Tag Archives: palladium

Rio Tinto Kennecott to recover tellurium from copper smelting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metso Outotec to modernise Norilsk Nickel’s Nadezhda smelting line

Metso Outotec has been awarded a landmark contract by PJSC MMC Norilsk Nickel to modernise one of the company’s two existing smelting lines at their Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant in Norilsk, Russia.

The contract value is approximately €90 million ($110 million), and the order has been booked in Metso Outotec’s December quarter 2020 order intake.

Metso Outotec’s contract includes engineering and delivery of a nickel flash smelting furnace and a heat recovery boiler with related automation and advanced digital products.

Replacing the existing smelting line with the latest process technology and furnace structures will significantly increase the line’s capacity and availability, reduce metal losses and ease maintenance, according to the mining OEM. The new line will also allow for the easy connection and efficient operation with potential future sulphuric acid production and neutralisation projects. The delivery of the equipment will take place during the first half of 2022.

Sergey Dubovitsky, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Strategic Projects, Logistics & Procurement at Norilsk Nickel, said: “Metso Outotec is a long-term partner of Norilsk Nickel, supplying state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. Our cooperation allows us to solve the most important production and technological issues, such as increasing the reliability and efficiency of production.”

Jari Ålgars, President of Metso Outotec’s Metals business area, added: “Norilsk Nickel operates the world’s largest nickel and palladium deposit in Russia. We are very committed to our long partnership with Norilsk Nickel, and we are pleased to have been awarded the contract to modernise their smelting line at Nadezhda. Our unique process expertise and sustainable technologies enable the design and delivery of a world-class smelting process that meets today’s and future production requirements.”

Metso Outotec is a leading supplier of smelting technology, with about 40 operational smelting lines around the world. The company claims its Flash Smelting Process is the cleanest smelting method available, giving high recovery of metals with low investment and operating costs.

ValeOre Metals considering Platsol, Falcon separator, Steinert ore sorting for Pedra Branca

ValeOre Metals Corp’s Pedra Branca platinum group element (PGE) project, in north-eastern Brazil, looks increasingly like leveraging the Platsol™ high temperature pressure leaching process judging by the latest test work.

Metallurgical results from sample material collected from outcrops at the Trapia and Curiu deposits areas at Pedra Branca for two preliminary Platsol tests conducted at SGS Lakefield, Ontario, have shown recoveries of 93.4-93.6% for palladium and 95.3-95.7% for platinum were achieved.

The company now plans two additional Platsol tests, to be performed by SGS, to determine the effects of adding elemental sulphur to the autoclave to optimise conditions required for PGE and gold recoveries, it said.

Platsol is a high temperature (>200°C) pressure leaching process designed to recover PGEs, gold and base metals. It has been shown to be particularly effective with PGE ore feeds characterised by high concentrations of chromium and low concentrations of sulphide, much like Pedra Branca, according to ValeOre Metals. The PGEs and gold are solubilised as chloro-complexes by the addition of chloride salt to the autoclave, while base metal sulphides are oxidised to form soluble metal sulphate complexes. The precious metals can be recovered directly from the autoclave discharge slurry by carbon absorption, or by precipitation with sulphide ions.

Platsol consists of standard, proven traditional technologies that are in use in mines around the world, according to the company.

The Platsol tests are part of a comprehensive mineralogical evaluation ongoing at SGS to characterise the speciation of palladium and platinum in Pedra Branca mineralisation to guide future process optimisation initiatives.

As part of this, the company is continuing with Falcon Ultrafine gravity separation test work as a potential pre-concentration circuit to upgrade feed material and improve mass pull.

The company has also initiated hot cyanide leach test work to assess the recovery rates of palladium, platinum and gold in a cyanide leaching process, and will shortly commence shipment of 100 representative chip samples from historic drilling at the Esbarro deposit to Steinert’s facility in Minas Gerais, to evaluate the potential of sensor-based ore sorting test work.

ValOre’s Chairman and CEO, Jim Paterson, said: “The pace of success at Pedra Branca has increased dramatically in the last three months, including today’s release of PGE metallurgical recovery rates of in excess of 93% for palladium and 95% for platinum using the Platsol process.

“Together with an aggressive property-wide exploration program, we are now focused on rapidly optimising the conditions, procedures and processes to further maximise the upside potential of the Pedra Branca project.”

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.

Ivanhoe advances Platreef development studies after Moolmans completes sinking

Ivanhoe Mines has announced another milestone at the Platreef platinum group metals project in South Africa, with construction complete at the 996-m level station of Shaft 1.

