Tag Archives: Oz Minerals

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)

OZ Minerals set to deploy mDetect’s ‘space particle’ tailings dam safety device

Australian start-up, mDetect, a spin-out company from Swinburne University of Technology, is using particles from space, known as muons, to, it says, help mining companies detect weaknesses in dams that secure highly toxic mining waste by-products, making them environmentally safer.

The hazardous waste early warning system, using muon technology, will revolutionise how mining companies monitor the stability of tailings dams, thanks to mDetect’s technology and a A$1.5 million ($1.09 million) co-investment grant from the Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) Commercialisation Fund and partners to fast track its commercial production, the university says.

Swinburne University of Technology’s Vice-Chancellor Professor, Pascale Quester, said research and education into space technologies and their terrestrial applications have extraordinary potential for positive economic and social impact.

“Swinburne is focused on ensuring that the vital research we do has significant positive impact,” Quester says. “The important work of mDetect, led by Swinburne’s Professor Alan Duffy, is emblematic of Swinburne’s cutting-edge research and our ability to market innovative ideas. This is paving the way for successful research commercialisation that provides real solutions for industries.”

OZ Minerals, as a key industry partner, has been integral to the development of the technology. The miner is expected to deploy the device at its tailings dam at the Carrapateena operation in South Australia.

Myles Johnston, General Manager of OZ Minerals Carrapateena Province, said: “OZ Minerals recognises our responsibility to meaningfully contribute to regional economic and social wellbeing as stronger communities create value for all stakeholders. By ethically and responsibly exploring for and mining copper, we contribute to a low carbon future and economic wellbeing, which helps us achieve our purpose and contribute to a better future.

“We congratulate mDetect on being awarded the AMGC grant, and the team at Carrapateena is excited to be collaborating with mDetect on the development of a fully supported, flexible 3D muon monitoring system.”

Professor Duffy said: “Muons are heavier versions of electrons that are made when cosmic rays slam into atoms in Earth’s atmosphere. We have patented new detectors, that, combined with powerful artificial intelligence techniques, take an X-ray style scan through solid rock revealing different density structures.”

This patented technology can provide intelligence on the internal structures and substances of buildings, infrastructure, and subterranean and aquatic features, opening up a range of commercial opportunities for the construction and mining industries, Swinburne University says.

“Simply put, muon technology can look through rock to create underground images and detect abnormalities which will provide the early warning signs needed to prevent potential structural failures.”

mDetect will work with local manufacturing company Elgee Industries and Swinburne’s Factory of the Future to produce the muon devices at scale. Connecting these devices and turning detections into underground images will be undertaken by Swinburne’s Astronomy Data and Computing Services software development team.

OZ Minerals Board gives go ahead for shaft expansion at Prominent Hill

The OZ Minerals Board has approved construction of a hoisting shaft at the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia, paving the way for a mine life extension and throughput expansion.

Prominent Hill mine began operation in 2009 as an open pit and is now an underground mine producing 4.5 Mt/y, moving to 4.5-5 Mt/y from 2022 via a trucking operation.

Coming with a pre-production capital expenditure of A$600 million ($436 million), the Wira Shaft expansion project will see the underground production rate increase to 6 Mt/y from 2025. At this point, the average annual copper and gold production is expected to be circa-54,000 t and circa-108,000 oz, respectively, some 23% more than expected in the current trucking operation.

The study leverages close to 100 Mt of mineral resources outside the previous Prominent Hill ore reserves of 38 Mt of underground material.

Sinking of the shaft is expected to commence in the March quarter of 2022. Mining and installation of underground and surface infrastructure is scheduled for completion along with commissioning of the Wira shaft at the end of 2024, with nameplate capacity expected in the first half of 2025.

The shaft design comprises a 1,329-m-deep, concrete-lined shaft with a diameter of 7.5 m. Construction of the shaft will be via conventional strip and line method, with the sinking period approximately two years.

The shaft mine expansion also enables generational province potential with further mine life extensions possible as 67 Mt of resource remains outside the shaft expansion mine plan, OZ Minerals says. Further, an exploration program has also identified that mineralisation remains open at depth beyond the current resource boundary, potentially accessible via the shaft.

