Tag Archives: palladium

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)

Metso Outotec grinding, flotation and separation equipment destined for Russian Platinum project

Metso Outotec has signed what it says is a landmark contract to deliver all key technology for a new concentrator plant in Norilsk, Russia.

The concentrator is operated by Chernogorskaya mining company, part of the Russian Platinum group.

The delivery is based on Metso Outotec’s proprietary technology and includes key equipment for grinding, flotation and separation. Metso Outotec will also deliver electrification, instrumentation and automation for the concentrator, it says. The contract, which exceeds €100 million ($116 million) in value, has been booked into the Minerals business’ September quarter orders received.

The new concentrator plant is expected to start production in 2023. It will process nickel-copper ore with high palladium and platinum content from the Chernogorsky deposit with an annual capacity of 7 Mt, according to the OEM. Metso Outotec has carried out the basic engineering for the concentrator plant in the earlier stages of the project, it says.

Evgeny Vorobeichik, Managing Director at Russian Platinum, says: “Russian Platinum is aiming for a highly efficient and environmentally friendly production process in the industrial region of Norilsk. The construction of the Chernogorsk GOK is the first stage of this large-scale project, the implementation of which will make our company one of the leaders in the production of palladium and platinum. Use of advanced technical solutions and reliable equipment is an absolute priority. The partnership with Metso Outotec and continuous support from its local operations in Russia are important components to ensuring the success of the project.”

Markku Teräsvasara, President of the Minerals business area at Metso Outotec, added: “Metso Outotec has ample experience with the arctic environment in the Norilsk region as well as with its uniquely rich and demanding ore types. We are delighted to be able to support Chernogorskaya in this greenfield project, where we will be delivering the whole concentrator with the latest technology.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.