Tag Archives: Peru

H-E Parts and Barrick extend maintenance relationship at Lagunas Norte

H-E Parts has helped Barrick Gold’s Lagunas Norte gold-silver miner in Peru improve maintenance and lower costs through the implementation of its Birrana™ mobile mining technology.

The US-based METS company has a long history of providing Barrick with global solutions to improve mine maintenance practice and, following a long partnership with its Pierina mine, Barrick’s Lagunas Norte operation engaged H-E Parts to provide a Komatsu 730E-7 wheel group repair program.

Located on the western flank of the Peruvian Andes at an elevation of 4,000 m above sea level, Lagunas Norte is an open-pit gold and silver mine within the Alto Chicama property. Barrick placed the mine on care and maintenance at the end of the September quarter.

H-E Parts said it put a maintenance regime in place and Lagunas Norte implemented the wheel groups.

This involved re-manufacturing the 730E-7 wheel groups, incorporating H-E Parts proprietary Birrana enhancements. This included the Birrana control fit wheel bearing system – which includes flexible spacer, hardened spacer, custom bearing design and specifications, and preload adjustment – and the Birrana brake wear gauge to allow for easy and fast brake wear measurement, reduced downtime, and improved safety.

“Once in production, Birrana enhanced wheel groups accomplished the required planned component replacement timeframes while also achieving a lower cost per operating hours,” the company said. “The product quality and service received by Barrick was expected with H-E Parts having previously supplied front and rear wheel groups for their fleet of Caterpillar 785D haul trucks operating at Barrick Pierina mine site.”

H-E Parts has now delivered over 40 wheel groups to Lagunas Norte.

“Unlike other service options available to Lagunas Norte, H-E Parts has the ability to provide major mobile component solutions across a range of equipment brands,” the company said. “This allows our customers a single maintenance solution for their mobile fleets, which is backed by decades of global experience and performance.”

AGQ Labs to keep environmental tabs on Glencore’s Contonga polymetallic mine

AGQ Labs’ mining division has been awarded a contract to carry out the environmental monitoring of the quality of soil, water, plant and hydrobiological tissue at Glencore’s Contonga polymetallic mine, in Peru.

The Contonga mine, in Ancash, is owned by Glencore subsidiary Compañía Minera Los Quenuales. It is a polymetallic underground zinc, lead, copper and silver mine with more than 100 years of operating history, according to AGQ Labs. Glencore acquired the asset from Nyrstar back in September 2017.

The mining company, as part of its environmental commitment at the mine, performs environmental monitoring of its components to determine their chemical stability and the potential for acid mine generation, as well as their characterisation through complementary studies, AGQ Labs said.

AGQ Labs Mining will provide the sampling service and technical analytical support through a specialised service for the characterisation of soils, waters and plant tissue. This uses selective analytical techniques for the characterisation of the matrices under study.

For this, AGQ Labs uses a set of tests to define the quality of the soils under study through fertility tests and characterisation of the profiles.

Mobilisation of the different analytes under study are also characterised through leaching tests such as methodologies proposed by Tessier and the Flask Extraction Test. The characterisation of its acid generation capacity with ABA methodologies and mineralogy analysis is carried out with Thin Sheet Microscopy.

AGQ Labs said: “The characterisation works are complemented by the taxonomic classification of the most representative flora and the study of the waters through laboratory analyses of physicochemical and hydrobiological parameters.”

Newmont withdraws 2020 guidance as four mines go into care and maintenance mode

Newmont says it is withdrawing its full-year 2020 guidance after placing four of its operations into temporary care and maintenance mode in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The company said these actions could see some production deferred into 2021, potentially impacting costs in 2020 if the suspensions continue for an extended period. This meant its guidance of 6.4 Moz of gold at an all-in sustaining cost of $975/oz for 2020, given in early January, would no longer stand.

For the March quarter, Newmont said it expected to produce some 1.4 Moz of attributable gold and around 325,000 of “co-product gold equivalent ounces”. Year-to-date through February 29, Newmont had produced around 981,000 oz of attributable gold and some 227,000 co-product gold equivalent ounces, it said.

