Tag Archives: Minerals Council of Australia

Small modular reactors could offer ‘game changing’ power solution in mining, report says

A Minerals Council of Australia-backed report looking into the potential use of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Australia argues they might provide realistic options for decarbonising large regional settlements and off-grid mining operations.

The report, titled ‘Small modular reactors in the Australian context’, is authored by Dr Ben Heard, a Senior Consultant in the Engineering and Asset Management team of Frazer-Nash Consultancy.

Dr Heard thinks SMRs have a role to play in replacing fossil fuel capacity in Australia’s existing grids, but also offer a decarbonised power alternative at off-grid mine sites.

SMRs are power generators of typically 300 MWe or less that use nuclear fission to provide clean, fully reliable heat and power, on-grid or off-grid. The construction time and capital costs associated with them are considerably less than large-scale nuclear reactors or equivalent energy production methods, according to the report. They are also among the safest forms of energy production, coming with passing cooling systems, fewer mechanical parts requiring maintenance and auto fail safe, Dr Heard said.

“Factory-built and easily transportable, SMRs can be scaled to meet energy demand,” Dr Heard said. “Increasing capacity is as simple as adding another module.”

Some SMRs will also use fuel more efficiently than current reactors, producing less waste, according to Dr Heard, who said “advanced fuels” will be easier to recycle for even greater energy production.

On SMRs potential in mining, Dr Heard said: “Being potentially water free and offering decades of uninterrupted power, some of the earliest and most logical deployments of nuclear power in Australia might actually be away from our major transmission networks. Where operations are more speculative, hybrid power systems of diesel fuel, solar and batteries are likely to remain solutions of choice.

“However, for establishing or repowering remote operations away from fossil fuel consumption and with exceptional reliability, the ability to bring megawatt decades of reliable power all the way to where it is needed is a potentially game-changing technology solution.”

An overseas example of this comes from KGHM, the Poland-based copper and silver miner, which recently signed a joint commitment with NuScale Power and PBE Molecule to develop and implement SMR technology to replace its existing coal-based energy sources.

Dr Heard concluded: “In summary, SMR technology has several potentially sensible uses in Australia’s energy transition that are worthy of close consideration – joining renewable technologies to provide an incremental transition from retiring coal and gas assets; as an option for large, established settlements, and for smaller and remote off-grid settlements and operations.

“On a technical basis, their placement is relatively unconstrained compared with alternative generating options and potentially advantageous in taking advantage of existing infrastructure and skilled workforces.

“Assuming a future legislative and regulatory environment that permits the use of this technology, actual siting will benefit from best practice, consent-based siting processes.”

Minerals Council of Australia members to adopt Canada’s TSM sustainability system

Australia’s minerals industry is to introduce the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) system to, the Minerals Council of Australia says, further improve site-level performance through regular and transparent reporting on safety, environmental and social indicators, including partnerships with First Nations landholders and communities.

Adopting TSM – implemented worldwide among key mining nations – will support companies in demonstrating site-level safety, sustainability and environmental, social and governance performance through better measurement and accountability, the MCA said. TSM will also show how operations engage with Traditional Owners while supporting social and economic aspirations and heritage protection.

MCA CEO, Tania Constable, said the phased introduction of TSM as an expectation of MCA membership will give industry stakeholders, including First Nations partners, local communities and groups, investors and customers, additional assurance and visibility on the sector’s site-level sustainability performance across a range of important practical measures.

TSM builds on existing commitments to Enduring Value – the Australian minerals industry’s corporate-level sustainable development framework – by providing a consistent and independently verified approach to assess and communicate site level performance, supporting trust and enhancing confidence in the industry’s sustainability credentials, the MCA said.

Constable added: “Australian mining is a global leader in sustainability performance, and it’s time to take another step forward to enhance community, investor and customer trust and confidence in the industry.”

Mining Association of Canada CEO, Pierre Gratton, said: “TSM has led to better outcomes for mining communities in Canada and around the world, and it’s great that Australia has chosen TSM as the vehicle to demonstrate environmental and social performance in its mining sector. We are very proud of TSM’s increasingly global reach and power to improve sustainability through measuring site-level performance.”

The system includes guiding principles and standardised protocols to be adapted for Australian implementation, including:

  • Communities and people: Indigenous and community relationships, safety and health, crisis management and communication planning, preventing child and forced labour;
  • Environmental stewardship: biodiversity conservation management, tailings management, water stewardship; and
  • Climate change: site-level targets and management.

