Tag Archives: MineSense

New Gold to collaborate with MineSense in underground ore sorting move

MineSense is gearing up for a move underground with the help of New Gold and its New Afton gold-copper mine in British Columbia, Canada.

The Vancouver-based technology company has already established and proven its ShovelSense technology for the open-pit mining sector, with its X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) sensor-based system now operating on shovels, wheel loaders and excavators on a commercial basis across six operating mines. This includes large installations at Teck’s Highland Valley and Copper Mountain’s copper operations in BC, as well as one ShovelSense unit at the Antamina copper operation in Peru.

Designed for operation in extreme environments and retrofits on any existing mobile equipment, ShovelSense units come equipped with a human machine interface and proprietary algorithms that measure and report ore grade/characteristics. They can also connect directly to fleet management or other existing control software systems, enabling mine operators to reconcile geological block models with actual ore grade data.

Having finetuned the system for above-ground operations, the company is now embarking on its underground move, according to MineSense President and CEO, Jeff More.

A trial of the underground ShovelSense system at New Gold’s New Afton mine is first up to complete product development. The company will be installing a unit on a Cat R1600G LHD for this step. This will be followed closely by installation at a “large entity” in Chile – with More anticipating start up in the September or December quarter.

The development agreement with New Gold at the BC-based mine is looking to trial and finetune the system for underground operations, with More confident the ShovelSense system will stand up to the test.

“The core technology – all of the algorithms, software, hardware – is the same as ShovelSense for open-pit mining,” More said. “It is the ‘application package’ – looking at how we can attach the unit to the machine and protect it in an underground environment – that is what we have to test out. The design for this is already complete; it’s just a matter of trialling it.”

New Afton represents a good test for the system.

New Afton is Canada’s only operating block cave mine, with the New Afton deposit part of a larger copper-gold porphyry district in the region. The operation regularly mines 15,000-16,000 t/d of ore and waste, with the majority of this currently going to the mill.

The company has already pursued “ore segregation” projects to boost the grade of material being fed through to the processing side, but the move into the higher-grade C-Zone in 2023-2029 will place an even greater emphasis on ore/waste boundaries and milled tonnes at the operation.

At the same time, the ShovelSense deployment at New Afton will represent the first time MineSense has sent a unit into a mine that has so much payable gold, with most operations the company has worked on being primarily base metal-oriented.

In 2020, New Afton produced 64,000 oz of the yellow metal, along with 32,659 t of the red metal.

“This will be the first time we’re touching gold at this level; we have other mines that have payable gold but not at that level,” More explained.

In New Afton’s case, sampling and historical data has proven that the orebody’s copper and gold ratios tend to be consistent and unchanging over the long term. With this knowledge, New Afton has used technology in the past to determine the copper value and make ore/waste production decisions. ShovelSense allows New Afton to move the ore/waste production decision to the drawpoint, according to MineSense. This reduces mixing and blending during the crushing and conveying circuit which can homogenise the material to the point where it is not worth segregating.

Trialling new technology such as this is nothing new for New Afton.

The operation already uses automated loading through Sandvik’s AutoMine solution, is employing electrification with the use of Sandvik and MacLean Engineering battery-powered mobile equipment, and, in the process plant, has Gekko Systems’ highest volume InLine Pressure Jig IPJ3500 to improve gravity concentration.

More says the ShovelSense unit could be in the Cat LHD bucket at New Afton in August, with the machine then going through an above-ground trial ahead of the underground transition at the end of September.

“By early Q4, we should have completed the pilot,” he said.

MineSense to expand XRF ore sorting presence at Copper Mountain mine

MineSense Technologies says the use of its ore characterisation and sorting technology is seeing improvements in both the ore from waste recovery and ore dilution at Copper Mountain Mining Corp’s namesake mine in British Columbia, Canada.

Having deployed the company’s ShovelSense solution on two shovels and a wheel loader in 2020, Copper Mountain now has plans to install ShovelSense on the two remaining shovels in 2021, along with the first trial installation of BeltSense to explore additional innovation concepts, Don Strickland, Chief Operating Officer at Copper Mountain Mining Corp, said.

Jeff More, President and CEO of MineSense Technologies, said: “Copper Mountain has been a fantastic partner to work with, initially to support us in our scale-up on hydraulic shovels, and then with rapid commercial deployment once the design was stabilised.

“We are thrilled that they installed three of our ShovelSense Systems in the space of five months in 2020 and will complete installation of their entire shovel fleet in 2021.”

The MineSense hardware and software went through a two-year evaluation process at Copper Mountain prior to the solution going commercial, Copper Mountain stated in a recent technical report.

