Ltd (TOPL) for a mineral processing plant and associated facilities for the Thunderbird mineral sands project in Western Australia.

TOPL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kimberley Minerals Sands Pty Limited (KMS), which is 50% owned by Sheffield Resources Limited (ASX: SFX) (Sheffield) and 50% owned by YGH Australia Investment Pty Limited. The contract sum is A$179.5 million ($134.3 million).

GR Engineering will commence limited work under the contract until being issued with a full notice to proceed, ahead of a final investment decision being made by KMS to pursue the development of the project, it said. The final investment decision is expected in mid-2022 with project delivery scheduled to occur over an approximate 18-month period.

In May 2021, GR Engineering restarted early engineering and design works for the project and has been progressing critical path design and procurement activities. The company has a long-standing relationship with the project since 2017.

Geoff Jones, Managing Director, said: “We are extremely pleased to have been engaged to perform a key role in the development of the world-class Thunderbird mineral sands project. GR Engineering has been associated with the project over a number of years and it is exciting to see this project progress to the next stage of development.”

In a bankable feasibility study released on the same day as this announcement, Sheffield Resources outlined a A$484 million Stage 1 project using a Single Mining Unit Plant that underpinned a 10.4 Mt/y mining operation and a processing plant design feed rate of 170 t/h. The Stage 2 project saw a duplication in year five of Stage 1 mining underpinning a 20.8 Mt/y mining operation and an increase in the processing plant feed rate to 290 t/h.

Qube to help fill Coburn mineral sands transport gaps for Strandline

Strandline Resources Ltd says it has made another important step in its preparations for production at the Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia, executing a long‐term haulage and logistics services agreement with Qube Bulk Pty Ltd.

Qube is Australia’s largest integrated provider of export logistics services and is highly experienced in haulage, storage and ship loading of bulk mineral sands products, including at the Port of Geraldton, according to Strandline.

Qube’s scope comprises a turnkey logistics solution from mine‐to‐ship, including operating the haulage fleet, product storage facilities at Geraldton and coordinating ship loading activities. The agreement covers 100% of the mineral sands products to be produced at Coburn over an initial 10‐year term (around 225,000 t/y).

Qube’s services include load product at Coburn mine site into Qube‐owned triple road trains on a continuous 24‐7 basis; transport of ilmenite and zircon concentrate products to Qube’s existing Berth 4 storage facility at the Port of Geraldton ready for direct loading to ship; transport of zircon and rutile products to purpose‐built storage facility at Narngulu, ready for campaign loading at Berth 4, Port of Geraldton; and coordinate product deliveries for ship loading at the port to meet Strandline’s customer requirements.

The terms of the contract are in accordance with the production plan, logistics requirements and overall operating cost assumptions contained in the Coburn definitive feasibility study, released in June 2020, which outlined a mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.

Appointment of Qube follows the previously announced 10‐year port access and services agreement with the Mid West Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Geraldton in Western Australia.

Qube is now preparing its Narngulu storage facility and existing Berth 4 port storage facility and trucking fleet ready for first cargo later next year, Strandline said.

With the strong construction progress achieved to date at Coburn, Strandline remains on track to achieve first production of heavy mineral concentrate in the December quarter of 2022.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said: “We are delighted to establish this long‐term relationship with Qube, a leading logistics provider across Australia and a well‐established operator in the mid‐west region of Western Australia. Securing the strategic storage at port berth‐side for most of Coburn’s product volume is a significant advantage, resulting in extra flexibility and cost efficiencies.

“This agreement, when combined with the previously announced operational contracts, including for the contract mining services, supply of electricity, LNG, fuel and facilities management on site, means Strandline has already locked‐in circa-65% of its forecast operating costs in line with the assumptions contained in the Coburn DFS.”

Appian continues to flex ‘multi-faceted’ skillset in latest mining deals

Private equity firms might not be the most obvious port of call for companies in need of the technical skillsets to transition ‘projects’ to ‘mines’, but, in recent years, Appian Capital Advisory LLP has shown the industry that it has all the credentials to help with this transition.

The firm, headquartered in London but calling on expertise from across the globe, has just completed divestments of the Santa Rita nickel mine and the Serrote copper mine, both in Brazil.

