Tag Archives: Northern Territory

GR Engineering to tackle surface infrastructure for Tanami Expansion 2

GR Engineering Services Ltd has executed a subcontractor agreement with RUC Cementation Mining Contractors Pty Ltd in relation to work on Newmont’s Tanami gold mine in the Northern Territory of Australia.

RUC has been engaged by Newmont under a head contract to complete certain construction works for the Tanami Expansion 2 project. Included within this is shaft lining, equipment and headframe construction.

The scope of work for which GR Engineering is responsible comprises the construction and commissioning of the temporary and permanent works associated with the surface infrastructure.

Based on the current budget for the scope of work, it is anticipated that revenue from the subcontractor agreement will be approximately A$68 million ($51 million), GR Engineering said. Work is expected to be completed by April 2023.

Back in November, the two companies signed a “teaming agreement” related to the project.

Geoff Jones, Managing Director of GR Engineering, said: “GR Engineering is pleased to have executed this first subcontractor agreement with RUC and we look forward to working with RUC to deliver safe and successful outcomes for Newmont and on other future projects. GR Engineering continues to build its pipeline of work for financial year 2022 and financial year 2023.”

The Tanami Expansion 2 project is expected to increase the annual capacity of the processing site to 3.5 Mt/y, from 2.6 Mt/y, and extend the life of the mine beyond 2040.

Hastings Deering rebuild program pays off for Rio Tinto’s Gove operation

Hastings Deering has been sustain output at Rio Tinto’s Gove bauxite open-pit operation in the Northern Territory of Australia by boosting engine power during the rebuild of dozers.

The Cat D11T dozer is purpose built to move more material and ensure maximum availability through its planned life cycle, the Caterpillar dealer says. For Rio Tinto, Dozer 79, had built up over 37,000 hours ripping and pushing bauxite at its open-pit operation.

Rio Tinto knew it wanted to undergo a Cat Certified Rebuild for its dozer but had to come up with an innovate way to do this while minimising equipment down time, Hastings Deering said.

Brendan Coleing, Superintendent, Mining Maintenance, said the Gove operation has focused heavily on building safe and reliable machinery to meet the targeted life of its assets and maintenance schedules.

“With a 24/7 operation, we need to plan and strategically think about our assets, their maintenance and lifecycle,” he said. “By planning large maintenance projects in advance, at Rio Tinto, we’ve been able to compensate for machinery downtime and achieve some great energy efficiencies.”

One of the key projects that helped to allow for the nine-week Cat Certified Rebuild (CCR) was the D11R repower project.

In early 2020, the Hastings Deering team worked with Rio Tinto on an alternative solution for engine replacement in its D11R fleet that reduced costs, fuel use and emissions while extending lifespans. This incorporated replacing the 3508 engines the machines originally came with, with the newer C32 engines.

“Recent success with repowering our D11 fleet with C32 engines has helped our mining operations move more bauxite due to increased power in the machine,” Coleing states. “This in turn allowed us to remove Dozer 79 out of production, and into the workshop to complete a Cat Certified Rebuild.”

Alongside the increase in machine availability, this project presented a budgeted fuel burn reduction of up to 25%.

“Our like-for-like material movements are now done with significantly less fuel which is a great environmental outcome,” Coleing said. “They’re also quieter, making them a little more comfortable for the operator.”

With Cat equipment built to perform over multiple lifetimes, the CCR was the most efficient way to help get the most economic value out of the original asset investment.

A CCR is a full machine rebuild that provides a like-new machine, inclusive of all Cat updates, to help achieve a full machine life supported by the Caterpillar warranty, Hastings Deering says.

Brad Read, Service Manager at Hastings Deering, said the CCR program is an efficient way for customers to improve the planned lifecycle of their machines.

“Given Dozer 79’s upcoming power train, hydraulic and major component change outs, a CCR was a cost-effective way for us to maintain the asset through to the end of its target life,” he said. “Customers opt for a CCR as it provides the ability to rebuild their machine, including all technological advancements, over purchasing a new machine. This helps to reduce capital expenditure.”

Read said that the CCR offered an extended scope or work over a standard rebuild and took careful planning between the Rio Tinto and Hastings Deering teams.