The ShovelSense system improves orebody visibility bucket by bucket in real time during the loading process, according to the company. Trucks are then automatically diverted to the correct location, increasing value and revenue realised during the mining process. The technology also creates reductions of CO2 emissions per tonne of ore produced, consumption of processing chemicals and reagents, energy and water, while maximising metal recovery.

BeltSense, meanwhile, is used on conveyance at different points of the mine operation. It can be used sequentially and in conjunction with ShovelSense to maximise the ore concentrating impact, taking a first cut at the haul point and second further downstream, MineSense says.

Both systems leverage X-ray Fluorescence sensors to carry out the sorting process.

MineSense, Commerce Resources look at ore sorting options for Ashram REE project

Commerce Resources has started a test project initiative with MineSense as part of its ongoing collaboration with CanmetMINING.

The project with Commerce will include assessing the spectral response on 127 course analytical rejects from drill core, comprising five rock types associated with the Ashram rare earth and fluorspar deposit, in Quebec, Canada.

Of these 127 rejects, a total of 72 are from drill core within the Ashram deposit’s primary mineralised zone: the A-Zone. Based on the information collected, MineSense will be able to assess the laboratory-scale efficacy of its technology to the Ashram deposit material. If successful, a value contribution assessment may be completed as a follow up activity for the Ashram project.

MineSense specialises in digital technology solutions for ore-waste classification in real time at the mining stage (run of mine), thereby providing better grade control compared with that of the deposit block model or mine plan. It uses data analytics, combined with its trademarked ShovelSense and BeltSense technologies, to monitor mineralogical or grade changes in an orebody daily, as it is mined. This information allows for optimal ore blending, grade trend characterisation, and overall improved mine planning with resultant cost efficiencies.

The MineSense technology is based on X-ray Fluorescence sensors fitted to specific pieces of mining equipment to monitor the spectral response of the material being actively mined. The technology provides for a higher level of control compared with the typical ore sorting process which occurs at the truck scale in the process plant, Commerce says.

One of the standout deployments of ShovelSense is at Teck Resources’ Highland Valley Copper (HVC) operations in British Columbia.

The funding for the test work at Ashram is provided by Natural Resources Canada through CanmetMINING’s six-year rare earth element (REE) and chromite program (announced in April 2015), focused on developing new extraction technologies, addressing Canadian environmental challenges, and improving the knowledge of Canadian deposits, Commerce says. The company’s contribution to the collaboration is a supply of REE mineralised material from Ashram, in which several tonnes remain readily available from a bulk sample completed in 2012.

The Ashram deposit outcrops at surface, allowing for cost-effective collection of material for test work. As such, the company is actively engaging with various research and academic institutions to support the advancement of the rare earth element industry in Canada, and in Quebec specifically, it said.

The resource base at Ashram consists of 1.59 Mt of material averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides (TREO) in the measured category, 27.67 Mt at 1.9% TREO in the indicated category and 219.8 Mt at 1.88% TREO in the inferred category. The preliminary economic assessment outlined a 4,000 t/d open-pit operation with a 0.19:1 (waste:ore) strip ratio over a 25-year mine life. Annual production averaged circa-16,850 t of REO over the life of mine.

MineSense front and centre in bulk ore sorting game

Having just commercialised its bulk ore sorting technology at Teck Resources’ Highland Valley Copper (HVC) operations in British Columbia, Canada, MineSense is looking to show the wider industry just how effective this pre-concentration process can be.

IM spoke with President and CEO, Jeff More, to find out more about the company’s ShovelSense and BeltSense technologies and how the Vancouver-based startup has been able to secure investment from the likes of ABB, Caterpillar and Mitsubishi.

IM: Can you explain in a little more detail how your ShovelSense and BeltSense solutions work?

JM: The base technology for both is X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) – a technology that has been around for some time. What we have done to this existing technology, which is quite unique, is three things:

  • One, we have extended dramatically the range of XRF. Traditionally XRF would almost have to be held to the surface of a rock to get accurate measurements. The range extension allows us to work in the shovel environment where we are working across metres of volume;
  • Second is speed. Our system is extremely fast. High speed analysis is required on our conveyor belt applications, but this is even more important in the shovel, where we’re measuring dynamically; as the material is flowing into the shovel, to get a representative reading, you have to be able to take very fast readings of the material as it is moving past the sensors;
  • The third is robustness. On a shovel, you are in a nasty environment from a shock and vibration perspective. We developed a system with sensitive components – the XRF itself, as well as the computing devices around it – that can stand up to that very high shock- and vibration-type environment.

IM: The most high-profile examples of the application of your ShovelSense technology have been at copper mines (HVC, in particular); is the detection technology particularly effective in these ores? Is it being trialled elsewhere?

JM: The current sensing we have with the XRF is very effective in a certain section of the periodic table, which nicely covers the major base metals. We’re focused on copper, nickel, zinc and polymetallic versions of those three. The fourth area of focus is iron ore.

