Tag Archives: molybdenum

Rio Tinto funds initial underground development at Kennecott copper ops

Rio Tinto has approved a $55 million investment in development capital to start underground mining and expand production at its Kennecott copper operations in Utah, USA.

Underground mining will initially focus on an area known as the Lower Commercial Skarn (LCS), which will deliver a total of around 30,000 t of additional high-quality mined copper through the period to 2027 alongside open-pit operations, Rio says. The first ore is expected to be produced in early 2023, with full production in the second half of the year. It will be processed through the existing facilities at Kennecott, one of only two operating copper smelters in the US.

Kennecott holds the potential for significant and attractive underground development. The LCS is the first step towards this, with a mineral resource of 7.5 Mt at 1.9% Cu, 0.84 g/t Au, 11.26 g/t Ag and 0.015% Mo identified based on drilling and a probable reserve of 1.7 Mt at 1.9% Cu, 0.71 g/t Au, 10.07 g/t Ag and 0.044% Mo.

Underground battery-electric vehicles are currently being trialled at Kennecott to improve employee health and safety, increase productivity and reduce carbon emissions from future underground mining fleets. A battery-electric haul truck and loader supplied by Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions – a Sandvik LH518B 18 t battery-electric LHD and a Sandvik Z50 50 t battery-electric haul truck – are being used to evaluate performance and suitability as part of underground development work.

Rio Tinto Copper Chief Executive, Bold Baatar, said: “This investment will allow us to quickly bring additional volumes of high-quality copper to the market and build our knowledge and capabilities as we evaluate larger scale underground mining at Kennecott. We are progressing a range of options for a significant resource that is yet to be developed at Kennecott, which could extend our supply of copper and other critical materials needed for electric vehicles and renewable power technologies.

“Trialling underground battery-electric vehicles is an exciting step in our work to create a safer workplace for our employees, increase the productivity of the mine and reduce emissions from our operations. We look forward to seeing their potential for deployment.”

Existing undergound infrastructure is currently being extended to enable early access to the next underground resource and undertake characterisation studies. A feasibility study to inform decisions on the next phase of underground production is expected to be completed in 2023. This will be one of several potential stages currently being investigated.

Feasibility studies are also being progressed to extend open-pit mining at Kennecott beyond 2032.

Vast Resources forecasts production uptick as Mantis production drill rigs boost performance

Copper concentrate production at Vast Resources’ Baita Plai polymetallic (copper-gold-silver-zinc-lead-moly) mine in Romania continued to trend upwards in the June quarter, with the London-listed company expecting further output gains in the September quarter thanks to the use of a Mantis CMR4 production drill rigs that can help the company access more underground mining areas.

The June quarter results were in line with the company’s expectations, with concentrate production coming in at 268.8 t, compared with 229 t in the same quarter of 2021.

The tonnes milled for the period declined slightly by 6% to 11,292 t, with the grade rising 33% year-on-year to 0.6% Cu. Ore mined increased by 3.5% to 13,020 t for the period.

Looking forward to the September quarter and beyond, the company says it continues to forecast a substantial increase in copper concentrate tonnage produced due to the successful implementation of the Mantis CMR4 production drilling rig to access the ore on 17 level, as well as the increased ability to process ore due to the second milling circuit being commissioned, which has lifted capacity to 14,000 t/mth.

Back in May, Vast Resources announced that the first of two Mantis CMR4 production drilling rigs equipped with the latest Doofor rock drills had successfully completed functional drill testing underground. The Mantis is made by South African company Fabchem, through its subsidiary, Conax Machine Solutions, in Springs, Gauteng, which manufactures, refurbishes and repairs roof bolters and hydraulic rock drills, with its flagship manufactured products being the Mantis bolters and drills.

In addition to the increase in copper concentrate produced expected going forward, a substantial increase in the number of primary metres developed is forecast. This is due to the implementation of the second Mantis rig on the main belt incline on 18 level, whereby the original mine plan envisaged can be brought online, Vast Resources said. Current advances per blast from the main belt decline vary between 2-2.2 m per blast, which the company says is an excellent ratio to the length of hole drilled to the achieved advance.

The company explained: “The drill rig was extensively tested in a non-production environment to ascertain the capabilities of the machine for long hole production drilling. The drill rig has successfully completed a number of holes at varying inclinations, including vertically down, to depths of up to 12 m. The machine is currently deployed on 17 level in the production area drilling the first set of long holes for long hole production blasting.”

