Tag Archives: nickel

ERM on executing the mining sector’s sustainability strategies

With sustainability close to the number one topic shaping the business landscape, the mining industry faces perhaps more scrutiny today than ever before. From stakeholder engagement to employee welfare and the emissions generated from using mined commodities, there is a spectrum of issues on which mining companies are judged. Not just by traditional critics such as NGOs, but increasingly by policymakers, investors and consumers themselves.

As a result, mining companies are seeking the advice of consultants that live and breathe environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to adapt to this evolving backdrop (see the mining consultants focus in IM October 2021 for more on this).

In this regard, they don’t come much bigger than ERM, which calls itself the largest global pure play sustainability consultancy. With a remit that goes into strategic, operational and tactical challenges, the company’s services have been in serious demand of late.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead; Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead; Peter Rawlings, Low Carbon Economy Transition Lead; and Geraint Bowden, Regional Client Director – Mining, were happy to go into some detail about how the company is serving the industry across multiple disciplines.

In demand

According to the four, there is increasing demand for services from miners interested in energy/battery minerals (lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, platinum, palladium and rhodium (PGMs)) on the back of rising numbers of new mines coming onto the scene, “shorter supply chains to customers”, the perceived need to secure domestic supply of these minerals, and requirements of “evidence of responsibly-produced certifications from industry organisations such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)”.

Such trends have been underwritten by a shift in both the requirements and considerations around the extraction of these minerals, according to Molyneux.

“In the last five to seven years, the main ESG incentives for change have come from access to capital (ie investor ESG preferences, especially in relation to catastrophic incidents),” he said.

“Over the last three years, we have seen a strong rise in expectations from downstream customers, particularly leading brands.”

Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead

Automotive original equipment manufacturers like BMW and Daimler are placing sustainability at the centre of their brands, according to ERM. Their initial focus has been on ‘net-zero’ driving/electrification – and they have made progress on this with several major electric car launches. They then shifted to examining the carbon emissions and ESG, or responsible practices, of tier-one and tier-two component manufacturers. The last step has been a full analysis of the ESG credentials of input materials right back to source, ie the mine.

“We see a shift from the historic lens of customers managing supply risk by sourcing from organisations which ‘do little/no harm’ (eg human rights compliance, catastrophic incident avoidance) to supply partners that can contribute to the ‘do net good’ or ‘create value for all stakeholders’ (ie communities, workforce, nature positive),” Pearce said.

Such a shift has resulted in more clients considering “circular thinking” in their operational strategy, as well as carrying out risk reviews and transformation projects focused on a company’s social or cultural heritage. Tied to this, these same companies have been evaluating their water use, biodiversity requirements and, of course, decarbonisation efforts.

It is the latter on which the steel raw materials companies predominantly have been looking for advice, according to ERM.

The focus has been on ‘green’ iron ore, low-carbon steel and ‘circular’ steel, according to Molyneux and Bowden, with ERM providing input on how companies in this supply chain can integrate sustainability into their strategy and operations.

On the thermal coal side, meanwhile, it is a very different type of ERM service in demand: mine retirements, closure/local/regional regeneration transitions and responsible disposals.

Delivering on decarbonisation

The mining industry decarbonisation targets have come thick and fast in the last 18-24 months, with the latest announcement from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) seeing all 28 mining and metals members sign up to a goal of net zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 or sooner, in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

Many have gone further than Scope 1 (direct emissions from owned or controlled sources) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company) emissions, looking at including Scope 3 (all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain) targets.

Fortescue Metals Group, this month, announced what it said is an industry-leading target to achieve net zero Scope 3 emissions by 2040, for example.

These are essential goals – and ones that all interested parties are calling for – in order to deliver on the Paris Agreement, yet many miners are not yet in the position to deliver on them, according to Pearce, Molyneux, Rawlings and Bowden.

“Miners need to look at decarbonisation at a holistic level across their operations and value chain, and cannot just delegate the net zero requirements to individual assets,” Rawlings said. “The solutions needed require investment and are often at a scale well beyond individual assets/sites.”

Much of this decarbonisation effort mirrors other industries, with the use of alternative fuels for plant and equipment, accessing renewable electricity supplies, etc, they said.

Process-specific activities can present challenges and is where innovation is required.

“These hard to abate areas are where a lot of efforts are currently focused,” Rawlings said.

Tied into this discussion is the allowance and estimates made for carbon.