We’ve selected copper as our first focus because of the size of the market and the geography. We have done most of our work in copper, but we now also have operating systems in nickel and zinc.

On a lab scale, the technology has been very effective in iron ore, but iron ore is a very different flow sheet, so we have purposely set it as our fourth market in what we call our primary clusters.

We have five mine site customers at the moment – three copper, one zinc-lead and one nickel-polymetallic.

We were very much focused on North America and, in particular, British Columbia for our first pilots and trials as it was quite easy for us to service in our back yard. The first international market was Chile, for obvious reasons in terms of copper production, and we now have a full MineSense entity and team operating in Chile and Peru.

We’re staggering the rest of our global expansion. We’re now quite active from a business development perspective in southern Africa – South Africa, Zambia, DRC – and have activity in Australia.

We have Systems installed at two different copper mines in British Columbia, one at a very large nickel-polymetallic complex in Sudbury, Ontario, and will have a fourth system operating in Alaska. We also have two mines, but four systems, operating in Chile. By the end of Q2, we will have another three systems operating in Chile.

We did all our development work for the system at Teck’s HVC operation and we’re now completely commercial there. We officially commissioned our first system in December, the second system is being commissioned as we speak and the third and fourth will be installed and commissioned in late-March. This will completely equip their fleet.

IM: Teck has previously said the use of ShovelSense has resulted in “a net measurable increase in the amount of ore (and the associated head grade)” it has available to feed its mill at HVC. Are these results in keeping with your expectations for the technology?

JM: Yes, absolutely. We base everything on, what we call, our value model. Very early in our engagement process, we set out a detailed model that calculates the profit improvement that mine will see – we did the same for Teck HVC.

We agreed on a target at HVC and are actually exceeding that estimate. Most importantly, Teck is also seeing that value and is estimating a great overall impact at that mine.

This is an abridged version of a Q&A to be published in the ore sorting feature in the March issue of International Mining.

MineSense welcomes ABB unit to register in latest equity financing

Caterpillar, Mitsubishi Corp and ABB Technology Ventures have bought into MineSense Technologies’ real-time, sensor-based ore data and sorting solutions for large-scale mines in its latest equity raising.

The $18 million oversubscribed financing will be used to help commercialise the company’s digital offering and expand into key mining regions worldwide, MineSense said.

MineSense calls itself a pioneer in Industrial Internet of Things solutions, with its fast, scalable, and robust mineral sensing platform creating “transformational value by providing precise, accurate, real-time grade control and ore routing decisions at the point of extraction for maximum resource conversion and metal recovery”.

This technology can also reduce CO2 emissions and the consumption of wear materials, energy, water and reagents during the whole mining process, according to the company.

This is the second time Cat has invested in MineSense, with Cat’s Director of Mining Technology, Jim Hawkins, saying such technology could have a significant impact on the bottom line for mining companies.

“We are very pleased with the progress MineSense has made in the last 18 months to introduce its innovative technology and are excited to support the company into the next stage,” he said.

Mitsubishi Corp has provided support to MineSense since its late 2017 $4 million debt investment, converted to equity in this round, while this is a first investment for ABB’s strategic venture capital unit.

Brandon Spencer, Managing Director of Business Unit Process Industries at ABB, said the company was excited by the direct impact the MineSense technology may provide to its customers.

The financing also included existing investors Aurus Ventures, Chrysalix Venture Capital and Cycle Capital.

The British Columbia-based company says its system is the only one that can work with run-of-mine at “commercially relevant throughput”.

The MineSense ShovelSense™ system is designed for extreme environment conditions and to be easily retrofittable on any existing mobile equipment. The system comes equipped with a human machine interface that provides the operator with full information, including the ore type, within each dig cycle. It can also connect directly to fleet management or other existing control software systems.

The main application of ShovelSense is at the open-pit dig face or underground hauling point. It is equally effective working in stockpiles and in blending where mobile equipment is used, MineSense says.

Teck partnered with MineSense for the first full scale trial of the bucket-mounted ShovelSense technology in 2017 at its Highland Valley Copper Operations in British Columbia. The sensors are now in use on one shovel, and additional shovels could be considered for later in 2018.

MineSense’s BeltSense™ system can be operated in bulk, semi-bulk or particle sorting mode. Its typical use is post primary crushing prior to the mill, but it also has mill applications such as in the pebble circuit. BeltSense is also highly effective in blending operations, according to the company.

BeltSense can be used sequentially and in conjunction with ShovelSense to maximise the ore concentrating impact, taking a first cut at the haul point and second further downstream.

In addition to this recent financing, MineSense closed a $19 million equity deal in February 2017.