“Newmont continues to work proactively with logistics partners and refiners to transport and refine product in a challenging environment,” it said. “We are not currently experiencing significant delays in the shipping of concentrate or transportation and refining of doré, but they may occur in the coming days and weeks if certain government-required shutdowns and border restrictions occur.”

Mines representing around 80% of the company’s production outlook for 2020 continue operating in line with production targets for the year, it said. These operations have implemented heightened levels of health screening, along with support services being conducted remotely.

“If at any point the company determines that continuing operations poses an increased risk to our workforce or host communities, we will reduce operational activities up to and including care and maintenance and management of critical environmental systems,” the company added.

Yet, in order to protect nearby communities and align with travel restrictions or health considerations in Argentina, Canada and Peru, four of its operations are being temporarily put into care and maintenance.

“The operations will be positioned so they can safely and quickly resume normal operations once protective measures have been lifted,” the company said.

The operations being placed into care and maintenance mode includ:

  • Musselwhite: Newmont has decided to limit personnel on site to minimise fly-in/fly-out activity to prevent the possible transmission of the virus into communities, including nearby First Nations communities in northern Ontario – essential personnel to maintain infrastructure, continue environmental management and provide security;
  • Eléonore (pictured: Credit Osisko Gold Royalties): Newmont has decided to limit personnel on site to comply with the Quebec government’s restriction on non-essential travel within the province and to prevent the possible transmission of the virus into communities, including nearby First Nations communities – essential personnel to maintain infrastructure, continue environmental management and provide security;
  • Cerro Negro: Newmont will have to limit personnel on site due to the halt of all domestic flights and mass transportation in Argentina through March 31 – remaining on site will be essential personnel to maintain infrastructure, continue environmental management, provide security and continue ground control activities; and
  • Yanacocha: As previously disclosed, mining operations were in the process of safely ramping down due to government travel restrictions in-country, while gold production from leach pads and critical safety, security and environmental management activities continue

Tom Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Newmont, said: “Our business continuity plans and rapid response teams have been fully mobilised in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“We are working closely with host communities, First Nations and other indigenous peoples, regional and national governments and health experts to protect our workforce and nearby communities. This includes putting some operations temporarily into care and maintenance while others continue to operate at targeted production levels.

“We are also making sure that these short-term disruptions do not impact long-term business value while ensuring we are well-positioned to safely and efficiently ramp-up operations in a timely manner once the worst of this global pandemic passes.”

Measures taken at Newmont operations and offices globally include:

  • Cancelling all non-essential travel;
  • Enhanced temperature and questionnaire screening at entry points to sites;
  • Establishing flexible and remote working plans for employees;
  • Establishing screening for fly-in-fly-out employees prior to their departures from their home communities;
  • Mandatory self-quarantine for anyone who has travelled internationally or has any flu-like symptoms;
  • Providing logistical and health care support to nearby communities where needed; and
  • Established a global supply chain task force to assess all potential risks and develop viable contingency plans that enable us to stay ahead of any potential supply disruptions.

Buenaventura and Sierra Metals scale back Peru operations

Compañia de Minas Buenaventura and Sierra Metals have become the latest companies to scale down activities in Peru following the government’s issuing of a supreme decree and declaration of a national emergency in order to contain the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

These restrictions currently remain in place for a 15-day period, commencing March 16, and have already seen Newmont, Anglo American and Freeport McMoRan scale back operations in the country.

Buenaventura, in accordance with these restrictions and within the framework of the company’s Pandemic Response Plan, as well as local and national health authority requirements and recommendations, says it will limit the activities of its operations to those which ensure functionality of its mine pumping systems, water treatment plants, energy supply, hydroelectric substations, health services as well as safety conditions including backfill and general support, among others.

Sierra Metals, meanwhile, has temporarily ceased mining operations at its Yauricocha mine (pictured), saying it continues to seek further clarity on the declaration and its impact on mining operations in Peru.

Both companies say they are prepared to immediately restart operations once they have received notice from federal and local authorities that it is appropriate to do so.

Buenaventura commented: “All operations and offices have implemented the appropriate travel restrictions, surveillance, monitoring and response plans to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and outbreak, including health screening of contractors, visitors and employees when appropriate.