Sibanye-Stillwater, the purchaser, agreed to pay Appian $1 billion, plus a 5% net smelter return (NSR) royalty over potential future underground production at Santa Rita, for the assets, with the private equity firm, in the process, pocketing a pretty profit.

In 2018, Appian acquired Atlantic Nickel (owner of Santa Rita) out of bankruptcy for $68 million and Mineração Vale Verde, the owner of Serrote, for $40 million.

It reoriented the former large-scale open-pit mine into a much more conservative – and profitable – mine able to produce around 20,000-25,000 t/y of contained nickel sulphide equivalent. It also carried out extensive drilling to showcase its underground potential, prolonging its mine life.

The plans at Serrote, meanwhile, were re-evaluated in a DFS. Having completed project construction and commissioning ahead of schedule and under budget, the mine is now ramping up to nameplate capacity of 20,000 t/y of copper equivalent.

These two divestments represent the fourth and fifth portfolio sales the company completed this year. The others included the sale of its 13.2% interest in West Africa-focused gold company Roxgold to Fortuna Silver Mines, the sale of its 0.28% NSR royalty over the large-scale Caserones copper mine in Chile and the repayment of a royalty Appian held over Peak Resources’ Ngualla rare earth project in Tanzania.

The diversity of these asset exits is indicative of how well-versed mining-focused Appian is in the sector’s ‘hot commodities’, but there is more to appreciate here than purely financial gains and well-timed acquisitions and divestments.

“People know that not all money is created equal,” Michael W Scherb, Founder and CEO of Appian (pictured), told IM. “We have a team that is able to solve specific operational challenges – we can call on specialists to solve problems on the process flowsheet side, for instance – while providing financial advice to avoid expensive streams and set assets up for profitability.”

Scherb’s words are backed up by a solid track record: seven of nine investments it has made have resulted in mine builds. Its divestments have also provided healthy returns.

The company has been able to do this by recruiting industry specialists – mining and finance – and educating them on the facets they need to succeed in both the private equity and mining world.

“People that join Appian need to be multi-faceted,” Scherb said. “We get mining folks to think like investors and vice versa,” he said.

This has seen them build a project review team populated with former consultants and an operations team full of mine personnel with operational experience.

“We then get all personnel to cross-train across these teams to avoid any siloed disciplines,” Scherb explained.

Take Santa Rita as an example of where this expertise paid off.

The company carried out a six-month due diligence process on Santa Rita, which led to the development of a more defensive and low-cost mine plan able to see the asset through nickel price peaks and troughs – in stark contrast to the plan former operator Mirabela Nickel had for the asset.

Among the operating changes implemented were the use of a smaller, locally procured equipment fleet of 40 t trucks (Santa Rita previously used Caterpillar 777 90 t and 785 137 t payload trucks), the use of shorter benches and tighter blasting patterns.

This resulted in better grade and fragmentation control, improving the feed to the crusher.

It also defined a significant underground resource base at the mine, which it will still be leveraged to thanks to the NSR royalty.

Such moves were based on exploiting the nickel sulphides at Santa Rita. This reoriented focus aligned with the industry preference for nickel tied to the battery materials space, which eventually paid off with the amount of interest in the asset.

This blend of technical and financial expertise has served the company – and any company it has an interest in – well. Backed by a long-term investment philosophy where its funds are 12 years in duration, the company can make moves aligned with the realities and timelines associated with turning assets into mines.

The next asset on the Appian books likely to move into construction-ready territory is Kalbar Operations’ Fingerboards mineral sands project, which focuses on the Glenaladale deposit, about 20 km northwest of Bairnsdale in Victoria, Australia.

Scherb said this project will be “build-ready” very soon, explaining that it is currently going through the permitting stage.

The project has the potential to be one of the world’s major producers of zircon, ilmenite, rutile and rare earths, and Kalbar is proposing an investment of over A$200 million ($148 million) in the development of a project able to produce around 575,000 t/y of heavy mineral concentrate over 15-20 years.

Scherb said Appian is keen to further pursue commodities associated with the electrification of industry, but he is aware of the premiums that may come with these deals.

“A lot of money has flooded into the battery metals,” he said. “We can be patient and are starting to look earlier stage in some investments.”

“Earlier stage” still has the potential to be producing in four- or five-year’s time, he clarified.

