Tag Archives: Olympic Dam

BHP to rollout light electric vehicle trials to iron ore, nickel in WA

Speaking at the Resources Technology Showcase, in Perth, Western Australia (WA), this week, BHP’s Chief Transformation Officer, Jonathan Price, said from the trial of light electric vehicles at its Olympic Dam mine, in South Australia, had come back with positive results and it would soon expand testing to its iron ore and nickel businesses in WA.

“The Olympic Dam trial is providing us with valuable data and information to understand how we may continue to electrify different forms of transportation, and material movement in our operations,” he told delegates.

“Early results indicate significantly reduced maintenance time, and very positive operator feedback on the vehicle – not only are they smooth to drive, they’re quiet – and with no diesel exhaust and dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”

BHP worked with Adelaide-based Voltra on the light electric vehicle trial at Olympic Dam, with the technology company developing a 100% electric drive LandCruiser 79 Series (pictured) to be put through its paces in full underground fleet operation.

Still on the theme of decarbonisation, last month, BHP announced four new renewable power agreements at its Escondida and Spence operations, in Chile. The contracts will displace 3 Mt/y of CO2 from 2022, compared with the fossil fuel based contracts they are replacing, according to Price.

He said the company was also “exploring options to do something similar” in Australia.

Price added: “BHP is currently in the market for innovative power solutions for our Eastern Australia Mineral Assets. We have received a positive response from the market, consulting over 40 different parties.”

He said the company expected to make a decision on this in the first half of 2020.

And, on the subject of Integrated Remote Operations Centres (IROC), which BHP has used to expand its use of automation and digitalisation, Price said the company is looking to expand its reach again.

“We launched our very first IROC here in Western Australia back in 2013,” he said. “Three years later we took the lessons learnt from this and built an IROC in Brisbane, overseeing our east coast coal operations.

“Now we have a centre operational in Santiago and have one planned in South Australia,” he said.

BHP’s Jurgens presents big picture automation plan

Diane Jurgens, BHP’s Chief Technology Officer, used her time on stage at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch SmartMine conference, in London, to highlight the company’s plan to introduce full or partial automation across its entire value chain.

The miner has already introduced automation across many of its operations – from haul trucks at Jimblebar (Western Australia) to drill rigs at Western Australia Iron Ore – but Jurgens said the company has bigger automated plans.

This includes considering opportunities to accelerate truck autonomy across the company’s Australia and Minerals Americas sites – the company previously detailed plans to automate around 500 haul trucks across its Western Australia Iron Ore and Queensland Coal sites – and introducing “Decision Automation” to link autonomous processes and data from different sources together to create “near instantaneous, optimised decision making”, Jurgens said.

While she talked up the use of automation in mining – referencing the experience she has in the automotive and aerospace industries – she admitted full automation across the BHP group was unlikely.

“This is because we automate equipment and processes where it provides the highest value,” she said, explaining that investment in technology competes against all of other projects in the BHP portfolio, “and alternative uses of cash, under BHP’s Capital Allocation Framework”.

To test this, the company has built proving grounds at two active mine sites (Eastern Ridge in Australia and Escondida in Chile) to trial new innovations in geology, extraction and processes, and “develop workforce capability so that our people are equipped for the rapid pace of change that lies ahead”, Jurgens said.

Just some of the new innovations Jurgens mentioned included the use of advanced geophysics modelling to reanalyse existing drilling data. This new approach led, in November last year, to the Oak Dam copper discovery, near its existing Olympic Dam operations in South Australia.

Recently, sensors were installed at the Escondida test grounds to prototype the use of real-time data to analyse the quality and grade of ores and inform, for example, whether to divert unprocessed ore for leaching, to concentrators or waste. Jurgens said: “The key to achieving this is using data collected through the sensors and combining it with proprietary algorithms. We then apply our knowledge of the ore body to optimise the processing methods. Once in production, we expect these to improve throughput performance.”

With access to more detailed data on extracted material, machine algorithms can automate decisions to identify and divert waste, which increases plant performance and reduces processing costs, she added.

New patented leaching technologies have, meanwhile, increased metal recoveries by 10-12% and shortened the processing time by 50%, according to Jurgens. “At Spence in Chile we increased copper recoveries by about 10% and helped offset grade decline through implementing the low-cost Spence Recovery Optimisation project,” she said. “The initiative improved heap leach kinetics which meant we could maximise utilisation of the leach pads and therefore use the full 200,000 t of tankhouse capacity.”