“In addition, individual operations continually assess the situation as it evolves and have limited external visitors to only those who are considered to be business critical. Each of its operations also continue to monitor and implement business continuity measures to mitigate and minimise any potential impacts of the global outbreak that might emerge on its operations, supply chain, commercial and financial activities.”

Sierra Metals President and CEO, Igor Gonzales, meanwhile, said: “We take the safety of our employees very seriously and have complied with the government’s requests. We have sent 470 staff home from the mine, while an emergency staff of 150 remain at the site.

“Management continues to follow the recommendations provided by the World Health Organization and Peruvian Health Authorities. We continue to monitor and seek clarity on the situation and will update shareholders and the market further as things progress.”

While Buenaventura did not mention its 2020 guidance in the release, it did say there had been no material impact to production or shipment of concentrate from any of the company’s operations to date as a result of COVID-19.

“Additionally, there has been no significant disruption to the supply chain of the company’s operations. Buenaventura’s central headquarters is in frequent contact with all individual operations and associated mine managers to ensure timely updates on the situation and provide any necessary logistical support,” the company said.

Sierra Metals said its guidance remains unchanged at this time, given Yauricocha had been running ahead of budget since the beginning of the year, and the company is ahead on 2020 production tonnage to date.

“Additionally, the mine has approximately 37,000 t of ore stockpiled at its processing mill, which represents more than two thirds of the ore needed by the mill during the disruption period and it can recommence production very quickly.

“Furthermore, the company has the operating flexibility to temporarily run the ore processing mill above the 3,150 t/d capacity, which should help Yauricocha recover lost ore tonnages from this stoppage.”

In addition to Buenaventura and Sierra Metals, Teck Resources announced that Compania Minera Antamina, in which Teck has a 22.5% interest, continues to operate the Antamina mine under an exemption from recently announced government restrictions.

it said critical operations will be maintained by a reduced workforce throughout the 15-day national emergency quarantine period, with appropriate precautions being taken by Antamina to protect its workforce during this “challenging period”.

The company clarified that there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine site and, assuming no further adverse developments in connection with COVID-19, any temporary reduction in production was expected to be recovered in line with existing 2020 guidance.

MMG’s Las Bambas aims for tailings boost with SciDev MaxiFlox trial

SciDev’s MaxiFlox® chemistries are to be used in the tailings thickener at the Las Bambas copper mine, in Peru, following a trial purchase order from mine owner MMG.

The commercial trial follows on from earlier successful technical evaluations that SciDev conducted during 2019, it said.

The aim of the trial is to improve water recovery and, ultimately, increase the available volume in the mines tailings storage facility, according to SciDev.

SciDev Managing Director and CEO, Lewis Utting, said: “The order from MMG Ltd at their Las Bambas operation represents SciDev’s first entry into the copper sector in South America. With both water and available land at a premium in the region, SciDev’s technology could add value to our customers.”

Back in September, SciDev was awarded a three-year contract with Iluka Resources for delivery of MaxiFlox chemistry to the Jacinth–Ambrosia zircon mine, in South Australia. This order followed the delivery of a chemical products trial for the miner in the December quarter of 2018.

MaxiFlox is specifically designed for use in solid liquid separation processes, SciDev says. Products in the MaxiFlox range are supplied in both liquid and powder form across an extensive range of molecular weights and charge densities to solve industrial challenges. Products include:

  • MaxiFlox organic liquid coagulants (based on synthetic organic monomers and naturally occurring polysaccharides);
  • MaxiFlox inorganic liquid coagulant blends;
  • MaxiFlox cationic and anionic flocculant emulsions;
  • MaxiFlox cationic and anionic flocculant powders;
  • MaxiFlox mud solidification polymers, and;
  • MaxiFlox antifoam products.

Mining Peru Congress organisers preparing the red carpet

The Mining Peru Congress is now less than three months away and the organisers are ready to welcome more than 300 attendees from key mining enterprises, regulatory authorities, government, technology and equipment suppliers, and investors.

Taking place on April 1-2, in Lima, Peru, Vostock Capital, the organisers, describe the event as a “strategic congress and exhibition for the leaders of the mining industry”.