There has been anecdotal evidence of miners taking account of carbon in annual and technical reports – a recent standout example being OZ Minerals inclusion of a carbon price in determining the valuation of its Prominent Hill shaft expansion project in South Australia – but there is no current legislation in place.

“We are seeing a broad spectrum of price and sophistication (targeted audience, knowledge level), but it is an active board level discussion for most clients,” Bowden said on this subject. “Most clients view this as market-driven requirements as opposed to a voluntary disclosure.”

This has been driven, in part, from the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, which many miners – including all the majors – are aligning their reporting with.

Some clients are also looking into scenarios to work around carbon regimes such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which proposes a carbon-based levy on imports of specific products.

Having acquired several companies in recent months focused on the low carbon economy transition – such as E4tech, Element Energy and RCG – ERM feels best placed to provide the technical expertise and experience to deliver the sustainable energy solutions miners require to decarbonise their operations.

“With these companies, combined with ERM’s expertise, it means we can support clients on the decarbonisation journeys from the initial strategy and ambition development through to implementation and delivery of their roadmaps,” Rawlings said. “We can support clients from boots to boardroom as they assess decarbonisation options and technologies; help them understand the financial, policy and practical aspects linked to deployment of solutions; and access the financing necessary to support deployment.”

ESG dilemmas

There is more to this evolving backdrop than setting and meeting ambitious environmental goals, yet, in ERM’s experience, the advice provided by consultants – and requested by miners – has historically been focused on individual ESG domains.

“This has often been driven by their realisation that their (miner’s) in-house policies and standards require updating,” Pearce said.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead

A siloed or disaggregated approach to ESG strategy development often reduces risk, but rarely generates value for the enterprise at hand, according to Pearce.

“What we have learned is that in order for organisations to create value, they need to focus on value drivers for the corporation,” she said. “These value levers are typically influenced by an integrated suite of ESG dimensions. For example, this could be looking at carbon emissions, connected with water use and nature, connected with local socio-economic development.”

“Sustainability and ESG are about understanding the inter-relationships between our social, natural and economic environments over the longer term. It cannot be about addressing one topic at a time or responding to the loudest voices.”

This is where ERM’s ‘second-generation’ ESG advice, which is driven by data and opportunities to create value as well as manage risk, is fit for the task.

“We are also finding that, at its heart, the central issue to second-generation ESG performance delivery/improvement for our clients is not just the strategy, but a willingness of organisations to reflect on their core values, how these have driven their traditional approaches and decisions and how they will need to evolve these if they want to achieve a genuine brand and reputation for ESG and achieve impact on the value drivers they have selected,” she added.

Such thinking is proving definitive in ERM’s mining sector mergers and acquisition due diligence.

“We have multiple experiences where clients have asked us to carry out an ESG review of a target portfolio, only to find that there is too great a gap between the target’s ESG asset footprint to align them with the client’s standard – or, that the carbon, water, closure or tailings profile of the target carries a too high-risk profile,” Molyneux said.

This is presenting clients with a dilemma as they want to increase their exposure to certain minerals, but are, in some instances, finding M&A is a too high-risk route. At the same time, the lead time to find and develop their own new assets is longer than they would wish for building market share.

Such a market dynamic opens the door for juniors looking for assets early in their lifecycles, yet it places a high load on the management teams of these companies to think strategically about the ESG profile of the asset they are setting the foundations for to eventually appeal to a potential acquirer.

“This is, in itself, a dilemma because, typically, the cash scarcity at the junior stage leads management teams to focus on the immediate technical challenges, sometimes at the cost of also addressing the priority non-technical challenges,” Bowden said.

Those companies who can take a strategic view on the ESG requirements of the future – rooted in a deep understanding of how to deliver change on the ground – will be best placed in such a market, and ERM says it is on hand to provide the tools to develop such an appropriate approach.

(Lead photo credit: @Talaat Bakri, ERM)

Volvo ADTs, excavators hit the ground running at Weda Bay nickel project

At the Weda Bay nickel project in Central Halmahera, Indonesia, a fleet of Volvo articulated haulers and excavators are, the mining OEM says, offering excellent stability on soft ground for safety-conscious mining service contractor Samudera Mulia Abadi, while also delivering high uptime, productivity and fuel efficiency.