The achievement, completed well ahead of the contractual schedule, according to Ivanhoe, positions the company to equip Platreef’s initial production shaft, if it chooses to proceed with phased development of the mine on the Northern Limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex.

Sinking was carried out by contractor Moolmans, with the project remaining ‘Fall-of-Ground’ incident free since shaft sinking operations began in July 2016, the company said. On top of this, in June 2020, Moolmans and the Platreef team achieved South Africa shaft sinking industry leader status in terms of safety performance, according to Ivanhoe, which owns 64% of the project through Ivanplats.

Ivanhoe’s Co-Chairmen, Robert Friedland and Yufeng “Miles” Sun, said: “Given the flurry of recent transactions in precious metals markets, we are actively exploring a number of options that can help us unlock Platreef’s extraordinary value for the benefit of all Ivanhoe stakeholders.

“After all, Platreef is among this planet’s largest precious metals deposits.”

Platreef now has a completed shaft within a few hundred metres of the initial high-grade mining zone, according to Friedland and Sun.

“We have a mining licence, we have water and we have a team of highly-skilled employees,” they said. “The deposit has enormous quantities of palladium, platinum, rhodium, nickel and copper; and it has more ounces of gold than many leading gold mines.”

They concluded: “Given the current precious metals environment, I am confident that the pending studies will showcase the exceptional economics that one would expect from such a thick, high-grade and flat-lying deposit.”

Ivanhoe is updating the Platreef project’s 2017 definitive feasibility study (DFS) to account for development schedule advancement since 2017 when the DFS was completed, as well as updated costs and refreshed metal prices and foreign exchange assumptions.

The DFS for Platreef covered the first phase of production at an initial mining rate of 4 Mt/y, estimating Platreef’s initial average annual production rate would be 476,000 oz of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, plus 21 MIb (9,525 t) of nickel and 13 MIb (5,897 t) of copper.

Concurrently, Ivanhoe is finalising a preliminary economic assessment for the phased development production plan for Platreef. The plan targets significantly lower initial capital to accelerate first production by using Shaft 1 as the mine’s initial production shaft, followed by expansions to the production rate as outlined in the 2017 DFS, Ivanhoe said.

“The re-evaluation is being done in parallel with the ongoing mine development work to access the thick, high-grade, flat-lying Flatreef deposit that was discovered in 2010 and outlined in the Platreef 2017 feasibility study,” it said.

The new auxiliary winder for the 7.25 m diameter Shaft 1, which is scheduled to be delivered to Platreef later this year, will be used to assist in equipping the shaft; and thereafter for logistics, shaft examination and auxiliary functions. The auxiliary winder will provide a second means of ingress and egress from the shaft after removal of the stage winder.

Shaft 1 is around 350 m away from a high-grade area of the Flatreef orebody, planned for bulk-scale, mechanised mining.

Generation Mining readies more ‘aggressive’ Marathon PGM-copper project approach

Generation Mining says it is making headway on the development plan for its Marathon palladium-copper project, in north-western Ontario, Canada, having contracted all the major engineering companies for the study.

The study is expected to take around seven to eight months to conclude, with completion expected in early 2021, it said.

G-Mining Services will carry out the mine plan and mineral reserves, infrastructure scope of work and integration of the costs and economic analysis; Ausenco Engineering Canada is progressing the process facility layout and design based on the metallurgical testing that is currently underway at SGS-Lakefield; and Knight-Piesold is to design the tailings facility and open-pit geotechnical engineering. In support of the feasibility study and environment impact interactions, Stantec and Ecometrix P&E Mining Consultants will be responsible for the mineral resource estimate, the company said.

Jamie Levy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Generation Mining, said: “It is a very impressive team that we have assembled for the feasibility study. I am confident that these firms will optimise the value of the Marathon-PGM property and will continue to de-risk the project.

“Our goal is to maximise the net present value of the project while designing an operation which will minimise environmental impacts and provide economic benefits to the local communities. We see the Marathon project being near shovel-ready and well timed to the buoyant palladium market.”

Generation Mining acquired a 51% interest in the Marathon property from Sibanye Stillwater on July 10, 2019, and can increase its interest to 80% by spending $10 million over a period of four years. As of the March quarter, around $4 million of the $10 million has already been spent.

A preliminary economic assessment on Marathon published earlier this year outlined a 14,000 t/d open-pit operation growing to 22,000 t/d after expansion, with an average palladium output of 107,000 oz/y for 14 years. The open-pit mining would be owner-operated using conventional diesel equipment consisting of 254 mm diameter rotary drills on 10 m high benches, 29 cu.m bucket hydraulic excavators, and 221 t off-highway haul trucks and auxiliary equipment, according to the study.