Vast Resources plans to remotely operate its Aramine L130D narrow-vein LHD

The accompanying remotely operated Aramine L130D LHD has arrived at the mine and was successfully transported underground, Vast Resources said. The machine, which is designed for narrow-vein applications, is currently undergoing testing and operator training inside the working stope below 17 level, it added.

Seabridge Gold weighs automation and trolley assist haulage for KSM project

Seabridge Gold has completed an updated prefeasibility study for its KSM Project in British Columbia, Canada, that focuses on open-pit mining only, while planning for both autonomous mine operations and trolley assist haulage.

The 2022 PFS, prepared by Tetra Tech, shows a considerably more sustainable and profitable mining operation than its 2016 predecessor, now consisting of an all open-pit mine plan that includes the Mitchell, East Mitchell and Sulphurets deposits only, it said.

The primary reasons for the improvements in the plan arise from the acquisition of the East Mitchell open-pit resource and an expansion to planned mill throughput – to 195,000 t/d, from 130,000 t/d, the company said.

The many design improvements over the 2016 PFS include a smaller environmental footprint, reduced waste rock production, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a 50% increase in mill throughput and the elimination of capital-intensive block cave mining, it added.

While total capital has been reduced to $9.6 billion (from $10.5 billion) – with increases from inflation and mill expansion being wholly offset by the elimination of block cave mining from the PFS plan – the initial capital cost has increased to $6.4 billion (from $5 billion) due to inflation.

Life of mine production (33 years) at KSM consists of 1.03 Moz of gold, 178 MIb (80,739 t) of copper, 3 Moz of silver and 4.2 MIb of molybdenum.

The open-pit-only mine production plan using ultra class mining starts in the higher grade Mitchell pit, Seabridge Gold says.  Production from the high grade upper East Mitchell zone is introduced in Year 3. Waste mined from the Sulphurets, East Mitchell and Mitchell pit is placed in the Mitchell rock storage facility (RSF) until Mitchell pit is mined out by Year 25. Final waste from East Mitchell is backfilled into the mined-out Mitchell pit from Year 25 onward along with some waste rehandled from the Mitchell RSF.

Autonomous mine operations where applicable and an integrated remote operations centre reduce on-site personnel, the company noted, while adding that electrification of the haul truck fleet with trolley assist would reduce carbon emissions and overall mine energy costs by replacing diesel with low-cost energy from electricity.

Greenland Resources makes plans to employ Doppelmayr RopeCon at Malmbjerg moly project

Greenland Resources Inc is taking a different tack to mine haulage at its Malmbjerg molybdenum project in Greenland, laying out plans in a feasibility study to use a Doppelmayr RopeCon® aerial conveyor to transport ore to the concentrator.

In a definitive feasibility study that outlined a 20-year open pit mine life with annual life of mine production of 24.1 MIb of molybdenum, Dr Ruben Shiffman, Executive Chairman, said the company had chosen to “prioritise the environment over capital expenditure”.

In addition to the planned use of a Doppelmayr rope conveyor over cheaper and less environmentally friendly diesel haul trucks – which would save the company over $80 million in capital expenditure, according to Shiffman – the company also planned to use salt water as process water in its process plant, with very low reagent concentrations to mitigate any potential environmental contamination.

The Malmbjerg project comprises of a conventional open-pit mine producing 35,000 t/d of molybdenum-rich ore for processing in a conventional base metal sulphide concentrator. The mine plan equipment fleet consists of two 34 cu.m hydraulic shovels loading 13 x 230 t haul trucks operating on 12 m benches.

The operational mining plan will utilise an economic grade control system where higher value ore will be separated and transported to the concentrator while the lower value ore will be stockpiled and processed at the end of conventional mining.

Waste rock will be stored on the west side of the deposit and used for haul road and construction activities at the mine site.

Current mining reserves dictate a mine life of 20 years where the concentrator will be fed directly from the open pit for a period of 11 years and stockpiled ore will be processed for the remaining nine years.

Ore produced from the open pit will be transported to the primary crusher and loaded onto the Doppelmayr Seilbahnen GmbH ropeway aerial conveyor for transportation to the concentrator located 21.7 km northeast of the open pit on tidewater.

“The ropeway aerial conveyor is similar to historic ore tramline systems that are employed in challenging topography where ore surface transportation systems are not topographically and economically favourable,” Greenland Resources said. “The ropeway is expected to generate electrical power for the mine site during the life of the operation.”

The ropeway aerial conveyor discharges ore into a 35,000 t “live” stockpile at the concentrator for processing. The concentrator is of a modular design constructed on barges and transported from an overseas shipyard to the project site where the barges will be permanently located in a dedicated beach location. The 35,000 t/d concentrator modular design was selected based on the economics of offsite construction and reduced concentrate production commission time.