Samudera Mulia Abadi, headquartered in Manado, North Sulawesi, is one of Indonesia’s leading service contractors for the mining of gold and other minerals. The privately-owned company specialises in mine preparation – including infrastructure and site establishment, earthwork and land clearing, and project management – as well as excavation, loading and hauling in open-pit mines, and on- and off-road haulage.

The company’s latest endeavour is a five-year contract on a $30 billion project to extract nickel ore and transport it to the smelter at the Weda Bay nickel project in Central Halmahera. The main challenge here is the soft terrain in the pit and on the hauling roads.

“We try to remain efficient in carrying out any work in order to achieve the best return and there is no compromise on safety,” Willson Sastroamijoyo, Commissioner PT Samudera Mulia Abadi, says. “Every line of work must prioritise safety. Given the pit and hauling conditions, Volvo articulated haulers are the perfect choice as our production unit. Volvo excavators are also suitable to handle ore material like this.”

When the project began in August 2020, Samudera Mulia Abadi commissioned a fleet of 17 Volvo articulated haulers (six A40G and 11 A60H models) and 12 Volvo crawler excavators (two EC200D, five EC210D, two EC300DL and three EC480DL models), which will remain on site for as long as possible.

On delivery, dealer Indotruck Utama provided training to Samudera Mulia Abadi’s staff to promote safe operation and help them get the most value out of the machines. Since then, the dealer has continued to carry out refresher training as operator behaviour and safety procedure on site play an important part in increasing safety in eastern Indonesia.

The A60H is the largest Volvo articulated hauler with a 33.6 cu.m body volume and 55,000 kg payload capacity, while the A40G is the third largest, offering a 24 cu.m body volume and 39,000 kg payload capacity. On both models, the matched drivetrain, automatic drive combinations including 100% differential locks, all-terrain bogie, hydro-mechanical steering and active suspension ensure excellent traction and operator comfort on the most difficult terrain.

They are also designed for extreme durability and high fuel efficiency so that operators can reliably move more tonnes per hour at a lower cost, according to Volvo. The Hill Assist, Dump Support System and Rear View Camera, meanwhile, help to minimise the safety risk on site.

The Volvo crawler excavators, ranging from 20 t to 50 t in capacity, likewise offer excellent stability, fast cycle times and low fuel consumption, promoting safe, productive and profitable operation, Volvo said

“Our operators are happy to work with Volvo machines because they are comfortable and user-friendly. The quality, durability and comfort of the products have benefited us in many ways,” Sastroamijoyo says.

Volvo CE says: “Samudera Mulia Abadi works the machines hard – typically up to 22 h/d across two shifts, seven days a week – so machine availability is closely linked with productivity and profitability. It is crucial that they are durable enough to withstand such high utilisation and have simple service and maintenance requirements fulfilled by a responsive and reliable dealer. By always being ready to work, the machines help Samudera Mulia Abadi achieve its tonnes per hour and cost per tonne production targets.”

Because of this, the company has also relied on machinery from Volvo Construction Equipment on several other of its contracts over the last five years, including the Gag Island nickel project in West Papua and the Toka Tindung gold mine project in North Sulawesi.

At these two sites, Samudera Mulia Abadi operates a total of 116 Volvo machines, including 50 A40Fs, 17 A40Gs, five A45Gs and three A60H articulated haulers; one EC200D, eight EC210Bs, five EC210Ds, 12 EC350DLs, six EC480DLs, six EC950ELs crawler excavators; and one SD110 compactor.

“The overall machine performance is good and physical availability is above the target,” Sastroamijoyo says. “Of course, we are aware that the machines experience some occasional downtime, even if they are the toughest. The important thing is our how the dealer responds when these unfortunate situations occur.

“We have a good working relationship with our dealer Indotruck Utama. Their skilled service team speeds up the servicing time, while the consigned parts on site ensure high parts availability. Overall, the performance of the machines and the quality of product support increase our profitability.”

BHP and Tesla to collaborate on battery supply chain sustainability

BHP has agreed to supply Tesla Inc with nickel from its Western Australia operations, in addition to looking at how the two companies can collaborate on ways to make the battery supply chain more sustainable.

The supply agreement will see nickel from BHP’s Nickel West asset in Western Australia, one of the most sustainable and lowest carbon emission nickel producers in the world, BHP says, head to Tesla for use in its electric vehicles and battery storage systems.

BHP Chief Commercial Officer, Vandita Pant, said: “Demand for nickel in batteries is estimated to grow by over 500% over the next decade, in large part to support the world’s rising demand for electric vehicles.