Announcing the expansion today, OZ Minerals Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cole, said: “We are thrilled to see a long and productive future for Prominent Hill with the Wira shaft mine expansion enabling access to areas previously thought uneconomic and opening up potential new prospects.

“Prominent Hill is a quality orebody and remains open at depth. The reliable performance of the operation and its consistent resource to reserve conversion rate were all influential in the decision.”

For the first time, the company has used a carbon price in determining the project valuation, a practice it plans to adopt in other OZ Minerals projects going forward, Cole said.

The company plans to reduce its underground loading fleet to eight vehicles, from nine after the shaft expansion, with its trucking fleet going from circa-14 to five, post-shaft.

Scope 1 emissions intensity per tonne of concentrate are also expected to drop from 0.47 t CO2-e/t to 0.28 t CO2-e/t after the shaft installation.

The pre-production capital of A$600 million, which was an increase on the A$450 million outlined in the November 2020 expansion study, enables transformation of the site in line with the strategic aspirations of OZ Minerals, it said.

Provisions have been included in site capital projections to support this transformation, including progressing underground fleet electrification, upgrading some of the existing infrastructure, remote operation capability and automation.

The company expanded on this: “A battery-powered mining fleet is part of the future vision as OZ Minerals moves towards its zero-carbon emission aspiration. For this study, diesel trucks were assumed. However, installation of enabling infrastructure is included in the Prominent Hill Expansion case to minimise future disruptions when the switch to an electric fleet occurs. This, implemented as part of the asset’s site-wide electrification aspiration, would contribute to a further reduction in Scope 1 emissions.”

A pilot study is also being undertaken to review a low-energy dry grinding option. The Prominent Hill Expansion Study is not directly connected to, nor dependent on this ongoing work, however, the work presents potential future cost reduction and other opportunities, OZ Minerals said.

Vale, Glencore, Newcrest and others join BluVein’s next gen trolley charging project

Seven major mining companies have financially backed BluVein and its “next generation trolley-charging technology” for heavy mining vehicles, with the industry collaboration project now moving forward with final system development and construction of a technology demonstration pilot site in Brisbane, Australia.

BluVein can now refer to Northern Star Resources, Newcrest Mining, Vale, Glencore, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and OZ Minerals as project partners.

Some additional mining companies still in the process of joining the BluVein project will be announced as they officially come on board, BluVein said, while four major mining vehicle manufacturers have signed agreements to support BluVein controls and hardware integration into their vehicles.

BluVein, a joint venture between EVIAS and Australia-based Olitek, is intent on laying the groundwork for multiple OEMs and mining companies to play in the mine electrification space without the need to employ battery swapping or acquire larger, heavier batteries customised to cope with the current requirements placed on the heaviest diesel-powered machinery operating in the mining sector.

It is doing this through adapting charging technology originally developed by Sweden-based EVIAS for electrified public highways. The application of this technology in mining could see operations employ smaller, lighter battery-electric vehicles that are connected to the mine site grid via its ingress protection-rated slotted Rail™ system. This system effectively eliminates all exposed high voltage conductors, providing significantly improved safety and ensures compliance with mine electrical regulations, according to BluVein. This is complemented with its Hammer™ technology and a sophisticated power distribution unit to effectively power electric motors and charge a vehicle’s on-board batteries.

BluVein has been specifically designed for harsh mining environments and is completely agnostic to vehicle manufacturer. This standardisation is crucial, BluVein says, as it allows a mixed fleet of mining vehicle to use the same rail infrastructure.

While underground mining looks like the most immediate application, BluVein says the technology also has applications in open-pit mining and quarrying.

It is this technology to be trialled in a demonstration pilot in a simulated underground environment. BluVein says it plans on starting the trial install early works towards the end of this year for a mid- to late-2022 trial period.

The BluVein project will be managed by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC).

OZ Minerals invests in seven hydrogen experiments as part of Hydrogen Hypothesis challenge

As part of the Hydrogen Hypothesis challenge, seven teams have been selected to take part in the OZ Minerals’ Think & Act Differently (TAD) accelerator program.