The life of mine average mill feed grade is 0.176% MoS2 at an estimated recovery of 84.6% MoS2.

The concentrator comprises two SAG circuits feeding a conventional multi-stage flotation circuit to produce a molybdenite-rich concentrate. Due to the four-to-six-month ice-free shipping season, concentrate will be inventoried in containers on site during the non-shipping period and shipped to end users when the shipping season commences.

The estimated initial capital for the project is $820 million with $194.4 million of this being set aside for the rope conveyor.

 

Austin wins three-year truck body/bucket support contract from KGHM Sierra Gorda mine

Austin Engineering says it has strengthened its partnership with KGHM’s Sierra Gorda Mining (SGM) by securing a three-year truck body and bucket support contract with the operation in Chile.

Austin said: “Winning the competitive contract exemplifies the high level of confidence SGM has in Austin as their long-term partner of choice to support such critical mining assets.

“Our ongoing transformation from Austin 1.0 to 2.0 and the efficiencies being delivered as a result, was key to improving our South American team, to not only compete, but win such a long-term contract.”

Austin Engineering recently concluded a strategic review of its business that identified opportunities to cut “significant costs from the business while increasing output through adopting more advanced manufacturing techniques”, Austin CEO and Managing Director, David Singleton, said.

The Sierra Gorda copper-molybdenum mine is in the Atacama Desert, in the Antofagasta region, of Chile. It is located at an altitude of around 1,700 m and has a minimum annual average daily ore processing figure of 130,000 t.

Rio Tinto Kennecott to recover tellurium from copper smelting

Rio Tinto is to construct a new plant that will recover tellurium, a critical mineral used in solar panels, from copper refining at its Kennecott mine near Salt Lake City, Utah.

The company is investing $2.9 million to set up the plant, which will recover tellurium as a by-product of copper smelting, extracting a valuable mineral from waste streams. The plant will have a capacity to produce around 20 t/y of tellurium, the miner said.

Rio expects to begin production of tellurium in the December quarter of 2021, creating a new North American supply chain for the critical mineral.

Tellurium is an essential component of cadmium telluride, a semiconductor used to manufacture thin film photovoltaic solar panels. Thin films made of this compound can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, according to the miner. Tellurium can also be used as an additive to steel and copper to improve machinability, making these metals easier to cut. It can also be added to lead to increase resistance to sulphuric acid, vibration and fatigue.

Rio Tinto Kennecott Managing Director, Gaby Poirier, said: “The minerals and metals we produce are essential to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Adding tellurium to our product portfolio provides customers in North America with a secure and reliable source of tellurium produced at the highest environmental and labour standards with renewable energy. Rio Tinto is committed to using innovation to reduce waste in our production process and extract as much value as possible from the material that we mine and process.”

Utah Governor, Spencer Cox, said: “With abundant natural resources, Utah is ideally positioned to help supply the critical minerals essential to maintain American manufacturing competitiveness. Rio Tinto’s smelter at Kennecott is one of only two that is capable of producing copper and other critical minerals. The new tellurium plant is another valuable contribution to critical mineral independence and energy security in the US”

Along with producing almost 20% of US copper, Kennecott’s smelting process also recovers gold, silver, lead carbonate, platinum, palladium and selenium, while molybdenum is recovered from the Copperton concentrator. In total, nine products are currently recovered from the ore extracted at Kennecott.

Rio Tinto is a partner with the US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) and works closely with CMI experts to discover further ways to economically recover critical mineral by-products such as rhenium, tellurium and lithium. The company is also investing in new facilities to extract battery-grade lithium from waste rock at its Boron, California mine site and high quality scandium oxide from waste streams at its metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

Almonty aims for ‘carbon neutrality’ at Sandong molybdenum mine

Almonty Industries is expanding its current environmental, social and governance (ESG) program at its Panasqueira mine in Portugal and at its Sangdong project (pictured) in South Korea, with the former set to receive a solar facility in the next 12 months and the latter eying up the use of underground electric fleets.

The solar project at Panasqueira, a tungsten mine, will see a 2.52 MW installation implemented over the next 12 months to produce 4.1 million kWh/y of renewable energy, which represents 21.5% of power consumption at the mine.

At the Sangdong tungsten mine, a third-party report will be concluded over the next three months to analyse the asset’s carbon footprint and how best to minimise it. Given the energy from the grid supplied to the Sangdong project is 100% renewable, the company says it has a “unique opportunity” to push towards carbon neutrality at the Korea site. The underground mine is currently under construction.