“We are delighted to sign this agreement with Tesla Inc and to collaborate with them on ways to make the battery supply chain more sustainable through our shared focus on technology and innovation.”

This latter collaboration will focus on end-to-end raw material traceability using blockchain; technical exchange for battery raw materials production; and promotion of the importance of sustainability in the resources sector, including identifying partners most aligned with BHP and Tesla Inc’s principles and battery value chains, BHP said.

BHP will also collaborate with Tesla Inc on energy storage solutions to identify opportunities to lower carbon emissions in their respective operations through increased use of renewable energy paired with battery storage, it added.

BHP Minerals Australia President, Edgar Basto, said: “BHP produces some of the lowest carbon intensity nickel in the world, and we are on the pathway to net zero at our operations. Sustainable, reliable production of quality nickel will be essential to meeting demand from sustainable energy producers like Tesla Inc.

“The investments we have made in our assets and our pursuit of commodities like nickel will help support global decarbonisation and position us to generate long-term value for our business.”

Ivanplats to trial Epiroc battery-electric drills and LHDs at Platreef mine

Epiroc says it has won a significant order for battery-electric mining equipment from Ivanplats that will be used to develop its greenfield Platreef mine in South Africa in the “most sustainable and productive manner possible”.

Ivanplats, a subsidiary of Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines, has ordered several Boomer M2 Battery face drill rigs and Scooptram ST14 Battery LHDs (pictured).

These machines will be trialled during the Platreef underground mine’s initial development phase, Epiroc said, adding that Ivanplats has the ambition to use all battery-electric vehicles in its mining fleet at Platreef.

The order exceeds ZAR150 million ($10.2 million) in value and was booked in the June quarter of 2021.

Ivanhoe indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats. The South Africa beneficiaries of the approved broad-based, black economic empowerment structure have a 26% stake in the project, with the remaining 10% owned by a Japanese consortium of ITOCHU Corporation, Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, and Japan Gas Corporation.

The Platreef 2020 feasibility study builds on the results of the 2017 feasibility study and is based on an unchanged mineral reserve of 125 Mt at 4.4 g/t 3PGE+Au, project designs for mining, and plant and infrastructure as in the 2017 study; except with an increased production rate from 4 Mt/y to 4.4 Mt/y, in two modules of 2.2 Mt/y, for annual production of more than 500,000 oz of palladium, platinum, rhodium and gold; plus more than 35 MIb of nickel and copper.

The initial plan is to start at a mining rate of 700,000 t/y before scaling up. An updated feasibility study on the plan is expected to be published before the end of the year.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said it was “encouraging” that Ivanplats is considering going all battery-electric at Platreef.

“Battery-electric equipment is increasingly embraced by mining companies as it provides a healthier work environment, lower total operating costs and higher productivity,” she said. “The technology is now well established, and Epiroc is driving this change toward emissions-free mining.”

Marna Cloete, Ivanhoe Mines’ President and CFO, said: “We want to be at the forefront of utilising battery electric, zero-emission equipment at all of our mining operations. This partnership with Epiroc for emissions-free mining equipment at the Platreef Mine is an important first step towards achieving our net-zero carbon emissions goals while mining metals required for a cleaner environment.”

Boomer M2 Battery face drill rigs and Scooptram ST14 Battery loaders are built in Sweden, and are automation-ready and equipped with Epiroc’s telematics solution Certiq.

The equipment will be delivered early to Platreef in 2022. Epiroc will also provide on-site operator and maintenance training to Ivanplats, it said.

Epiroc intends to offer its complete fleet of underground mining equipment as battery-electric versions by 2025, and its full fleet for surface operations as battery-powered versions by 2030.

Perenti’s Barminco seals Savannah nickel project contract

Perenti Global’s hard-rock underground mining subsidiary, Barminco, has finalised a contract with Panoramic Resources for development and production works at the Savannah nickel project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The finalised contract represents a value of around A$280 million ($208 million) over a four-year contract term, Perenti said.

Under the terms of the initial letter of intent, announced on the April 6, 2021, Barminco commenced mobilisation and early mining works ahead of the schedule. With finalisation of the contract, Barminco expects development and production works will ramp-up over the coming six months to achieve full run rate of revenue early in the March quarter of 2022.

The contract will be serviced by new underground mining equipment including the use of tele-remote mining equipment, expected to deliver both safety and productivity benefits, Panoramic said.