This breakthrough also informed the successful heap leach trial at Olympic Dam, which the company has just completed.

The company’s automation and innovation journey has already resulted in significant wins, according to Jurgens.
Equipment automation is creating more efficient, standardised and safer operations, she said:

  • Autonomous blast hole drills across BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore assets have increased drill rates by 25%, and reduced monthly drill maintenance costs by over 40%;
  • Haulage automation at the Jimblebar operation, in the Pilbara, has reduced heavy vehicle safety incidents by 80%;
  • Machine learning is being applied to maintenance on trucks in iron ore and coal – to analyse component failure history;
  • At Yandi, haul truck maintenance analytics increased truck availability to above 90% and generated recurrent cost savings. Replicating these strategies to our trucks in energy coal in the Hunter Valley, BHP has also seen an increase in truck availability;
  • Automating key components of BHP’s rail network is supporting increased capacity, more reliable dispatch and improved maintenance outcomes;
  • In Western Australia, material density scanning and laser precision have delivered an additional 2.4 t of iron ore per car while reducing safety risks of overloading;
  • The automated rail network scheduling system, which controls over 10,000 ore cars and transports about 270 Mt/y of iron ore, is becoming more effective through self-learning algorithms, ensuring trains arrive at port, on-time, and;
  • LiDAR technologies are being used to automate the loading of ships that transport BHP’s product to customers around the world.

BHP and Bureau Veritas confirm heap leach viability for Olympic Dam

BHP says it has successfully completed its heap leach research and development trial in South Australia, confirming the viability of the technology to extract copper, uranium, gold and silver at Olympic Dam.

The program began in 2012 and was conducted at a purpose-built, small-scale heap leach facility at Wingfield run by Bureau Veritas, under direction from BHP and with support from the South Australia Government.

BHP’s General Manager of Olympic Dam’s Surface Processing, Chris Barnesby, made the announcement at the Copper to the World conference in Adelaide on June 18.

“The promising results from this trial supports our positive outlook for Olympic Dam, given forecast demand increases for copper and the optionality we are building for this world-scale resource,” he said.

“We safely and successfully produced 19 t of good quality copper, most of which went back into the smelter and off to customers, though we kept a little to ourselves to commemorate the achievement.”

Despite the success of the project, Barnesby said the deployment of such technology was a “matter for future consideration”, explaining that there were many factors involved in making this decision, including “passing through our Capital Allocation Framework”.

He concluded: “As it stands today, we have confirmed the viability of a technology with the potential to join our suite of growth options. However, our immediate focus is on operating safely and reliably, and setting a foundation to unlock more value for BHP and for South Australia over the long term.”

Heap leaching works by drip-feeding acid through a large stockpile (or heap) of ore to leach out metals. BHP uses heap leaching at its copper operations in Chile, however Olympic Dam’s polymetallic properties require a different approach, according to the miner.

BHP said: “The research and development program has the potential to benefit the mining industry more broadly in South Australia, as heap leaching has the potential to deliver lower capital and operating costs, increased scalability, reduced potable water use and the ability to process lower-grade ores.”

Separate to the trial, BHP continues to progress studies on the Brownfield Expansion project, or BFX, as part of Olympic Dam’s resource development strategy, which seeks to potentially increase production to between 240,000-3000,000 t/y of copper.

CEEC’s latest workshop to examine new gen energy options for miners

With more and more mining sector interest in energy efficiency and uptake of renewables, the global not-for-profit communication hub for energy efficient mineral processing, CEEC, says it is running a series of workshops to share the latest developments in this field.

The next one-day Mineral Processing and Innovation Workshop on Energy Curves, Productivity and New Gen Energy, will be held at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide on June 19.

This event is due to kick off with a keynote address from OZ Minerals CEO and MD, Andrew Cole, who will share his vision for steering smart energy and productivity for sustainable mining, processing and communities.

Marc Allen, CEEC Director and Technical Director at engeco, said there was a worldwide trend towards new-generation energy options such as solar, battery-electric power and hydrogen – not only in the sector but for global power generation to combat climate change.

“The paradox is that these low carbon technologies are minerals intensive, and metals such as copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt will be required in greater volumes to make this transition possible,” Allen said.

“The shift towards a decarbonised energy future has significant ramifications for the global mining industry, particularly given the energy intensive nature of comminution and mining, coupled with the remoteness of most mineral deposits.”