“The CCR takes up to nine weeks to complete and covers an extended scope of work including power train replacement, hydraulics and electrical components, cab overhaul, work implement overhaul and ET testing and painting,” he said.

“Effective planning is critical to the success of a large-scale project like a CCR. The team needs to ensure all stages of the rebuild have been planned, scheduled and are on time to guarantee machine delivery back to the customer.”

“It is essential to support our customers in their operation.”

By successfully planning the CCR after the success of the C32 repower project, Rio Tinto and Hastings Deering were able to improve the performance of its equipment and compensate for the removal of Dozer 79, Hastings Deering said.

Coleing said: “By undertaking work in this manner, we’ve removed a massive amount of forward log of work that not only gave us immediate availability but provided us with an improved asset through to the end of the machine life.”

RUC Mining set for Newmont Tanami shaft lining and equipping contract

RUC Cementation Mining Contractors says its RUC Mining business has been awarded preferred bidder status for the shaft lining and equipping contract at Newmont’s Tanami Expansion 2 project in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Additionally, Newmont, last week, granted RUC Mining authority to proceed with long lead procurement RFQ process via a short-term contract to progress the works, the contractor said.

Back in November, RUC Cementation Mining Contractors and GR Engineering Services agreed to team up as part of a plan to construct surface infrastructure, as well as complete the shaft lining and equipping, for a proposed hoisting shaft at the Tanami Expansion 2 project. There was no mention of this agreement in the latest news from RUC Cementation.

“RUC Mining is excited to be engaged on the major project with global leader Newmont, the world’s largest gold producer,” it said. “Together we look forward to safely progressing the Tanami Expansion 2 project, delivering long-term value to both Newmont and RUC shareholders.”

Subject to finalisation of agreements, the contract award is expected this month, it said.

The Tanami Expansion 2 project is expected to increase the annual capacity of the processing site to 3.5 Mt/y, from 2.6 Mt/y, and extend the life of the mine beyond 2040.

NRW Holdings bags mining contract at NRR’s Roper Bar iron ore project

NRW Holdings has been awarded the mining contract for Nathan River Resources’ Roper Bar iron ore project in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Roper Bar has a fully integrated ‘pit-to-port’ logistics chain including a privately-owned 171-km paved access road to an existing barge load-out facility and product stockyard, according to NRW.

The project was commissioned in October 2020 with first direct shipping ore (DSO) exports in November. Production ramp-up is nearing completion, with four vessels now completed (around 220,000 t). An offtake agreement exists between Glencore and NRR for the marketing and distribution of iron ore from the project.

This contract award covers the Stage 1 operations at Roper Bar, with production of 4.6 Mt of DSO and 1 Mt of dense media separation production at 1.5-1.8 Mt/y over three years. The contract scope includes drill and blast, load and haul, clearing and grubbing, top-soil and subsoil removal and rehandling of ore stockpiles.

The contract value is circa-A$123 million ($95 million) and has a duration of 33 months. At its peak, there will be around 55 site-based personnel on the project.

NRW’s CEO and Managing Director, Jules Pemberton, said: “NRW is pleased to be involved in the recommencement of the Nathan River mine site and looks forward to its successful execution.”

Alliance extends Newmont Tanami aviation services agreement

Alliance Aviation Services has executed a contract extension with Newmont Mining to continue chartering flights for the miner to the Granites Mine Site in the Northern Territory of Australia from bases in Perth, Darwin and Brisbane.

The three-year agreement servicing Newmont’s Tanami mine in the Northern Territory extends the current contract with the miner until 2024.

“This contract is considered by Alliance to be material as it is forecast to represent between 5% and 7% of revenue in the next 12 months,” the company said.

Alliance has been providing services to Newmont continuously for the last nine years, with Lee Schofield, Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, saying the company is “thrilled” to be continuing this relationship.

“Air charter services to Newmont’s mine site have increased over the last nine years and it is the only site in Australia where we fly into from three different states/territories,” he said.

“This contract extension was won due to the ability of Alliance to continue to operate safe, reliable and cost-effective air charter services for Newmont.”