The program was established in 2004 by the Mining Association of Canada to enable mining companies to demonstrate how they are meeting society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way, with its core strengths including:

  • Accountability: participation in TSM will be an expectation for all Mining Association of Canada members for their Australian operations, with assessments conducted at the facility level where the mining activity takes place;
  • Transparency: members will publicly report their performance in line with standardised protocols and indicators; and
  • Credibility: TSM includes ongoing consultation with a national Community of Interest Advisory Panel, an independent multi-stakeholder group, to oversee and shape the program for continual advancement.

Australia extends and expands Exploring for the Future geoscience program

Australia’s government has extended Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future (EFTF) program for a further four years in a move that will support a stronger recovery and more regional jobs across the whole country, according to the Minerals Council of Australia.

The program has been highly successful in collecting pre-competitive geophysical data from the north of the country for use by researchers, explorers and mining companies, while attracting new exploration investment and jobs amid growing international competition from emerging mining regions, the MCA said.

The latest move will see the government invest a further A$125 million ($86 million) to expand the program’s reach to cover the whole of Australia, a statement from Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, read.

It comes on top of the A$100 million previously spent on the program to drive investment, generate jobs and secure the future of the resources sector, Pitt said.

“The EFTF program uses a series of cutting-edge geoscientific techniques to map the geological structures at unprecedented scale and detail,” the statement read. “This freely available information creates a better understanding of our mineral, energy and groundwater systems and allows us to realise Australia’s economic potential.”

Pitt said even though Australia is known for its world-class mineral resources sector, over 80% of Australia is still underexplored.

“Over the past four years, EFTF has worked across northern Australia to deliver world-leading data about the region’s mineral, energy and water resource potential to industry, government and communities,” he said. “We are confident of the long-term impacts of the existing program, with independent analysis of the first half of the program, indicating it could deliver just over A$2.5 billion in economic benefits and jobs in northern Australia.”

He concluded: “The existing program has already demonstrated significant success unlocking Australia’s resource potential in the north that extending it just made sense. This will give industry, investors and the broader community a consistent, nation-wide picture of our natural resource potential.”

Welcoming the investment, Geoscience Australia Chief Executive, Dr James Johnson, said he looked forward to continuing this fundamental support for the resources sector.

“As the nation’s pre-eminent Earth science organisation, Geoscience Australia integrates the most advanced geoscientific methods and data to build an ever-improving understanding of our mineral, energy and groundwater resources for the benefit of all Australians.

“During the first phase of EFTF, we built on that understanding by releasing 200 datasets through a new online portal and developing innovative tools to help explorers assess the economic viability of a resource and make their next big investment decision. We can now develop this as a national resource.”

Exploration investment is the foundation of Australia’s mining industry, which generates A$289 billion in export revenue, directly and indirectly supports 1.1 million jobs and contributes A$39 billion in royalties and taxes to Australian governments, according to the MCA.

MCA spells out Australia mineral industry’s decarbonisation plan

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has released a Climate Action Plan that, it says, demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Australia minerals industry to decarbonise the economy and address climate change.

The plan outlines how the MCA and its members are taking action on climate change as part of the minerals sector’s collective commitment to the Paris Agreement and its goal of net zero emissions globally and in Australia, the MCA said.

It outlines a series of actions focused on three key themes:

  • Support developing technology pathways to achieve significant reductions in Australia’s greenhouse emissions;
  • Increased transparency on climate change related reporting and informed advocacy; and
  • Knowledge sharing of the sector’s responses to addressing climate change.

The MCA said: “Sustained climate action across all nations is required to reduce the risks of human-induced climate change and to support worldwide decarbonisation as we transform to a lower emissions future.”

Among a number of technologies being supported in the plan are low carbon opportunities such as renewable energy and the use of electric vehicles at mine sites.

“With this plan, the sector acknowledges the critical importance of technology in reducing emissions,” the MCA said. “The minerals industry works with manufacturing and innovation partners to invent, develop and deploy new techniques and technologies.”

It added: “It is clear that the scale of the technology-led transformation required will not occur without the minerals and raw materials provided by the Australian mining sector. The industry sees great opportunities for minerals such as lithium, cobalt and copper in all forms of transport infrastructure, communications and energy systems.”

The MCA’s Climate Action Plan is made up of two components: an enduring 10-point framework to support three core objectives and a comprehensive three-year rolling work plan with 30 activities.

The Climate Action Plan will be reviewed annually and publicly reported on to ensure it remains consistent with Australia’s climate policy ambitions in support of the Paris Agreement.

The MCA concluded: “The plan demonstrates that the minerals sector not only has the ambition to decarbonise the sector – it also has an action plan to get there.”

To read more about the plan, click here.