Ore processing at Savannah is scheduled to begin in November with first concentrate shipment from Savannah targeted for the following month, Panoramic said. The building of an ore stockpile on the surface has already commenced and the company plans for this to reach 100,000 t prior to turning on the processing plant.

Perenti’s Managing Director and CEO, Mark Norwell, said: “We look forward to working together with the team at Panoramic to develop what we all expect will be Australia’s next long-life nickel producing mine. Despite the challenging labour market conditions in Western Australia, we have been successful in mobilising a labour force of approximately 110 highly skilled underground employees. We expect this to increase to 170 as the project ramps up. Securing this labour force has enabled us to commence early works ahead of schedule.”

Savannah has outlined a 12-year mine life with an average annual production target of 9,072 t of nickel, 4,683 t of copper and 676 t cobalt in concentrate. The mine is set to operate at average site all-in costs of A$6.36/lb of payable nickel, net of copper and cobalt by-product credits and royalty payments. This equates to roughly $4.86/Ib or $10,714/t.

The operation, with more than A$100 million already invested, has been maintained since the suspension of operations in April 2020 with a view towards operational readiness and project optimisation. This includes the recent completion of the FAR#3 ventilation raise, underground capital development on four mining levels at Savannah North and ancillary capital works on surface and underground infrastructure, which are currently being completed, Panoramic says.

OZ Minerals wades into uncharted renewables territory at West Musgrave

You do not get much more remote than OZ Minerals’ West Musgrave copper-nickel project. Located in the Ngaanyatjarra Aboriginal Lands of central Western Australia, it is some 1,300 km northeast of Perth and 1,400 km northwest of Adelaide; near the intersection of the borders between Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The nearest towns include the Indigenous Communities of Jameson (Mantamaru), 26 km north; Blackstone (Papulankutja), 50 km east; and Warburton (Milyirrtjarra), 110 km west.

This makes the company’s ambition of developing a mine able to produce circa-32,000 t/y of copper and around 26,000 t/y of nickel in concentrates that leverages 100% renewable generation and can conduct ‘zero carbon mining’ even bolder.

OZ Minerals is not taking this challenge on by itself. In addition to multiple consultants and engineering companies engaged in a feasibility study, the company has enlisted the help of ENGIE Impact, the consulting arm of multinational electric utility company ENGIE, to come up with a roadmap that could see it employ renewable technologies to reach its zero ambitions.

“We’re providing an understanding of how they could decarbonise the mine to achieve a net zero end game,” Joshua Martin, Senior Director, Sustainability Solutions APAC, told IM.

While ENGIE Impact is focused solely on the energy requirements side of the equation at West Musgrave, its input will prove crucial to the ultimate sustainability success at West Musgrave.

Having worked with others in the mining space such as Vale’s New Caledonia operations (recently sold to the Prony Resources New Caledonia consortium), Martin says OZ Minerals is being “pretty ambitious” when it comes to decarbonisation.

“Our job is to assess if the renewable base case stacks up for West Musgrave, create multiple decarbonisation pathways for their consideration and look at what technology should be adopted to achieve their overall aims,” he said.

This latter element is particularly important for an off-grid project like West Musgrave, which is unlikely to start producing until around mid-2025 should a positive investment decision follow the upcoming feasibility study.

While solar, wind and battery back-up are all likely to play a role in the power plans at West Musgrave – technologies that are frequently factored into hybrid projects looking to wean themselves off diesel or heavy fuel oil use – more emerging technologies are likely to be factored into a roadmap towards 100% renewable adoption.

“We are developing a series of roadmaps that factor in where we think technologies will be in the future,” Martin said. “These roadmaps come with a series of decision gates where the company will need to take one option at that point in time if they are to pursue that particular decarbonisation pathway.”

These roadmaps utilise ENGIE Impact’s consulting and engineering nous, as well as the consultancy’s PROSUMER software (screenshot below) that is used on any asset-level decarbonisation project roadmap, according to Martin.

“This software was specifically built for that purpose,” Martin said. “There is nothing on the market like this.”

Progress at PFS level

OZ Minerals’ December 2020 prefeasibility study update went some way to mapping out its decarbonisation ambition for West Musgrave, with a 50 MW Power Purchase Agreement that involved hybrid renewables (wind, solar, battery, plus diesel or gas).