Newmont says Tanami is a fly-in, fly-out operation in one of Australia’s most remote locations.

MinEx CRC goes under cover in Australia with National Drilling Initiative

MinEx CRC, reportedly the world’s largest mineral exploration collaboration, has successfully completed its first National Drilling Initiative (NDI) campaigns, including a 10-hole, 4,000 m drilling campaign in the East Tennant area of the Northern Territory of Australia, to assess the mineral potential of basement rocks in the region.

While gold has been mined from the Paleoproterozoic rocks around Tennant Creek since the early 1930s, there has been almost no mineral exploration in the covered rocks to the east of Tennant Creek in the 90 years since, according to MinEx CRC.

“The East Tennant drilling campaign was designed to test stratigraphic and structural interpretations and assess the mineral potential of basement rocks to the east of the Tennant Creek mineral field,” MinEx CRC CEO, Andrew Bailey, said. “These basement rocks are under-explored and concealed by hundreds of metres of younger sedimentary rocks.”

The drilling campaign is part of a world-first scientific drilling program, the NDI, designed to understand the evolution of the Australia continent, provide clues about where to search for new mineral deposits and bring forward the next generation of mineral exploration technology, MinEx CRC says.

Included within the NDI campaign was a 1,750m drill hole (known as NDI Carrara 1) at a location near the Northern Territory/Queensland border, around 250 km northwest of Mount Isa. This hole was designed to capture geological and stratigraphic information from a previously unknown sedimentary basin, and to assess the basin for potential to host energy and mineral resources.

In collaboration with Geoscience Australia and geological survey organisations in every state and territory, the NDI will manage and deliver a seven-year program with multiple drilling campaigns spread across Australia.

Results from the drilling program have uncovered a range of igneous and metasedimentary rocks, enabled a better understanding of the structure and stratigraphy of the area and helped to refine pre-drilling interpretations of the region’s prospectivity, according to the collaborative project.

Drilling has also provided pinning points to constrain cover thickness, with prospective basement typically concealed beneath less than 200 m of Georgina Basin sediments and less than 30 m of Cambrian basalt of the Kalkarindji Suite.

Geoscience Australia’s Chief of Minerals, Energy and Groundwater Division, Dr Andrew Heap, said: “We are proud to be a participant of the MinEx CRC through our Exploring for the Future program, which identified the region as a highly-prospective frontier. The drilling results are confirming this view and will support the continued development of the Barkly Region.

“A range of detailed analyses are planned to comprehensively characterise the drill core, which will provide insights into the geological evolution and mineral systems potential of the region. These results will be released throughout 2021.”

Dr Heap added: “Projects like this reveal the geology underneath the vast sedimentary cover that extends across most of Australia and open up frontier regions for exploration and resource discovery. In the future, the new geological knowledge and methods that we’ve used here can be applied in other similar prospective geological terranes across the country.”

Ian Scrimgeour, Executive Director NT Geological Survey, said the East Tennant NDI drill core provides an exciting opportunity to understand the potential of the underexplored Barkly area.

“The range of ancillary datasets that have been acquired during the drilling campaign, coupled with the ongoing research activities on the drill core, will transform the understanding of minerals systems in the region,” he said.

“NTGS is delighted to provide value-add datasets with the acquisition of hyperspectral data and high-resolution imaging of the drill core through our HyLogger instrument.”

The MinEx Cooperative Research Centre was established to:

  • Develop more productive, safer and environmentally friendly drilling methods to discover and drill-out deposits, including coiled tubing drilling technology;
  • Develop new technologies for collecting data while drilling, bringing forward mine production; and
  • Implement an NDI – a world-first collaboration of geological surveys, researchers and industry that will undertake drilling in under-explored areas of potential mineral wealth in Australia.

Monadelphous pockets more WA iron ore, nickel work with Rio and BHP

Engineering company Monadelphous Group says it has secured new construction and maintenance contracts with both Rio Tinto and BHP, with a combined value of around A$60 million ($44 million).

The company has been awarded three three-year master services contracts with Rio Tinto for the delivery of sustaining capital projects across various mine sites and port operations throughout the Pilbara region in Western Australia (stockyard machines at Rio’s West Angelas iron ore operation, pictured), it said.