On the feasibility study, Generation Mining said all groups were “integrating well” through good interactions and frequent communications.

“G-Mining will progress pit designs and sequencing that will prioritise the high-grade palladium values for initial production to bring increased palladium production into the first half of the mine life, and increase copper production in the mine’s later years,” the company said.

“Ausenco’s plant design is expected to update the quality work that was done in prior studies with newer technology, which, in turn, will improve concentrator operability and lower capital costs, while increasing palladium recovery without sacrificing copper recovery. This flowsheet is expected to be validated with the current metallurgical test work that is progressing at SGS-Lakefield.

“Knight-Piesold will be updating the past tailings dam designs to reflect current best available practices and technologies.”

Stantec and Ecometrix are involved in the feasibility study team to help facilitate the update of the Environment Impact Study report addendum and to help inform the critical path regulatory approvals process, the company added.

At this early stage, the work on the feasibility study will consider an optimised processing and mine production rate that is “more aggressive” than outlined in the PEA, the company said, contemplating starting at 5 Mt/y and expanding to 8 Mt/y after five years.

Ivanhoe looks to align Platreef mine advance with palladium, rhodium price run

Ivanhoe Mines says it is fast-tracking a feasibility study on a smaller-scale, early-stage development plan at its Platreef palladium, platinum, nickel, copper, gold and rhodium project, in the Bushveld Complex of South Africa.

The move comes as spot prices of palladium and rhodium – two key metals contained in the Platreef ore – have soared in recent months. This has propelled Platreef’s ‘metals-price basket’ to a new, all-time high, Ivanhoe said.

Palladium prices surpassed a record $2,100/oz recently as stricter air-quality rules continue to boost demand for the metal used in vehicle pollution-control devices, while the price of rhodium has surged 32% already this month, attaining a price of more than $8,200/oz – the highest price since it hit more than $10,000/oz in 2008.

Ivanhoe’s plan would accelerate the mine’s first production by using Shaft 1 as the mine’s initial production shaft, followed by expansions to the production rate outlined in the project’s 2017 definitive feasibility study (DFS), it said. Ivanhoe’s smaller-scale mine design would also be optimised to target the highest-grade areas of the mineral resource in close vicinity to Shaft 1.

Platreef’s Shaft 1 currently is at a depth of 957 m below surface. It is scheduled to be completed to a final depth of around 1,000 m by the end of July. Work on Shaft 1’s 950-m-level station (pictured) – the shaft’s third and final station – is expected to be completed in March 2020.

Shaft 1 was previously expected to become the primary ventilation shaft during the project’s initial 4 Mt/y production case, with Shaft 2, around 100 m northeast of Shaft 1, providing primary access to the mining zones.

Platreef has an estimated 26.8 Moz of palladium in indicated resources, and an additional 43 Moz in inferred resources. This is in addition to an estimated 1.8 Moz of rhodium in indicated resources and an additional 3.1 Moz in inferred resources. Both of these are at a 2 g/t 3PE+gold cutoff.

In July 2017, Ivanhoe, which indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats, issued an independent DFS for Platreef covering the first phase of production at an initial mining rate of 4 Mt/y. The DFS estimated Platreef’s initial average annual production rate would be 476,000 oz of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, plus 21 MIb (9,525 t) of nickel and 13 MIb (5,897 t) of copper.

Anglo Platinum and Platinum Group Metals look downstream with Lion Battery Technologies JV

Anglo American Platinum and Platinum Group Metals Ltd have launched a new venture, Lion Battery Technologies Inc, to, they say, accelerate the development of next-generation battery technology using platinum and palladium.

This is all geared towards creating additional demand for platinum and palladium in the battery technology space.

The new Lion venture has entered into an agreement with Florida International University to further advance a research program that uses platinum and palladium to unlock the potential of lithium air and lithium sulphur battery chemistries to increase their discharge capacities and cyclability, the companies said. As part of this, Lion will have exclusive rights to all intellectual property developed and will lead all commercialisation efforts. “Lion is also currently reviewing several additional and complementary opportunities focused on developing next-generation battery technology using platinum and palladium.”

Thanks to considerably higher energy density, lithium oxygen and lithium sulphur batteries can perform better, by orders of magnitude, than the best-in-class lithium-ion batteries currently on the market or under development, according to the two companies. “This new generation of lightweight, powerful batteries has the potential to grow to scale on the back of the attractiveness of battery electric vehicles and the use of lithium batteries in other applications beyond mobility.”