The company said in this study: “Modelling has demonstrated that circa 70-80% renewables penetration can be achieved for the site, with the current modelled to be an optimised mix of wind, solar and diesel supported by a battery installation.”

OZ Minerals said there was considerable upside in power cost through matching plant power demand with the availability of renewable supply (load scheduling), haulage electrification to maximise the proportion of renewable energy used, and the continued improvement in the efficiency of renewable energy solutions.

ENGIE Impact’s view on hydrogen and electric haulage in the pit may be considered here, complemented by the preliminary results coming out of the Electric Mine Consortium, a collaborative mine electrification project OZ Minerals is taking part in with other miners such as Evolution Mining, South32, Gold Fields and IGO. And, on the non-electric pathway, ENGIE Impact’s opinion is being informed by a study it is undertaking in collaboration with Anglo American on developing a “hydrogen valley” in South Africa.

If OZ Minerals’ early technology views are anything to go by, it is willing to take some risk when it comes to adopting new technology.

The preliminary flowsheet in the prefeasibility study factored in a significant reduction in carbon emissions and power demand through the adoption of vertical roller mills (VRMs) as the grinding mill solution, and a flotation component that achieves metal recovery at a much coarser grind size than was previously considered in the design.

Loesche is working with OZ Minerals on the VRM side, and Woodgrove’s Direct Flotation Reactors got a shout out in the process flowsheet.

While mining at West Musgrave is modelled to be conventional drill, blast, load and haul, the haulage fleet will comprise up to 25, 220 t haul trucks, with optionality being maintained to allow for these trucks to be fully autonomous in the future, OZ Minerals said.

‘True’ zero miners

OZ Minerals is aware of the statement it would make to industry if it were to power all this technology from renewable sources.

“With a future focus on developing a roadmap to 100% renewable generation, and reducing dependency upon fossil fuels over time, West Musgrave will become one of the largest fully off-grid, renewable powered mines in the world,” it said in the updated PFS. “The solution would result in the avoidance of in excess of 220,000 tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide emissions compared to a fully diesel-powered operation.”

The company’s Hybrid Energy Plant at Carrapateena in South Australia, whose initial setup includes solar PV, battery storage, diesel generation and a micro-grid controller, will provide a test case for this. This is a “unique facility designed to host experiments on how various equipment and energy technologies interact on an operating mine site”, the company says.

Martin and ENGIE Impact agree OZ Minerals is one of many forward-thinking mining companies striving for zero operations with a serious decarbonisation plan.

“The mining projects we are working on are all looking to achieve ‘true’ net zero operations, factoring in no offsets,” he said. “Having said that, I wouldn’t say the use of offsets is an ‘easy out’ for these companies. They can form part of the decarbonisation equation when they have a specific purpose, for instance, in trying to support indigenous communities.”

These industry leaders would do well to communicate with each other on their renewable ambitions, according to Martin. Such collaboration can help them all achieve their goals collectively, as opposed to individually. The coming together of BHP, Rio Tinto, Vale, Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden and Thiess for the ‘Charge on Innovation Challenge’ is a good example of this, where the patrons are pooling resources to come up with workable solutions for faster charging of large surface electric mining trucks.

“In the Pilbara, for example, there is a real opportunity to create a decarbonisation masterplan that seeks to capitalise on economies of scale,” he said. “If all the companies work towards that end goal collaboratively, they could achieve it much faster and at a much lower cost than if they go it alone.”

When it comes to OZ Minerals, the miner is clearly open to collaboration, whether it be with ENGIE Impact on decarbonisation, The Electric Mine Consortium with its fellow miners, the recently opened Hybrid Energy Plant at Carrapateena, the EU-funded NEXGEN SIMS project to develop autonomous, carbon-neutral mining processes, or through its various crowd sourcing challenges.

Canada Nickel’s Crawford mine could be low carbon nickel leader, Skarn says

Canada Nickel Company, following an assessment from metals and mining ESG research company, Skarn Associates, claims its Crawford project in Ontario, Canada, could have an industry leading low carbon footprint, lower than 99.7% of existing global nickel production.

When in operation, Crawford is expected to produce 2.05 t of carbon dioxide (CO2) per tonne of nickel-equivalent production over the life of mine, which is 93% lower than the industry average of 29 tonnes of CO2, it said.