This work includes structural, mechanical and piping, electrical, instrumentation and controls, and non-process infrastructure projects.

Monadelphous also secured a three-year contract, with a two-year extension option, with Rio Tinto to provide mechanical, electrical and access maintenance services for fixed plant shutdowns at Rio’s Gove alumina operations in the Northern Territory of Australia.

In addition, Monadelphous secured a 12-month extension to its existing mechanical and electrical maintenance, shutdown and project services contract across BHP’s Western Australian nickel operations.

RUC Cementation, GR Engineering plan to collaborate on Tanami Expansion work

RUC Cementation Mining Contractors and GR Engineering Services have agreed to team up as part of a plan to construct surface infrastructure, as well as complete the shaft lining and equipping for a proposed hoisting shaft at the Newmont-owned Tanami Expansion 2 project in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Today, Barry Upton (right), Managing Director of RUC Cementation Mining Contractors, and Geoff Jones (left, next to Rod Schier, Engineering Manager for GR Engineering), Managing Director of GR Engineering Services, signed this “Teaming Agreement”.

The surface infrastructure component the two plan to work on includes winders, headframe and surface conveyors.

The companies said: “Both companies have worked together to submit a competitive and technically strong offer for the works and look forward hopefully to an award in the near future.”

RUC added: “Whilst a departure from the traditional GR Engineering work scope of treatment plant construction, RUC Mining is very pleased to have GR on board as a key construction partner and values the excellence in construction that GRES bring.”

The Tanami Expansion 2 project is expected to increase the annual capacity of the processing site to 3.5 Mt/y, from 2.6 Mt/y, and extend the life of the mine beyond 2040.

Vimy senses Angulari gold-uranium project boost following TOMRA XRT trial

Ore sorting test work from TOMRA Sorting Australia has Vimy Resources thinking about higher grades, lower capital and operating costs, and the production of precious metals at its majority-owned Angulari uranium-gold deposit in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The ASX-listed company, which has defined an inferred mineral resource estimate of 26 Mlbs of U3O8 (0.91 Mt at 1.3% U3O8) at Angulari, already thought the deposit, part of the Alligator River project, had potential to fit into the first quartile of the global uranium cost curve, but now it has eyes on further improving its cost position.

An ore sorting proof of concept trial conducted by TOMRA using its COM X-ray Transmission Tertiary system factored in a 41.5 kg sample that was obtained from mineralised material collected from drill core that Cameco Australia drilled in 2011 and 2016.

The trial on this material saw the uranium concentrate grade increase from 1.2% to 2% U3O8 (70% increase) with high U3O8 recovery. Alongside this, the sample gold concentrate grade increased from 0.7 g/t to 1.1 g/t (47% increase). On the latter gold work, Vimy said: “This warrants further investigation given no gold processing or recovery test work has been undertaken to date.”

The test work also showed that gold mineralisation is spatially coincident with the uranium mineral resource within the sample.

Some 13.5 kg of this 41.5 kg sample was not sorted due to the high uranium grade, which provides additional upside in future trials, Vimy noted. Other potential by-products were also identified, including platinum and palladium.

All of this bodes well for cutting the capital and operating costs that Vimy was unable to disclose to investors as part of its December 2018 scoping study on the project.

A higher feed grade from ore sorting would likely result in lower operating costs, the company said.

Meanwhile, smaller hydrometallurgical plant circuits would likely be required for the same level of production. Coupled with a potential reduction in acid-consuming phases in the concentrate, ore sorting has the potential to lower reagents (and water) usage and costs on a per lb U3O8 produced basis, noting that expected reagent use is already low, Vimy said.

“A smaller plant would result in a lower overall disturbance footprint with commensurate approvals and capital cost benefits,” it added.

Mike Young, CEO of Vimy, said, “The results of the TOMRA ore sorting trial at the Alligator River project’s Angularli deposit have exceeded our expectations. The high-grade nature of the deposit, coupled with the ore sorting outcomes, enhances the prospect of Angularli’s potential future development as a low-cost uranium operation.

“Our next step is to progress the upgrade trials and investigate the potential for the recovery of high value by-products associated with the uranium mineralisation at the Angularli deposit.”