Australia miners pool expertise to improve tailings management

Australia’s minerals industry is looking to confront the tailings management issues that have plagued the global industry in recent years with the release of the Australian Mining Tailings Communique.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) will support the communique, developed by MCA member companies after a workshop earlier this year, with a program of training, research and governance actions currently in development, it said.

Opportunities will be identified to build industry expertise and enhance technical capacity on tailings management for the minerals workforce, the MCA added.

“Tragic incidents around the world over the past decade reinforce the need for ongoing vigilance, review and change and raise legitimate questions about tailings management practices from governments, investors and the community,” the council said.

Australia’s minerals industry met earlier this year to review governance, culture and risk management for tailings storage facility management.

While the MCA said current tailings management practices in Australia are “highly regulated and at the forefront of global best practice”, it said the industry is committed to continual improvement as part of its culture of safe and responsible resource development.

This saw the companies, develop a list of actions to take on. This included:

  • Communicate and engage – communicate and engage with the community including government and other key stakeholders on our approach to tailings management in a transparent manner to build community confidence;
  • Leadership, governance and systems – assess and identify key elements of corporate leadership, culture, systems and governance to proactively manage tailings risks and share information;
  • Share leading practice – continue to actively share and promote industry leading practice and lessons learned in Australia and overseas from all industries;
  • Build industry expertise – identify opportunities to enhance industry capacity in key technical aspects of tailings management; and
  • Engage internationally – offer Australian expertise to help build global initiatives on tailings management including the development of, and alignment to, standards and guidelines.

The MCA says it will develop a program of work to reflect the above actions by the end of 2019.

“There is no room for complacency and honest and transparent communication and engagement with the workforce, host communities, governments, investors and other stakeholders is central to the industry’s approach,” it said.

Australia mineral exploration on the up

More than A$2.3 billion ($1.54 billion) was spent on minerals exploration in Australia in 2018-19, according to exploration expenditure data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

This investment is up 19% from the previous year and has seen investment in gold exploration rise – also by 19% – to a new record high of A$964 million, according to the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA).

The MCA said this growing investment by mining is helping to secure Australia’s long-term prosperity.

The highest increase in exploration investment in an individual state was in South Australia, up by 55% to A$85 million.

”The mining industry needs stable policy settings from both state and federal governments to continue to deliver benefits for all Australians,” the MCA said.

“The recently announced Productivity Commission enquiry into resources sector regulation is a welcome first step in ensuring state and federal governments have the policy settings that continue to support mining and even greater investment in exploration to develop Australia’s next wave of critical mineral, base metal and gold mines.”

This exploration investment is creating and supporting jobs throughout the country, especially in regional Australia.

When exploration investment translates to minerals production, Australia is the big winner, the MCA said. Mining is the country’s largest source of export revenue and has generated A$212 billion in company tax and royalties for Australia over the last decade, it added.

Technology revolution set to transform mining jobs in Australia: EY report

Innovation, people and skills combined with technological advances will deliver a more globally competitive minerals sector that delivers fulfilling careers in highly paid, high-skilled jobs, according to a report released by accountancy firm EY.

The release of EY’s Skills Map for the Future of Work – commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) – provides a comprehensive examination of future skills and training and technology trends in the Australian minerals industry, according to the MCA.

The key findings by EY, according to MCA, include:

  • Seventy-seven per cent of jobs in Australia mining will be enhanced or redesigned due to technology within the next five years;
  • Productivity increases up to 23% can be achieved with the rollout of new technologies, costing more than A$35 billion ($25 billion);
  • An injection of A$5 billion to A$13 billion in workforce capability will be needed over the next decade to unlock future productivity gains, and;
  • Australia education and training systems need to be modernised to deliver higher certification and fit-for-purpose degrees.

“New technology and innovative practices will enhance the performance and productivity of 42% of Australian mining jobs, with a further 35% of occupations being redesigned and up-skilled leading to more valuable employment opportunities,” MCA said. “Automation will give the opportunity for reskilling into other areas.”

EY’s study also identified Australia’s education and training system needs to be modernised by offering improved course structures and enhanced movement between universities and the vocational education sectors, according to the MCA.

“Future university degrees will need to have a mix of the latest scientific, technical and trade skills along with soft skills including collaboration, team building, communication and creativity,” the council said.

“A decade-long investment by industry and government in general skills incorporating mathematics, data analytics, computing and change management will boost productivity in the minerals sector.”

Jobs that will be made future-ready through large investments will include metal fitters, machinists, building and engineering technical and experts in electronics and mechatronics, the MCA added. “For example, a shot-firer working on a drilling team will have the opportunity in Australia’s future minerals workforce to use drone technology to monitor automated rigs.”