The focus of the challenge, launched at the end of March, was to identify experiments that can demonstrate the safe and effective use of hydrogen in a mining context, with the aim of providing OZ Minerals insight into how hydrogen can be used to support zero or low carbon processes.

It was underlined by the miner’s strategic aspiration to eliminate Scope 1 emissions and strive to systematically reduce Scope 2 and 3 emissions across its value chain.

There were 158 participants in the OZ Minerals and Unearthed Hydrogen Hypothesis challenge, from 35 countries.

Brett Triffett, OZ Minerals’ Transformation Technologist, said: “The mining sector has the opportunity to leverage the progress made in other sectors and explore the use of hydrogen technology in its operations.

“The finalist teams were chosen because they have proposed ideas that have the potential to demonstrate the value hydrogen technologies and applications could create for our industry.

“These teams also demonstrated their willingness to work and learn together with each other and OZ Minerals. The OZ Minerals TAD incubator acceleration program is designed to create as much mutual value as we possibly can, rather than just transacting an experiment for funding.”

The program, according to Triffett, includes frequent capability uplift sessions on a range of topics so participants come out with something more than just a funded experiment.

“Many of the finalist teams are not from the mining industry and are keen to learn more about how the industry works,” he added.

These insights are embedded through regular insights panels with members of OZ Minerals’ broad ecosystem. They also come together with a technical mentor to gain valuable feedback on the technical aspects of their work with one another.

The teams selected are

  • Avid Group (Aaron Teo) – Hydrogen powered lighting towers;
  • Carbon 280 (Mark Rheinlander) – Hydrilyte storage system – safe hydrogen transport and storage at atmospheric temperature and pressure;
  • Carnot (Francis Lempp) – Ultra efficient ceramic engine;
  • Fly H2 Aerospace (Mark Van Wyk) – Hydrogen-powered drone;
  • OZ Minerals (Steve Day) – Hydrogen highway;
  • Supercritical (Luke Tan) – High pressure electrolyser; and
  • Yakum Consulting/Queens University (Yeonuk Choi) – Produce clean metal products from concentrate using green hydrogen.

Charge On Innovation Challenge sparks more miner interest

The organisers of the Charge On Innovation Challenge have reported an overwhelming response to the preliminary phase, which closed on July 31, with 21 mining companies joining as patrons, over 350 companies from across 19 industries registering their interest as vendors, and more than 80 organisations submitting expressions of interest (EOI).

The challenge, a global competition, is expected to drive technology innovators across all industries to develop new concepts and solutions for large-scale haul truck electrification systems aimed at significantly cutting emissions from surface mining. It also aims to demonstrate an emerging market for charging solutions in mining, accelerate commercialisation of solutions and integrate innovations from other industries into the mining sector.

BHP, Rio Tinto, and Vale, facilitated by Austmine, launched the Charge On Innovation Challenge in May of this year, initiating the EOI process on May 18. Since the initial launch, Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden, Thiess, Antofagasta Minerals, Codelco, Freeport McMoRan, Gold Fields and Yancoal came forward as patrons by early July.

The latest release has highlighted another nine miners to join as patrons. This includes Barrick Gold, CITIC Pacific Mining, Evolution Mining, Harmony Gold, Mineral Resources Ltd, Newcrest Mining, OZ Minerals, South32 and Syncrude.

The patrons, supported by Austmine, will assess the proposals over the next month and select a shortlist of vendors who will then formally pitch their challenge solutions.

At least one of these proposals has come from ABB, which confirmed earlier this month that it had submitted its ideas for the challenge using its mine electrification, traction and battery system eand charging infrastructure expertise.

At the end of the pitch phase, the challenge patrons will look to select the most desirable charging concepts identified as having broad industry appeal and application, as well as providing a standard geometry that enables chargers to service trucks from different manufacturers. The first concepts could be ready for site trials in the next few years, according to the organisers.