These results are based on a study by Skarn Associates, applying data from Canada Nickel’s preliminary economic assessment (PEA), the results of which were released on May 25, 2021. This study from Ausenco estimated annual average nickel production of 34,000 t over a 25-year life of mine, use of autonomous trolley trucks and electric shovels to reduce diesel use by 40%, and optimisation of the carbon sequestration potential of the tailings and waste rock. A feasibility study on the project is expected to be completed by mid-2022.

On the Skarn study, Canada Nickel said: “Importantly, this CO2 footprint estimate does not include the carbon offset expected to be provided from the process of spontaneous mineral carbonation from the tailings and waste rock comprised largely of serpentine rock which naturally absorbs CO2 when exposed to air.”

Mark Selby, Chair & CEO of the company, said: “This study demonstrates that Canada Nickel’s Crawford project can be a world-leading large scale, low cost nickel supplier while possessing an extremely low carbon footprint. I am particularly excited that we can achieve this result even before we include the carbon offset potential from our waste rock and tailings which we expect to allow us to produce NetZero NickelTM, NetZero CobaltTM, and NetZero IronTM.

“These results reflect the mine’s low strip ratio and our ability to utilise the low carbon hydroelectricity in the region and by using trolley trucks and electric shovels to reduce the consumption of diesel fuel.”

Skarn Associates’ proprietary E0 GHG intensity metric relates to Scope 1 and 2 mine site emissions from mining and processing of ore, plus fugitive emissions. It includes emissions from integrated smelting and refining facilities, but excludes emissions from third-party smelting and refining, Canada Nickel explained.

Emission intensities are stated on a recovered nickel-equivalent basis, calculated using average 2020 metal prices. Emissions are pro-rated across all commodities produced by the mine, based on contribution to gross revenue.

Panoramic, Primero and Barminco get to work on restarting Savannah nickel operation

Panoramic Resources Ltd, after a 12-month review process, has approved the restart of the Savannah Nickel Operation, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The decision hinges on a 12-year mine life with an average annual production target of 9,072 t of nickel, 4,683 t of copper and 676 t cobalt in concentrate; as well as an offtake agreement with Trafigura that will also see the trading company provide a loan facility of up to A$45 million to cover the A$41 million of upfront capital cost required to restart the mine.

Savannah is set to operate at average site all-in costs of A$6.36/lb of payable nickel, net of copper and cobalt by-product credits and royalty payments. This equates to roughly $4.86/Ib or $10,714/t.

Savannah, with more than A$100 million already invested, has been maintained since the suspension of operations in April 2020 with a view towards operational readiness and project optimisation. This includes the recent completion of the FAR#3 ventilation raise, underground capital development on four mining levels at Savannah North and ancillary capital works on surface and underground infrastructure, which are currently being completed, Panoramic said.

The restart decision has led to divisions of Perenti and NRW Holdings being awarded significant contracts related to the resumption of mining activities.

Barminco, a subsidiary of the Perenti Group, has been awarded a four-year underground mining contract under a binding letter of intent and is scheduled to mobilise to site in July 2021. The contract will be serviced by new underground mining equipment including the use of tele-remote mining equipment, expected to deliver both safety and productivity benefits, Panoramic said.

The contractor was formally awarded the A$200 million contract back in February.

“Based on Barminco’s previous working knowledge at Savannah, opportunities to increase ore production and reduce dilution have also been identified,” the company added, explaining that underground mining is planned to commence in August, with ore to initially be sourced from both the Savannah and the Savannah North deposits.

Following an evaluation of an owner-operator model for the processing plant and a competitive contract tender process, Panoramic has also signed a non-binding letter of intent worth A$35 million with Primero (owned by NRW Holdings), which envisages a three-year agreement. The agreement relates to all processing and maintenance work at the Savannah processing plant, which has been maintained in “excellent condition” during the suspension, Panoramic said.

“A number of opportunities for improved recoveries through enhanced operating practices and minor capital projects have been identified,” the company added. As a result, the non-binding letter of intent with Primero has been structured to incentivise achieving higher than budget recoveries.

Panoramic is working with Primero to complete a binding contract in the coming months, but ore processing is set to restart in November 2021, allowing ore stockpiles to build for around three months (100,000 t) to de-risk ore supply issues.

The process plant at Savannah was commissioned in August 2004 and comprises a single stage crusher, SAG mill, flotation, thickening and filtering stages to produce a bulk nickel, copper, cobalt concentrate. Over the 2004 to 2016 initial operating period, metallurgical recoveries averaged 86-89% for nickel, 94-97% for copper and 89-92% for cobalt. The plant was originally designed for a throughput of 750,000 t/y, but consistently outperformed the design specifications with rates exceeding 1 Mt on an annualised basis, Panoramic said.