The MCA said: “Australian mining will continue to take advantage of innovation, technology and new ways of working to create high-paying, high skilled jobs.”

The Skills Map includes two major reports: The Future of Work: the Changing Skills Landscape for Miners and The Future of Work: The economic implications of technology and digital mining.

Adani Mining finds funds for Carmichael thermal coal project in Queensland

Adani Mining has managed to get together the financing needed to develop its massive Carmichael coal mine and rail project in Queensland, Australia, after parent company, the Adani Group, said 100% of the funds would come through its own resources.

The announcement follows recent changes to simplify construction and reduce the initial capital requirements for Carmichael, which is expected to produce some 27.5 Mt/y of high-quality thermal coal once fully ramped up.

Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow said construction and operation of the mine will now begin.

“Our work in recent months has culminated in Adani Group’s approval of the revised project plan that de-risks the initial stage of the Carmichael mine and rail project by adopting a narrow-gauge rail solution combined with a reduced ramp up volume for the mine,” Dow said.

“This means we’ve minimised our execution risk and initial capital outlay. The sharpening of the mine plan has kept operating costs to a minimum and ensures the project remains within the first quartile of the global cost curve. All coal produced in the initial ramp up phase will be consumed by the Adani Group’s captive requirements.

“We will now begin developing a smaller open-cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time to 27.5 Mt/y,” he said.

The construction for the shorter narrow-gauge rail line will also begin to match the production schedule, he added.

The company has already invested $3.3 billion in Adani’s Australian businesses, according to Dow. “[This] is a clear demonstration of our capacity to deliver a financing solution for the revised scope of the mine and rail project.

Carmichael is expected to deliver more than 1,500 direct jobs on the mine and rail projects during the initial ramp-up and construction phase, and will support thousands more indirect jobs, all of which will benefit regional Queensland communities, Adani said.

Preparatory works at the mine site are imminent and Adani Mining is working with regulators to finalise the remaining required management plans, ahead of coal production, some of which have been subject to two years of state and federal government review.

“This process is expected to be complete and provided by the governments in the next few weeks,” Adani said.

Today’s announcement follows eight years of planning, securing approvals and successfully contesting legal challenges from anti-mining activists, according to Dow.

“We have worked tirelessly to clear the required hurdles,” he said. “Given we meet the same environmental standards and operate under the same regulations as other miners, we expect that Adani Mining will be treated no differently than any other Queensland mining company.”

Located more than 300 km west of the Queensland coast, the Carmichael thermal coal mine and rail project will transport coal from the Galilee Basin to countries in Asia, including India, Vietnam and China.

In addition to the number of jobs and tax revenues Carmichael will create, the mine will also open the north Galilee Basin for further development, according to Tania Constable, Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Council of Australia.

“[This is] an exciting new phase in Australia’s rich history of mining exploration and development, which has made our nation a global mining powerhouse,” she said.

Australia resources sector supports record FY18 exports

Australia’s exports of goods and services surpassed A$400 billion (US$295 billion) for the first time in the 2018 financial year to end June, with resources making up the majority of sales.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed resources exports – including minerals, metals, coal and petroleum – were a record high A$220 billion in the 12-month period. This was a 11% rise from the previous year due to higher exports of coal, gold, base metals and LNG.

Despite lower prices, iron ore remained Australia’s largest source of export revenue with A$61.4 billion shipped.

Coal exports were only just behind, reaching a new record high of A$60.1 billion – up 11%, or A$5.9 billion, from the previous year.

Gold exports, including mined and refined yellow metal, set another record for export values with A$20.1 billion of the precious metal shipped in the 12-month period. This is the first time in Australia’s history gold exports have exceeded $20 billion, showing just how important the weak Australian dollar – relative to the US dollar – has been to the sector’s resurgence.

Exports of base metals and other minerals showed strong growth as a result of higher commodity prices and totalled $38 billion in 2017-18, also a record high.

The Minerals Council of Australia said this resources export revenue was delivering benefits to all Australians.

“The minerals industry and mining equipment, technology and services sector continue to provide high-paying jobs for more than one million Australians, particularly those in regional areas,” the MCA said.

“And, Australia is also poised to seize future opportunities for minerals resources that will come from growth in new consumer, energy and transportation technologies around the world.”

Australia has extensive resources of the rare earth elements, base metals, lithium and precious metals that are essential materials in smart phones, electric vehicles, modern energy systems and industrial machinery, according to the MCA.

“This means maintaining a competitive minerals sector is essential for Australia’s continuing economic prosperity, jobs and regional communities.”