What’s clear is that the Appian team is gaining widespread recognition, with Scherb saying larger mining companies are starting to approach them with proposals that would see Appian gain operational control of assets, realising the firm has the right blend of “operational skill” and “value principles” to succeed.

Having acknowledged a skills shortage across the sector – one Appian is doing its bit to tackle with internship programs with universities in Canada, the UK and Australia – Scherb was confident the company’s talent would be retained and, ultimately, grow.

“In terms of talent retention, we at Appian offer experience of reviewing many different assets at different times in their lifecycle,” he said. “If you’re in-house at a mining company, you run the ruler over the same assets, stress testing them against different scenarios. We offer our teams variety that they cannot get in many places.

“At the same time, our structure means employees invest directly in companies to ensure they are correctly incentivised. This means they get to share in the profits.”

With plans to make one-to-three investments per year – along with the same number of exits – and expectations of committing its latest $775 million fund within the next two quarters, expect to hear more from Appian into 2022.

MSCS to help Strandline hit Coburn mineral sands production goals

Strandline Resources has executed a long-term mining services agreement with Mine Site Construction Services (MSCS) at the Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia.

MSCS’s experience in bulk materials handling and mining, including large dozer push operations in mining sands applications, means it is well credentialed to meet Coburn’s mining requirements, the company says.

The terms of the mining contract are in accordance with the mine plan, methodologies, pricing and overall operating cost assumptions contained in the Coburn definitive feasibility study, released in June 2020, which outlined a mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.

The scope of the mining services agreement includes conventional open-pit dry mining of ore at a rate of 23.4 Mt/y, overburden removal, pit backfill and land recontouring and general mining-related earthworks. The contract mining term is expected to cover the first seven years of production and provides a safe, reliable and efficient mining solution for Coburn, Strandline says.

The mining contract incorporates provisions to maximise environmental and social governance, including implementing strong indigenous engagement, local content and emissions reduction initiatives.

MSCS is now preparing to mobilise to site to conduct mine establishment and pre-strip activities.

Strandline says it remains on track to achieve first production of heavy mineral concentrate in the December quarter of 2022.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said the execution of the mining services contract marked another key step in the company’s strategy to become a leading high-margin producer of critical minerals.

“We are delighted to establish this important long-term relationship with MSCS, a highly experienced Western Australia-based mining contractor,” Graham said. “This agreement, when combined with the previously announced operating contracts, including for the supply of electricity, LNG and fuel on site, means Strandline has already locked-in over half of its operating costs in line or better than the assumptions contained in the Coburn definitive feasibility study.”

KPS to leverage ETC tech in hybrid power conversion at Iluka’s Jacinth Ambrosia mine

Pacific Energy Ltd’s wholly owned KPS subsidiary has signed a contract to convert its 10 MW diesel power station at Iluka Resources’ Jacinth Ambrosia mineral sands mine in South Australia to a hybrid facility.

The facility will incorporate electric turbo compounding (ETC) technology, which, the company says, allows generators to maintain the same power output using less fuel and producing lower CO2 emissions.

The conversion and upgrade will have a meaningful impact on lowering emissions and fuel costs for Iluka, Pacific Energy claims.

KPS has operated the 10 MW diesel power station at the Jacinth Ambrosia site since 2009. Under the new contract, which runs for an initial term of seven years, KPS will:

  • Install 3.5 MW of solar power generation;
  • Integrate the solar array with the diesel power station; and
  • Introduce ETC technology to each of the 10 1 MW generators.

ETC technology makes generators work more cleanly and effectively by recovering waste energy from the exhaust to improve power density and fuel efficiency, the company explained.

Juwi Renewable Energy Pty Ltd, the Brisbane-based subsidiary of juwi AG, is to construct the medium penetration solar/diesel hybrid power solution for Jacinth Ambrosia, with KPS owning and operating the hybrid project. After completion, it is expected to deliver almost 21% of the mine site’s annual electricity needs.

Pacific Energy Chief Executive, Jamie Cullen, said: “This is an exciting development for both Pacific Energy and Iluka Resources in what we believe is a world first – integrating solar and ETC technology with an existing fossil fuel facility. The reduction in diesel consumption and improvement in fuel efficiency is expected to save over 2 million litres of diesel and over 5,500 tonnes of CO2 per year, every year, for at least the next seven years.”