Tag Archives: mineral sands

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.”

Strandline seals energy agreement for Coburn with Contract Power Australia

Strandline Resources has executed a 15-year electricity supply agreement (ESA) with Contract Power Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pacific Energy Ltd, to build, own, operate and maintain (BOOM) the power generation and LNG storage and regasification facilities for the Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia.

Coburn’s purpose-designed power infrastructure is based on a low-cost, low-emission solution integrating natural gas-fuelled generation with state-of-the-art solar and battery storage technology.

The executed ESA, which follows Contract Power Australia being appointed preferred contractor at Coburn, enables Strandline to capture energy supply cost savings relative to the definitive feasibility study published in June 2020. This study anticipated a development capital for the project of A$260 million ($199 million), excluding financing costs.

Contract Power specialises in turnkey design, installation and operation of energy assets and has a strong track record of delivery in the mining sector of Western Australia, Strandline said.

Coburn’s power station will be located near the mineral separation plant. The power station is designed to be suitable for a maximum demand capacity of 15 MW and average consumed power of circa-10 MW. Natural gas will be supplied by others under an industry standard long-term LNG supply agreement and trucked to an on-site storage and re-vapourisation facility supplied by Contract Power. The LNG then feeds a set of engine generators on an N+1 basis and has circa-30% solar (renewable) penetration for the major stable loads. Generation is at 11 kV with step up to 22 kV for power transmission to the project loads across the mine site.

Coburn has a JORC compliant mineral resource of 1,600 Mt at 1.2% total heavy mineral (THM), classified as 119 Mt measured, 607 Mt indicated, and 880 Mt inferred. The ore reserve comes in at 523 Mt grading 1.11% THM for circa-5.8 Mt of contained heavy mineral, underpinning an initial mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.

The contract is based on a 15-year BOOM commercial model with fixed and variable payment regime for power consumed over the term, Strandline said. The contract provides for incorporation of wind turbine and other new generation technology solutions under agreed commercial structures as and when they become commercially attractive to the project.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said the execution of this major development and operational contract marked another key step in the company’s strategy to bring Coburn into production as well as establishing an important relationship with Contract Power, a leader in sustainable clean energy generation in Western Australia.

Tronox boosts mineral sands dredging process with help of IPR-supplied SlurrySucker

Following a successful one-week trial, heavy minerals company Tronox Mineral Sands has taken delivery of a SlurrySucker dredging unit from Integrated Pump Rental.

The SlurrySucker will remove sand from the process dams near the Tronox mining operation on South Africa’s West Coast. This installation enhances the safety and efficiency of the dredging process, which previously had to be carried out manually by a team of underwater divers, IPR said.

“The pumping capacity of the dredging unit will ensure optimal operation of Tronox’s dams which need to be kept at the required storage volumes at all times,” Ruaan Venter, Rental Development Manager at Integrated Pump Rental, said.

The dredging unit will assist Tronox in regularly cleaning sediment from its process dams, reducing the risk of pump blockage or failure. This solution aims to provide rapid results on a cost-effective basis, while the remote operation raises safety levels, the company added.

To withstand the corrosive effects of salt water, the SlurrySucker has been equipped with a stainless steel casing as well as stainless steel components including wear plates and impellers. The units were manufactured at Integrated Pump Rental’s facility in Jet Park, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The SlurrySucker dredging unit comprises a floating barge with an electric hoist operated from the side of the dam. This ensures a high level of safety with the barge being operated remotely, including the lifting and lowering of the pump. At Tronox, the SlurrySucker is designed to pump 150 cu.m/h of sediment – with a solids content of 50% – back to the thickener in the plant.

“The electrically-driven unit also makes sure that there is no risk of contaminating the water in the dams with diesel or oil leakage,” Venter says. The compact unit is easy to transport between the dams requiring dredging, making for optimal usage of the equipment.

With its local manufacturing capability and technical support offering, Integrated Pump Rental says it is well equipped to maintain the SlurrySucker out of its Johannesburg facility.

Tronox’s Cooljarloo mine feels the benefits of Weir Minerals Total Asset Management Plan

Weir Minerals says it has further strengthened its partnership with Tronox following the signing of an exclusive arrangement to take ownership of maintenance, asset management and optimisation of the mine’s key assets.

Weir Minerals’ Total Asset Management Plan is a “unique and innovative” service contract that is revolutionising mining operations, with improved performance and a reduction in unplanned maintenance time, the company says.

Such a plan was successfully implemented at the Tronox mine in Cooljarloo, Western Australia, with Weir Minerals managing 20 assets including slurry pumps on the plant, two floating dredges and a floating concentrator which processes over 3,000 t/h of heavy mineral concentrate.

Tronox produces more than 770,000 t/y of heavy mineral concentrate using a dredging operation and dry mining techniques at Cooljarloo, Tronox says. The dredging operation recovers heavy minerals from the sand and clay using a series of gravity spirals, with the dry mine using earthmoving equipment to extract ore located above the water table, feeding it to a land-based concentrator for separation using a hopper and conveyor system.

Daniel Fleckhammer, Weir Minerals Director, said: “The Weir Minerals team worked closely with Tronox to determine what their goals and vision for their mine were. The team then developed a tailored Total Asset Management Plan which aimed to look after the customer’s assets, improve their wear life and keep the mine running.”