The Angularli deposit is located in the King River-Wellington Range tenement group which is managed in a joint venture (Vimy 79%: Rio Tinto 21%) with Rio Tinto Exploration Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto Ltd.

Titeline mining its underground diamond drilling niche

In looking to retain the mantle of Australia’s safest drilling company while expanding into the underground mining sector, Titeline Drilling has found support from some of the biggest miners in the world.

The company has long been viewed as a leading surface mineral exploration drilling contractor but, as David D’Astoli, CEO of Titeline, explained, this type of work is subject to cyclical exploration budgets.

“The rationale for moving into the underground market was to try to get some ‘lumpiness’ out of our income stream,” he told IM. “As you know, with exploration, it can be pretty up and down. With the underground side, our work is a lot closer to the production side of the business; we’re doing grade control and resource development work in long dated (four to five years) contracts.”

Titeline was looking for consistency and resilience even in market downturns.

To enact this change, the company employed a new General Manager of Underground, Greg Wythes.

Wythes, who had a background in underground drilling in Australia having worked at the likes of Newcrest Mining’s Cadia and Rio Tinto’s (now CMOC’s) majority-owned Northparkes mine, was aware of the pain points the industry was feeling and sought about creating a unique value proposition for the new underground contracting division.

The contract the company bid on – and consequently won – for MMG’s Rosebery mine in Tasmania, Australia, provided just that.

MMG, in a blog post, explained that brief.

“When Rosebery was looking to award the contract for underground drilling services in 2017, all tendering companies were asked to supply a hands-free solution for drill rod handling, in-line with our vision for an injury-free workplace,” the company said.

“The successful company, Titeline, was the only tender that presented a viable solution to hands-free drill rod loading and unloading.”

Titeline – having fitted Boart Longyear rod handlers to their drills that “present the rod in an ergonomic position so the drill assistant can get it and stack it away”, D’Astoli says – knew such a solution could be developed, in theory, but had to search for the right suppliers and solutions to prove it could work in a real-world underground environment.

The Boart Longyear rod handler, along with a rig able to move and set up quickly, drill from +90 to -90 degrees and to depths of 1,500 m, immediately proved productive at Rosebery.

“The brief was to ensure the drills on site were performing before starting their hand-free proposal, and, within six months of commencing their contract, Titeline’s in-house designed drill rigs outperformed the previous contractor,” MMG said.

Yet, the company needed to automate the rod handling process further to fulfil the brief.

This is where the potential of robots came into view.

“These robots were already in the manufacturing industry – which aren’t exactly pristine environments – and were able to operate without an issue,” D’Astoli said. “They were also being employed on sea walls where they were constantly doused with sea water and continued to operate.”

Robot technicians were happy to provide conservative estimates of only having to service these robots every six months in the underground environment, according to D’Astoli. This provided the peace of mind that maintenance issues were not going to knock productivity off-line.

It cemented a relationship with a robotics company in Melbourne, Victoria, not too far away from its Ballarat base, and gave the company the robot drilling brief.

Boart Longyear provided access to the drill rig interface, the DCI control panel.

This year-and-a-half long process led to the development of a world first for underground diamond drilling: a drill and ancillary rod buggy carrier able to drill unattended and perform an autonomous rod trip (pulling the drill string out of the drill holes and then running it back in).

Able to work in confined environments, and drill 360° on azimuth and from -90 degrees to + 90 degrees in dip, the solution was presented to a global audience at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual exploration event earlier this year.

Meanwhile, MMG and Titeline had started commissioning the first rig at Rosebery, and one of the world’s biggest gold miners was putting the rigs through their paces.

Titeline, which already has an existing grade control and resource definition contract at Newmont’s Tanami gold mine, in the Northern Territory, has provided six rigs to the miner, two of which are equipped with the new drill and ancillary rod buggy carrier. More of these robotic rigs will be arriving at the operation by the end of the year.

Modifications to these rigs continue to take place, but the three currently in place at Rosebery and Tanami are very much “producing”, D’Astoli explained.

“We have been making some changes to the programming, to the safety circuit, the laser circuit, etc, but they’ve been performing well,” he said. “We’ve even drilled a few hundred metre shifts with one of the robot rigs.”