Vostock says the conference highlights include:

  • New concessions and projects: learn about the conditions for individuals or corporations to acquire mining concessions during the next public tender process;
  • Technology, safety and productivity: learn how innovative technologies in exploration and mine development are helping mining companies increase their productivity;
  • Funding and investments: cooperating with local and international banks and financial institutions, private investors, project financing. How to gain the most favourable lending conditions and how to ensure a quick return of investments;
  • Beyond licensing: the benefits of mining in a socially and environmentally responsible manner;
  • Where’s Peru heading? Obtain the most up to date insights into key projects and opportunities;
  • Dedicated exhibition of cutting-edge equipment and technologies for the mining industry delivered by local and global leaders from around the world;
  • One-to-one business meetings and networking opportunities: talk to key decision makers, develop new business contacts, take part in networking round tables, cocktail reception and interactive discussions.

To find out more about the event, go to: https://mininglatamcongress.com/

International Mining is a media partner of the Mining Peru Congress

TOMRA XRT leaves its mark on Minsur San Rafael tin mine

TOMRA Sorting Mining says Peru’s Minsur SA has felt the benefit of its X-ray Transmission (XRT) sensor-based ore sorting technology, with its San Rafael tin mine having seen an increase in reserves, plant capacity, overall recoveries and mine life since it was introduced.

Part of the Breca Group of companies, Minsur owns and operates the largest underground tin mining operation in the world, San Rafael. Located in the Eastern Mountain chain of the Andes in Peru at an altitude of 4,500-5,200 m above sea level, the mine contributed about 6% of the total world production of tin in 2015, with about 1 Mt of ore at an average grade of 2.13% mined and processed, resulting in 20,000 t of tin concentrate.

That same year, Minsur initiated a number of activities to ensure the future value of its asset, addressing challenges that included declining head grades and rising operating costs, according to TOMRA.

One of these activities involved an ore sorting project.

Started in 2015, in collaboration with TOMRA Sorting Mining, the project’s objective was to reject low-grade material in coarse particle size.

“By separating sub-economic material before entering the more cost-intensive wet processing, the project would address the bottleneck at the wet section and improve productivity by increasing the feed grade,” TOMRA explained. An added benefit expected from the project would be the longer life of the mine.

Three main factors indicated that sensor-based particle sorting for waste rejection would be effective at San Rafael:

  • The high absorption of transmitting X-rays of tin contained in cassiterite;
  • The structures of cassiterite, which are large enough to be detected by XRT technology; and
  • The significant degree of liberation of sub-economic waste on the particle level that may be subject to sensor-based particle sorting.

In order to assess the feasibility of the project, TOMRA conducted metallurgical tests on geological samples from San Rafael, followed by performance test work. The tests showed the deposit to be amenable to XRT ore sorting due to the presence of 70-80% of uneconomic particles that can be rejected over a wide size range, from 6 to 70 mm, TOMRA said.

The project was approved and, in view of the significant economic potential, was fast tracked and completed in just 14 months. TOMRA and its partner in Peru, which supplied and installed the XRT sorting system, worked closely with Minsur throughout the six-month ramp-up period.

The ore sorting project with TOMRA’s XRT system has delivered significant financial benefits from the beginning, with Minsur realising payback on its capital expenditure in just four months, according to TOMRA. In 2017, the ore sorting project contributed around 36% of Minsur’s total production with about 6,000 t of tin concentrate, the company said.

The project has reduced capital and operating costs at San Rafael in a number of ways:

  • Added value – TOMRA’s XRT sensor-based ore sorting is converting uneconomic waste material into economic ore, as material below the cutoff for the main plant can be treated with lower operating costs and converted into reserves;
  • Increased plant capacity – The main plant capacity has gone from 2,950 t/d before implementation to 3,200 t/d today, as a result of the crushing operation at the XRT sorting plant;
  • Significant improvement in the overall recovery in the main plant – from 90.5% to 92.5%. This is due to sensor-based ore sorting rejecting particles with very fine mineralised cassiterite that is too small for detection by the XRT system, resulting in higher grade and size of mineralisation;
  • Extended life-of-mine – today, about 24% of the feed to the sensor-based ore sorting plant come from low grade ore from underground, which in the past would have been below the cutoff. This increase in reserves significantly extends the life of mine;
  • Elimination of liabilities through the treatment and proper disposal of 100% of the stockpile; and
  • Decreased tailings disposal due to the sensor-based ore sorting system reducing the amount of waste by increasing the grade in the feed to the plant.