Weir Minerals successfully helped Tronox reduce its maintenance costs by 10% and cut unplanned maintenance by 30%, according to the company. The miner is also now able to transition from a six-month shutdown cycle to an eight-month shutdown cycle, which will save the mine over A$1 million/y ($774,802/y) on maintenance costs. Weir estimates this increased reliability is potentially worth over A$1 million/y in additional productivity.

Dave Netherway, Tronox Maintenance Manager at Cooljarloo, said the Total Asset Management Plan the company has in place with Weir Minerals means it pays “on a cents per tonne” arrangement based on the throughput through the plant.

“Weir have skin in the game with the way we operate,” he said.

Being located on site, the Weir Minerals team is prepared for crucial maintenance and gains vital insights into the customer’s issues.

“By leveraging their worldwide expertise in pump technology, the team proactively evaluate each asset and provide outstanding service to Tronox,” the company says.

A clear set of key performance indicators developed in conjunction with Tronox enable Weir Minerals to increase savings and improve the reliability of assets, it says. Both companies work towards a common goal that is mutually beneficial to all.

Ian Rennie, Tronox Site Director at Cooljarloo, said: “If other companies around the world are looking at this type of agreement, I’d really encourage them to explore it. At Tronox, we’ve only been touching the surface for a year now and we really see some huge benefits already.”

Woodside and EDL to supply LNG to Strandline’s Coburn mineral sands project

After securing a contractor to build the power generation facilities at its Coburn project in Western Australia, Strandline Resources has appointed subsidiaries of Woodside Energy and EDL, in joint venture (WEJV), as preferred contractor to supply LNG to the mineral sands development’s power generation facilities.

The WEJV solution provides Strandline with a long-term clean, reliable and affordable solution for Coburn, the company said.

Under the WEJV proposal, LNG will be supplied via road train from Woodside’s Pluto LNG Truck Loading Facility near Karratha, Western Australia.

“Coburn’s mine site power infrastructure is based on a low-cost, low-emission solution integrating LNG-fuelled generation with state-of-the-art solar and battery storage technology (provided by third parties),” the company said.

The proposed LNG supply contract is over a 10-year term (with appropriate pricing review and adjustment mechanisms) and enables Strandline to capture energy supply cost savings relative to the definitive feasibility study published in June 2020.

As preferred contractor, the parties will now compile final contract documentation subject to the satisfaction of Coburn’s lenders and agreement between the parties.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said the appointment establishes an important long-term relationship with two industry leaders in the energy sector, in Woodside and EDL.

“The company continues to move rapidly towards development of Coburn and these key contract appointments to well-credentialled suppliers provide delivery certainty,” he said.

Strandline energises Coburn mineral sands plan with Contract Power BOO agreement

Strandline Resources says it has taken another important step towards development of its Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia by appointing Contract Power Australia as preferred contractor to build, own and operate (BOO) the power generation facilities for the project.

Coburn’s purpose-designed power infrastructure is based on a low-cost, low-emission solution integrating natural gas fuelled generation with solar and battery storage technology.

The proposed power solution enables Strandline to capture energy supply cost savings relative to the definitive feasibility study published in June 2020, it said.

Contract Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pacific Energy Ltd, specialises in turnkey design, installation and operation of energy assets and has a strong track record of delivery in the mining sector of Western Australia, Strandline says.

Coburn’s power station will be located near the mineral separation plant. The power station is designed for a maximum demand capacity of 16 MW and average consumed power of circa-10 MW. Natural gas will be supplied by others under an industry standard long-term LNG supply agreement and trucked to an on-site storage and re-vapourisation facility supplied by Contract Power (Contract Power’s typical LNG-fuelled power station build layout, pictured), according to Strandline. The LNG then feeds a set of engine generators on an N+1 basis and has circa-30% solar penetration for the major stable loads. Generation is at 11 kV with step up to 22 kV for power transmission to the project loads across the mine site, Strandline says.

As preferred contractor, the parties will now compile final contract documentation to the satisfaction of Strandline and Coburn’s lenders. The contract is based on a 15-year BOO (and maintain) commercial model with fixed and variable payment regime for power consumed over the term.

This appointment follows Strandline’s recent A$18.5 million ($13.1 million) equity raising to advance early works development activities while finalising the balance of project funding. Strandline says it continues to make strong progress towards definitive finance documentation and conditions precedent for the NAIF A$150 million loan facility and is advancing discussions to secure a commercial debt tranche expected to stand alongside the NAIF funding.

Since raising the A$18.5 million, Strandline has appointed Macmahon as the principal contractor to provide site-wide civil and bulk earthworks construction services for the project, instructed Piacentini & Son to design and construct three mobile dozer mining units for Coburn and awarded preferred EPC status to Primero Group for the mineral sands asset.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said the appointment marked another key step in its strategy to bring Coburn into production and establishes an important relationship with Contract Power, a leader in sustainable clean energy generation in Western Australia.

Coburn has a JORC compliant mineral resource of 1,600 Mt at 1.2% total heavy mineral (THM), classified as 119 Mt measured, 607 Mt indicated, and 880 Mt inferred. The ore reserve comes in at 523 Mt grading 1.11% THM for circa-5.8 Mt of contained heavy mineral, underpinning an initial mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.