Lewis Black, Chairman, President and CEO of Almonty, said: “As we transition into the wider financial ETF markets of Asia and Australia, and our visibility continues to increase as a significant producer of the strategic metals of tungsten and molybdenum once Sangdong and Almonty Korea Moly opens, it has become increasingly important to ensure that we are continually reviewing and developing our ESG which sits perfectly in line with the equator principles around which the Sangdong project is being built.”

He added: “The aim for carbon neutrality at Sangdong is potentially achievable once underground electric fleets can maintain a charge for an entire shift, which is estimated to be technically possible within the next 18 months, but we are extremely fortunate that 100% of our energy comes from a renewable source making the target of carbon neutrality achievable.”

Taseko Mines’ Gibraltar operation honoured at BC Mine Reclamation Awards

Taseko Mines’s Gibraltar copper-molybdenum operation has been awarded the prestigious Jake McDonald Annual Award for Metal Mine Reclamation from the British Columbia Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation (TRCR).

TRCR’s annual BC Mine Reclamation Awards, which recognises outstanding achievement in mine reclamation in British Columbia, was held on September 23, 2020.

The aim of Gibraltar’s reclamation research program is continual improvement by identifying and introducing leading-edge ideas within the field of environmental science in mine reclamation, it says. With this goal in mind, projects at Gibraltar include:

  • Sampling of salmon from the Fraser River in partnerships with the Xatśūll First Nations and the North Shuswap Tribal Council to provide information to local Indigenous communities regarding the safety of consuming salmon captured at traditional fishing sites;
  • Studying and using innovative technologies to determine how reclamation activities promote the development and recovery of biological communities; and
  • Supporting BCIT, SFU, and Mitacs master’s students in a trial research program to expedite the development of soil microbial crust, specifically at the tailings storage facility.

Stuart McDonald, President of Taseko, said: “The Jake McDonald Award is the top mine reclamation award in British Columbia, a province that has a large mining industry. This achievement reflects the hard work of many talented people and we are honoured to have been chosen as this year’s recipient. The award adds to our track record of achievement which includes other recognition awards for employee safety and community service.”

Russell Hallbauer, CEO and Director of Taseko, added: “Gibraltar has been operating for nearly 50 years, generating opportunity for people and economic benefit for communities in the Cariboo. The efforts of our Gibraltar employees continue to be rewarded by achievements like this high-profile award. It is gratifying to see their talent and ingenuity being recognised at the highest levels. Gibraltar is proof of mining sustainability in action.

“We would specifically like to acknowledge the local Xatśūll First Nations and the North Shuswap Tribal Council Fisheries Department for their partnership and traditional knowledge in the annual Fraser River salmon sampling program. As well as a thank you to the Xatśūll First Nations reclamation crew, whose participation has contributed to the success of Gibraltar’s reclamation program.”

Xatśūll First Nations Chief, Sheri Sellars, said: “I am proud of the work Xatśūll First Nation community members have done in partnership with Taseko-Gibraltar. The fish sampling program and the reclamation work have been award-winning successes. Our members have also benefitted from employment opportunities and educational initiatives which stem from our relationship with Gibraltar.”

Taseko, the 75% owner of Gibraltar, restarted the operation in 2004. It is the second largest open-pit copper mine in Canada and the largest employer in the Cariboo region, according to the company.

Antofagasta responds to environmental concerns with new Los Pelambres copper mine plan

Antofagasta Minerals is preparing to submit an investment proposal for its Los Pelambres mine in Chile that could see it stop using water from the Choapa River and nearby wells, and to use mainly seawater from 2025.

In this way, MLP will be able to guarantee the availability of water for its operations and advance its studies into extending its operations beyond 2035, when its current environmental permits expire, it said.

The submission to the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA) also considers Minera Los Pelambres (MLP), the operating entity, building a new concentrate transportation system with modern control systems, routed away from the most populated areas. This will allow maintenance to be carried out without interfering with the daily life of the surrounding communities.

The 60%-owned mine produced 363,400 t of copper in 2019, alongside 11,200 t of molybdenum and 59,700 oz of gold.

Iván Arriagada, CEO of Antofagasta Minerals, said: “We are going to invest in works that allow us to adapt our operation to the changes that have occurred in the Choapa province and the region over the last 20 years as a result of the prolonged drought caused by climate change and the increase in its population and productive activity.

“This is a key step in the future of Los Pelambres.”