He provided some colour to this performance: “The rod pulling process is at least as quick as it is with the Boart Longyear rod handler and is a lot more consistent as you are taking the human element out of it.

“The existing rigs across the underground industry, whether they have total manual handling or are using the Boart Longyear rod handler, still need a drill assistant or driller in there plucking the rod out of the rod handler and putting it away. That can get tiring.”

Accidents can happen when this tiredness occurs.

“The robot will, in the end, always be that bit quicker, as it is consistent over a longer period of time and never gets tired,” D’Astoli added.

Shift change opportunities

The automation elements on these drill rigs are not only removing personnel from the danger zones, they are also providing a productivity boost.

D’Astoli feels the value driver comes with being able to drill throughout shift changes and other times where manual drilling would normally have stopped.

“One of the biggest impediments to production in the underground environment is how many hours you can drill in a 12-hour day,” he said. “Quite often it is a lot less than you think. That can be due to ventilation issues, water issues, dewatering issues, heat, etc.

“The biggest improvement from a productivity point of view available to us is being able to drill and pull rods between shift changes, crib breaks and those types of things. Or, if the ventilation system goes down, personnel will move away from the area, and allow the drill to drill autonomously. That is where the productivity gains are going to come from.

“All of this leads to being able to drill more hours over a shift.”

The company is not finished automating, though, with D’Astoli saying it intends to further leverage this robotised drilling and rod pulling ability.

“With Wi-Fi in the mines, it is at the point where you could be able to take that to the next level and have someone sitting on the surface controlling the rig,” D’Astoli said.

“Or, you might have a similar application to the way semi-autonomous underground boggers (LHDs) work in a block cave mine, where the operators are in a controlled environment and one operator might be operating three boggers at a time.”

That is some way ahead.

For the time being, the company is focused on switching out all of the manual rigs it has delivered to Rosebery and Tanami with the semi-autonomous ones.

Each new rig is a large undertaking for the company, with the learnings from Rosebery to Tanami – and vice versa – reflected in every build.

This is where being aligned with major companies such as Newmont and MMG comes in handy.

“MMG have been very understanding of the process we are going through,” D’Astoli said. “They came and visited us in Ballarat, pre-COVID-19, to see how we were getting along. Newmont have been exactly the same; very supportive giving us the time and space to deliver.”

Major attraction

While the PDAC debut excited lots of attention, D’Astoli is keen to foster the relationship with these two companies further, in addition to aligning with other major companies – and major mines – in the future.

“They’re the ones that probably own the bigger, lower-cost mines, which is where we want to be,” he said. “It is those orebodies that demand the amount of drilling where it makes sense to automate as much of the process as possible,” D’Astoli said.

“When you set up these long-term contracts to deploy such technology, you want to make sure the mine has a long life ahead of it and the owner is not going to be chopping and changing the budget from year to year.”

Asked whether the wider industry is willing to pay for such innovation, D’Astoli was resolute in his answer.

“For a company really focused on safety, they are not going to be knocked out by the price of this solution,” he said.

Surface safety

This is not all Titeline is interested in at the moment.

Titeline has to this point in its underground automation journey been helped along the way by Chile-based Exploration Drill Masters (EDM).

EDM, which Titeline owns 50% of, has been fabricating the frames and other components for these new rigs before they head to Australia for final assembly.

But the Santiago-based company is working on a new development of its own.

Its patent-pending EDM rod-feeder system for handling drill pipe has been used across the globe as an add-on to existing fleets, many of them being used on Titeline rigs.

D’Astoli says operators can park this solution up behind any top drive drill rig in Australia and remove 90% of the manual handling risks that come with the handling of diamond drill pipe to and from the drill string.

The EDM Mark I has already achieved this, but Mark II will further improve this solution, providing a bridge between manual handling and full hands-free solutions, he says.

“The national fleet in Australia mainly consists of top drive drill rigs and there is no real hands-free solution on the market that does not currently affect the productivity of these rigs in the majority of applications,” he said.

“The EDM Mark II rod feeder fills the gap while a new, hands-free solution is being developed.”