Benny Oeyen, Executive Head of Market Development at Anglo American Platinum, said: “This exciting early-stage technology aligns with our broader strategy to bring new technologies to market that will help us secure future demand for the platinum group metals we mine and pave the way to a more sustainable energy future. Our commitment to market development is underscored by our relationship with AP Ventures, of which we are a cornerstone investor and who is a potential investor in this technology as it matures.”

Michael Jones, CEO of Platinum Group Metals Ltd, commented: “Developing new applications for platinum group metals is key to ensuring long-term sustainable demand, demand which will be important to the future success of our large-scale Waterberg palladium and platinum mining project, in South Africa.”

Pre-sink of Shaft 2 at Ivanhoe’s Platreef underground project months away

In a review of exploration and development activities in 2018, Ivanhoe Mines has gone into some detail on developments at Shaft 2 at the Platreef PGM-nickel-copper-gold project on the northern limb of South Africa’s Bushveld Complex.

This follows a project update issued just after the Mining Indaba event in February.

Shaft 1, expected to reach its final depth of 982 m below surface in early 2020, will ultimately become the primary ventilation shaft during the project’s initial 4 Mt/y production case, but Shaft 2, around 100 m northeast of Shaft 1, will provide primary access to the mining zones.

Ivanhoe said Shaft 2 will have an internal diameter of 10 m, will be lined with concrete and sunk to a planned, final depth of more than 1,104 m below surface.

It will be equipped with two 40-t rock-hoisting skips capable of hoisting a total of 6 Mt/y of ore – the single largest hoisting capacity at any mine in Africa. The headgear for the permanent hoisting facility was designed by South Africa-based Murray & Roberts Cementation.

Ivanhoe said nine blasts were successfully completed in 2018 enabling the excavation of Shaft 2’s box cut to a depth of approximately 29 m below surface and the construction of the concrete hitch (shaft collar foundation) for the 103-m-tall concrete headgear (preparations pictured here) that will house the shaft’s permanent hoisting facilities and support the shaft collar.

Excavation of the box cut and construction of the hitch foundation is expected to be completed in the June quarter, enabling the beginning of the pre-sink, that will extend 84 m below surface, it said.

In July 2017, Ivanhoe, which indirectly owns 64% of the Platreef project through its subsidiary, Ivanplats, issued an independent, definitive feasibility study (DFS) for Platreef covering the first phase of production at an initial mining rate of 4 Mt/y. The DFS estimated Platreef’s initial, average annual production rate would be 476,000 oz of platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, plus 21 MIb (9,525 t) of nickel and 13 MIb (5,897 t) of copper.

Eurasia secures Sinosteel EPC finance package for Monchetundra palladium project

Eurasia Mining says it has signed an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, with an associated mine finance package, for its Monchetundra PGM-gold-copper-nickel project, in Russia.

The contract with China’s Sinosteel follows ongoing discussions between the two parties, which have been taking place since issue of the mining permit for a circa-2 Moz (two platinum group metals and gold) deposit in November 2018.

Monchetundra has 1.9 Moz of palladium-led reserves and resources with platinum, gold, copper and nickel.

Sinosteel said: “We are delighted that Terskaya Mining Company, controlled by Eurasia Mining plc, has received the final mining permit for the Monchetundra project. We look forward to working with CKE (Central Kola Expedition – a contractor), TGK (Terskaya Gornaya Kompany) and Eurasia, to commence the EPC and develop the mine and plant at this exciting palladium, platinum, copper and nickel project.”

Christian Schaffalitzky, Chairman at Eurasia, said: “We are delighted to advance the Monchetundra project. The details include not only the engineering components, but also the financing and legal documentation. We will be busy over the coming months developing our plans with Sinosteel for the mine’s start up and expected move towards production.

CKE, Eurasia’s long standing working partner at Monchetundra, were recently awarded and have now commenced work on a detailed project report, required to be submitted and approved within one year of the issue of the mining permit. This contract was awarded to CKE by Eurasia’s subsidiary TGK.

Eurasia said: “The report will include an outline of the further geotechnical, hydrogeological, metallurgical and resource and reserve base work required as part of the broader mine development plan. The report is a statutory requirement and is on track to be completed and approved.”

The ground works and other studies detailed within the report will then contribute to a more detailed feasibility study of permanent conditions and a revised reserves statement made on the basis of the existing feasibility study and the reserves report already approved by the state.

“It is Eurasia’s intention to fast track the above and to run them in parallel with further mine studies and programmes as outlined in the EPC contract with Sinosteel,” the company said.

The Sinosteel EPC financing covers 85% (or $149.6 million) of a total contract value of $176 million. A $50 million sub-contract is specified within the contract and is assigned to Eurasia’s 80% subsidiary TGK, or a sub-contractor of its choosing, for engineering and pit development works in advance of mining.