Arriagada added: “We have a long-term strategic vision to extend the life of the operations while ensuring its continued coexistence with other productive activities in the province of Choapa. We are particularly interested in taking care of natural resources that are scarce today, such as water, and continuing to reduce our potential impact on the environment.”

This new stage of the company’s development, called Los Pelambres Futuro, also includes the contribution of the Los Pelambres Expansion project, which was 36% complete as at the end of June. A significant part of the work on the project was stopped as a result of COVID-19 and construction is now restarting in stages.

“We want to make minor adjustments to the design of the expansion project, which is already under construction, to facilitate the future expansion of the desalination plant,” Arriagada said. “In this way, there we will be less impact on the environment.”

It is estimated that the Operational Adaptation Investment (OAI) will be submitted to the SEIA in the first half of 2021. Its execution could begin in 2023, creating up to 2,000 jobs.

The OAI includes the expansion of the 400 litre/s desalination plant, currently being built in Punta Chungo, and the industrial quality desalinated water supply system, to 800 litres/s.

Mauricio Larraín, General Manager of MLP, said: “If our investment proposal is approved, in the coming years we could stop extracting water from the Choapa River and nearby wells, and more than 95% of the water used by Los Pelambres will either come from the sea or will be recirculated water.”

This plan could see MLP become the first mining company in the central zone of Chile to operate predominantly with seawater.

“The decision to use desalinated water is an idea that arose from dialogue with nearby communities and authorities and seemed to us to be the best way that we could contribute to easing the water scarcity challenges in this part of the country that affects us all,” Larraín said.

The company, which currently has environmental permits to extract water from the Choapa River until 2035, has worked for years with its neighbours and the authorities on the water management of the Choapa Valley. This work will continue in the future with the objective of promoting the sustainable use of the available water and strengthening the Rural Drinking Water systems for human consumption, the company said.

Lastly, the Environmental Impact Study will include some continuity and maintenance works for the tailings system. These works are already included in the Environmental Qualification Resolution (RCA) 38/2004 and consist of works on the north and south contour channels, repositioning pipes and other works.

Arriagada concluded: “This set of initiatives will require very significant investment in the province of Choapa over the next 10 years, close to $1 billion, and will also generate a significant number of jobs. It will also contribute towards helping the region and the country overcome the social and economic crisis generated by COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

Alaska Peninsula Corp signs up for Pebble transportation contract

Northern Dynasty Minerals’ wholly-owned US-based subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop a consortium of Alaska Native village corporations as a major transportation contractor for the Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum project.

The MoU, signed this week with Alaska Peninsula Corporation (APC), positions APC to lead the development of a consortium of Alaska Native village corporations with land holdings along Pebble’s 82 mile (131 km) access route north of Lake Iliamna.

Once formalised, the consortium will provide various services to the future Pebble mine, with the contracts expected to exceed $20 million in value each year, according to Northern Dynasty.

The Pebble Partnership said the consortium would operate all related logistics for the project related to the proposed northern transportation corridor.

This would include managing port operations, maintaining the access road between the Pebble port and the Pebble mine site, and providing trucking and other logistics services between the two.

“The operation of this logistics chain is critical to the successful development of the Pebble project and this MoU is evidence of the strong support these village corporations have provided to Pebble over the past few years,” the Pebble Partnership said.

Ron Thiessen, Northern Dynasty President & CEO, said: “It has always been a core commitment of ours and the Pebble Partnership’s that this project benefit local communities and local people.

“As we move toward a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) this month and a Record of Decision later this summer, we are rolling out a series of programs and announcements to bring that commitment to life.”

Thiessen said the lead federal agency for Pebble’s permitting process, the US Army Corps of Engineers, has now signalled the Final EIS will be published later this month.

In the run-up to this milestone, the Pebble Partnership has announced the Pebble Performance Dividend initiative to distribute a 3% net profit royalty interest in the future Pebble mine to full-time residents of Bristol Bay, the initiation of a public consultation process for power sharing in the region, and now the formation of a major local contracting consortium.

Other benefits Pebble is expected to generate for the people of Bristol Bay and Alaska, according to Northern Dynasty, include:

  • Between 850-1,000 full-time, direct high-wage jobs and as many as 2,000 total jobs;
  • Up to $400 million annually in mine expenditures;
  • More than $50 million annually in state government revenues; and
  • Up to $20 million annually in revenues for the Lake & Peninsula Borough.

The PLP’s current plan for Pebble is to establish a 20-year open-pit operation with a circa-63 Mt/y average mining rate and a 163,260 t/d processing plant. This could lead to annual production of 555,991 t of copper-gold concentrate and 13,605 t of molybdenum concentrate.