BHP’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project Lead, Scott Davis, said: “The Charge On Innovation Challenge is a great example of the current collaborative work being done by the mining industry in seeking solutions to decarbonise mining fleets. The challenge received interest from companies based in over 20 countries, showing the truly global reach of the opportunity to help reduce haul truck emissions.”

John Mulcahy, Rio Tinto’s lead for the Charge On Innovation Challenge, said: “Twenty-one mining companies, all focused on lowering carbon emissions, have joined as patrons. Together we’re encouraging technology innovators to help us introduce large-scale haul truck electrification solutions. The sooner we bring these technologies to market, the sooner we can introduce them to our fleet, and reduce emissions.”

Vale’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project lead, Mauricio Duarte, said: “We are very happy with the results of the first phase of the project. It´s still early to talk about the success of the challenge, but it is clear that the industry has reached a new level: we worked together on a common sustainability agenda and we will work collectively to reach our goals, gaining safety and speed on our way to low carbon mining.”

OZ Minerals, Titeline investigate hydrogen-powered surface diamond drilling opportunities

OZ Minerals, in partnership with Titeline Drilling, has commenced a trial to test a hydrogen direct injection system to improve engine combustion efficiency for surface diamond drill rigs.

The system has the potential to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and particulates, as well as improve fuel consumption, according to the company.

The news came out with the release of the company’s June quarter results, which saw a 22% quarter-on-quarter uplift in copper production following a strong performance from the company’s South Australian operations (Prominent Hill and Carrapateena).

In addition to the trial of hydrogen-powered surface drill rigs, OZ Minerals said the mining tri-alliance it has in place with Byrnecut and Sandvik – designed to identify and introduce smart and innovative ideas – had progressed during the quarter, with in-roads made on several associated projects.

Significant work was undertaken towards trialling the use of tele-remote loading of trucks, which has now been implemented in a key stope in July, it said.

OZ Minerals previously said it was working with Byrnecut and Sandvik to roll out Sandvik’s AutoMine® platform at its Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia. This followed a project between the two to implement an automation upgrade for a Sandvik DD422i development drill at the operation.

Sandvik’s i-series truck set to start work at OZ Minerals’ Pedra Branca

Sandvik has recently delivered its first i-series truck to Brazil, with the 45-t payload TH545i heading to OZ Minerals Brazil’s Pedra Branca copper mine in Pará in the northern part of the country.

The model has automation features that bring more productivity and safety to the operation, according to Sandvik. Compared to its predecessor, the Sandvik TH540, the truck offers a significant capacity increase by carrying 5 t more. The truck’s standard engine power, meanwhile, increased to 450 kW, from 405 kW, to maintain the same speed with the increased payload.

Other equipment will be delivered to the Pedra Branca mine over the next few months, with, in all, five different models of drilling, loading and transport equipment making up the “modern and complete fleet”, Sandvik said.

The new fleet additions are all part of OZ Minerals’ ramp-up efforts at the underground mine, which is targeting increased mining from ore stopes from the June quarter onwards.

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.

OZ Minerals, Byrnecut, Sandvik working on remote LHD operation at Prominent Hill

OZ Minerals says it is working with Byrnecut and Sandvik to roll out Sandvik’s AutoMine® platform at its Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia.

As part of these efforts, a new system has been installed in the company’s Adelaide office that allows an operator to remotely to control a Sandvik LHD underground at Prominent Hill – over 600 km away – as if they were directly onsite.

Back in April when announcing the delivery of its 100th loader connected to AutoMine in the Asia Pacific region, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions said it had recently demonstrated the capability to simultaneously control or monitor multiple machines from the comfort and safety of a remote control room in a successful trial of a LH621i LHD at Prominent Hill.

“The LH621i was successfully operated from the Remote Operating Centre in OZ Mineral’s Adelaide office, taking OZ Minerals a step closer to realising its goal of remote operations from home,” it said.

The three companies, in 2020, successfully navigated COVID-19 challenges to implement an automation upgrade for a Sandvik DD422i development drill  at Prominent Hill. This saw Byrnecut Australia become the first underground operator in the world to successfully use a new automation and tele-remote package for Sandvik development drills.