First concentrate shipment from the Wyndham Port is targeted for December 2021.

Vale sells New Caledonia nickel-cobalt operations to consortium

Vale confirms that its Vale Canada Limited subsidiary has concluded the sale of its ownership interest in Vale Nouvelle-Calédonie SAS (VNC) to the Prony Resources New Caledonia consortium.

The consortium of investors, including Trafigura, comprises a majority and non-dilutable shareholding for New Caledonian interests, Vale said.

Eduardo Bartolomeo, CEO of Vale, said: “After several months of negotiations, I am pleased that we concluded our divestment of VNC, benefitting employees, New Caledonia and all its stakeholders. Vale is fully committed to this transaction. It meets the guarantees required at the financial, social and environmental levels and offers a sustainable future for the operations.”

Vale’s intent from the beginning of the divestment process was to withdraw from New Caledonia in an orderly and responsible manner, with the company saying the deal accomplishes that.

Vale previously tried to sell the operations to Australia-based New Century Resources, but the two parties failed to reach an agreement.

The deal provides the former VNC operations with a financial package totaling $1.1 billion, of which Vale Canada Limited is contributing $555 million to support the continuity of the operations. The financing of the “Pact for the Sustainable Development of the Deep South” will also be secured by Vale, it said.

The Pact for Sustainable Development of the Deep South was signed on September 27, 2008, between Vale New Caledonia and communities south of the “Grand” for a period of 30 years. It urges the industry to create and implement specific measures to support the development of the Deep South in a sustainable manner.

In addition to its financial commitment to continue operations, Vale will continue to have the right to a long-term nickel supply agreement for a proportion of the operation’s production, allowing it to, the company says, continue addressing the growing demand for nickel by the electric vehicle industry.

Mark Travers, Executive Vice President for Base Metals with Vale, said: “Along with the continuation of the Pact, the deal also allows the Lucy Project for dry storage of tailings to proceed. We want to acknowledge the time and effort of all stakeholders to achieving this deal, including the French State, and especially the employees of VNC for their trust and support through a lengthy and uncertain process.”

VNC is a producer of nickel and cobalt from the Goro mine. It also has a processing plant and a port.

Nickel 28 claims industry ‘first’ carbon neutral status

Nickel 28 Capital Corp has become what it believes is the first carbon neutral refined nickel-cobalt producer in the world through a transaction involving the purchase of 52,500 carbon offsets on the Verra Registry.

The carbon offsets will, it says, fully offset Nickel 28’s anticipated 2021 attributable greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Ramu integrated nickel-cobalt mine and refinery in Papua New Guinea (pictured), an asset it owns 8.56% of.

Anthony Milewski, Chairman of Nickel 28, said: “We are incredibly excited to be one of the first, if not the first, producers of refined nickel and cobalt in the world to fully offset its carbon footprint.

“We feel strongly that each of us has an obligation to do our part personally and professionally to help stave off the negative impacts of climate change. As the world pivots to electric vehicles and other means of decarbonisation, it is imperative that the critical basic materials fuelling the transition have the minimum possible impact on the environment.”

On February 9, Nickel 28 announced it had completed an independent analysis on GHG intensity for the Ramu nickel-cobalt operation, confirming the operation is one of the lower GHG emitters in the nickel industry. Ramu’s average GHG intensity has been calculated at 15.6 t of carbon dioxide equivalent per tonne of nickel (15.6 tCO2e/t Ni) in mixed hydroxide product. This compared favourably with a nickel industry average GHG intensity of 36.6 tCO2e/t Ni as calculated by Wood Mackenzie, Nickel 28 said.

The company says it will continue to introduce greater environmental, social and governance transparency with respect to its assets in response to investor and industry trends.

“In addition to GHG emission reporting, Nickel 28 will be providing further clarity with respect to other key measures such as health and safety statistics, community investment, energy and water usage, rehabilitation, and land reclamation,” it said.

Nickel 28 currently holds an 8.56% joint-venture interest in the Ramu operation, with Ramu operated by the Metallurgical Corporation of China, which, along with its partners, owns an 85% interest in Ramu.

Ramu produced 33,659 t of contained nickel in mixed hydroxide product in 2020, compared with 32,722 t in 2019.