Allen said renewable energy sources with low carbon energy backup options and/or energy storage were becoming more and more common in mines, with one leading example being the solar project at Degrussa Copper-Gold Mine in Western Australia.

Sandfire Resources’ Degrussa Solar project, commissioned in 2016, is reported to be the world’s largest integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility. It supplies about 20% of the mine’s annual power requirements and has reduced emissions by close to 12,000 t/y of carbon dioxide, according to CEEC.

“South Australia is also leading the way with adopting new-gen energy. BHP is trialling zero-emission light electric vehicles at its Olympic Dam mine and has plans to progressively replace diesel fuel with lithium-ion batteries,” Allen said.

Canada’s first all-electric mine (Borden) is also on the cards, being constructed by CEEC sponsors Newmont-Goldcorp, Sandvik and MacLean Engineering.

Allen said: “Newmont-Goldcorp’s target is to increase energy efficiency by 15% over five years and source 5% of its energy from renewables. It’s pleasing to see that other major mining companies are fast following suit, introducing bold targets to shrink their carbon and energy footprint.”

Another standout country is Chile, with reports of nine companies, including copper miners Codelco and Antofagasta Minerals, introducing renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

In addition to transitioning to clean energy technologies, mining operations are striving to improve the energy efficiency of comminution. In Australia, alone, copper and gold mines’ comminution processes consume 1.3% of national electricity production, as well as being key constraints to site productivity, value and mining footprint.

Speakers and panellists at the CEEC Mineral Processing and Innovation Workshop in Adelaide on June 19 will share the latest technologies and methodologies being employed to boost energy efficiency, value and productivity in processing plants and mine sites, according to CEEC.

Keynote speaker Cole will be joined by leading mining, METS and research experts from across Australia, including Energy Curve researcher Dr Cathy Evans, Senior Research Fellow, University of Queensland Sustainable Minerals Institute; Professor Stephen Grano, Executive Director, Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources, University of Adelaide; and Professor Bill Skinner, Research Leader, Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia.

With data science and AI also being key drivers for improving operational efficiency and dispatch of electrical energy, workshop participants will hear from PETRA Data Science’s Managing Director, Dr Penny Stewart, and Technical Director, Dr Zeljka Pokrajcic.

Innovative METS leaders, including Greg Lane, Ausenco; Sandy Gray, Gekko Systems; and Bear Rock Solutions’ Dr Ted Bearman and Adjunct Professor Rob Dunne, will present practical advances in comminution technology.

Insights into South Australia mining and mineral processing innovations will be provided by Joe Seppelt, OZ Minerals Processing Manager at the Carrapateena copper-gold project, north of Port Augusta, and Enzo Artone, BHP Area Manager, Mill and Process Minerals, BFX Project, Olympic Dam.

To register or find out more about the workshop, which will be held at the National Wine Centre, click here.

BHP looking at Australia-wide deployment of Supply Innovation program, Udd says

Following the successful introduction of a Supply Innovation program in Chile, BHP is now piloting this same platform at its Olympic Dam copper-gold-uranium mine in South Australia, Rag Udd, VP Technology Global Transformation at BHP, told delegates at the AustMine 2019 conference in Brisbane, Australia, this week.

Speaking at the packed event – reported to have broken past attendance records – Udd said BHP was looking to local suppliers to “solve challenges and, in turn, stimulate innovation” and could potentially expand the use of this platform throughout Australia.

He said the company needed to work differently to achieve its new procurement goals, which included “removing barriers to doing business with us”.

Udd pointed to the company’s Supply Innovation program, which originated in Chile, as evidence of the company’s progress in this space.

“This program has seen us create an open platform to connect our unique mining challenges with local suppliers and innovators,” he told delegates.

Rather than ask for a specific service or equipment – as has often been the way in the past – the platform enables suppliers to bring their innovations to the mining major, he said.

It was this platform that led to BHP introducing a new Trommel Maintenance Robot at its majority-owned Escondida copper operation, in Chile. Developed collaboratively by FLSmidth and local Chilean supplier MIRS, the robotic arm has benefits for safety and productivity, according to BHP.

Udd said the company is now piloting this program at Olympic Dam, with a view to establishing the platform on a national basis.

Mitchell to keep drilling south at BHP’s Olympic Dam copper-gold-uranium mine

Mitchell Services has been awarded a contract extension at BHP’s Olympic Dam copper-gold-uranium mine in South Australia, which means it will continue with its underground drilling work until April 2020.

Under the varied terms of the deal, which comes on the back of a sustained period of strong drilling performance, the company will provide up to eight underground rigs and will continue to play “an integral part in BHP’s plans to expand into the high-grade southern area of the mine as part of a broader growth strategy at Olympic Dam”, it said.

Mitchell previously announced a material contract extension and scope increase in relation to its underground drilling contract back on September 5. This highlighted that the company would provide up to seven underground rigs and that the contract would be extended to April 2019.

In its latest results, BHP reported that underground operations continue to progress into the Southern Mine Area of Olympic Dam, with record development kilometres achieved and the mine’s third decline becoming fully operational in the December quarter of 2018.


Konecranes helps bring new life to BHP’s Olympic Dam operation

Helsinki-based Konecranes has recently been working with BHP to breathe new life into the cranes operating at the major miner’s Olympic Dam copper-gold-uranium operation in South Australia.

The company has replaced ageing cranes, in addition to carrying out inspections on existing installations, to ensure BHP can continue with its existing production profile, if not increase the tonnages in future years.

The crane replacement was part of a more than A$600 million ($430 million) spend during BHP’s 2018 financial year to the end of June to prolong the mine’s life. This included an underground mine expansion and a major smelter programme, among other investments.

Olympic Dam, which is is the fourth largest copper deposit and the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world, relies on overhead cranes for lifting different reagents as part of its production process, as well as performing vital maintenance tasks, according to Konecranes.

Scott Montgomerie, BHP Supervisor, Floats Maintenance Execution, Olympic Dam, Minerals Australia, said the company’s ageing fleet of cranes were affecting operations at the mine prior to the revamp.

“The old cranes were getting near their end-of-life – about 25 years old – so they were breaking down frequently and causing us downtime and production losses. Konecranes provided us with some great replacement options, and were flexible in their approach as well as always having the technical expertise to solve any unique challenges that arose,” he said.

Konecranes is providing BHP with five new cranes, ranging from 1 t to 3.5 t lifting capacity, being a mixture of CLX chain hoists and CXT wire rope hoists, designed to optimise efficiency, safety and reliability.

This will help BHP futher reduce downtime and “keep operations running smoothly”, Montgomerie said.


Konecranes safety inspections are designed to assess the remaining life of cranes and determine whether it is safer and more cost-effective to replace a crane, repair it, or perform a modernisation, the company says.

Jeevan Pattian, Northwest Service, Konecranes Australia and New Zealand, said: “In addition to safety and compliance, our inspections can also identify areas where gains in productivity can be realised.”

Pattian, who oversaw the BHP Olympic Dam inspections and new crane delivery processes, said the company is always looking out for tailored customer solutions, with the Olympic Dam installations being no different.

The latest Konecranes CLX chain hoists, of the type to be used at Olympic dam, incorporate a longer lifetime, with up to 1,600 hours on most models with a full load, and a durable aluminium construction, according to Konecranes.

Durability of the lift chain is a key element in the CLX’s design for service.

“The patented chain sprocket dramatically improves the durability of the chain. The oil lubrication-based transmission reduces the operating temperature, enabling increased power. Furthermore, the new transmission is maintenance-free and quiet to operate,” Konecranes said.

The CLX’s transmission increases the speed ratio between low and fast speeds, with the new 6:1 ratio enabling a safe and accurate installation speed and an extremely fast movement speed.

“The wider speed range makes the CLX chain hoist 25% faster than its predecessor, which helps speed up the work cycle and improves work efficiency,” the company said.

The hoist also benefits from increased safety functions. For example, the brake and the clutch have been installed on the same axle to prevent the load from dropping even if the clutch breaks down.

The CXT wire rope hoist cranes – also being installed at Olympic Dam – have easy and effective load handling and optimum dimensions for space saving solutions, the company said.

They also use the latest technology for improved load accuracy, versatility and ease of use – “making them the industry leader in medium-heavy indoor cranes”, Konecranes says.

The CXT can lift up to 80 t, depending on the model, with the new reeving system extending the lifetime of the ropes by as much as 40%.

The cranes also benefit from an adaptive speed range on light to medium lifting applications and an extended speed range on heavy to very heavy lifting.

This allows for very slow speeds – important in the moment of load lift-off and lowering – and the ability to lift up to 50% faster than traditional hoisting control, Konecranes said.