TOMRA concluded on the San Rafael case study: “The success of the project has demonstrated the high potential of TOMRA’s XRT technology, and as a result, the company plans to include XRT sensor-based ore sorting as a possible process route in all future projects.”

Minnovare boosts Azimuth Aligner marketing in Peru with Core Tech deal

Minnovare has signed on Lima-based Core Tech as its official sales and support agent for the Azimuth Aligner® product throughout Peru.

Used in mining exploration and civil construction, the Azimuth Aligner automates the drill-rig alignment process – substantially increasing accuracy and efficiency, while reducing downtime and costs by up to 90%, according to Minnovare. It has previously been tested out at LKAB’s Kiruna mine, among other operations.

Established in 1996, Core Tech offers solutions for mining exploration, surface mining, underground mining and construction, providing customers with the best products, brands, services and prices in the region, Minnovare said.

Minnovare Commercial Director, Mick Beilby, said: “We’re very pleased to be able to sign this distributor agreement with Core Tech. Core Tech have built a solid reputation in the Latin American mining sector over the past 20 years. Their cultural fit aligns well with Minnovare’s and we look forward to collaborating with them in the years to come.”

Minnovare has progressively been expanding the reach of its Azimuth Aligner. In June 2019, it signed an agreement with Geophysique TMC that saw the Quebec-based company become the official sales and service agent for these products throughout the Canadian province, while, in July 2018, International Directional Services signed on as a distributor in the US.

Schenck displays continental comminution offering with Peru copper contract

Schenck Process has won a contract to design manufacture, supply and commission vibrating screens and feeders for the greenfield Mina Justa copper project, in Peru.

The order will see Schenck business units on four continents combine to deliver seven banana screens (across three models), five diverging pan feeders and one grizzly feeder.

Mina Justa, owned by Minsur and Empresas Copec through holding company Cumbres Andinas, is slated to produce around 100,000 t/y of copper when fully ramped up.

The screens and feeder contract will see all design completed at Schenck’s vibrating equipment design centre in Sydney, Australia, manufacture and testing in the company’s Chinese plant, custom-made screen panels from the South Africa production facility and commissioning by the aftermarket services team in Chile. The project is being managed and coordinated by the Australia-based Project Management team, Schenck said.

The screens include several mechanical and operational improvements developed on a prototype vibrating screen now undergoing site testing at an iron ore mine in Western Australia, according to the company.

“The five larger screens feature laminated side plates to maintain structural integrity and reduce stress concentrations associated with the projected process tonnages,” Schenck explained. “Additionally, machined transition flanges are welded in a low stress area to the cross beams to actively reduce fatigue, and a unique spring removal system has been fitted to facilitate and reduce downtime during spring change-outs.”

The six feeders have been designed to account for site conditions and feature a more robust design. They are also equipped with exchangeable liners and an upgraded transition hopper to improve operational availability and performance, the company said.

Each of the vibrating feeders and screens for Mina Justa is equipped with CONiQ, the company’s proprietary continuous six-dimension condition monitoring system, to track and alert operators to abnormal operating conditions. Feeder control systems have been electronically aligned with the screen’s installation, Schenck added.

Project manager, Lauren Williams, said: “This is a truly international project and, from our point of view, it is the best way to give our customer the equipment that will deliver higher process efficiency and longer service life.

“Although based on standardised platform designs for screens and feeders, each unit has been subject to a customising process to meet site and processing capacity requirements. We are delivering an integrated package of screens and feeders to optimise availability and productivity and represent the best value for money.”

Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining on its way to tangible technology results

“It’s clear that the pressures on us are unsustainable, whether it is around our carbon footprint, water footprint, or physical footprint, and we are always looking for different ways to push us in this future direction where our footprint will be very different.”

Tony O’Neill, Anglo American Technical Director, knows the company he works for is up against it when it comes to retaining its reputation as one of the world’s leading sustainable mining companies.

It’s clear from the company’s 2018 sustainability report – which saw it achieve a best-ever performance in terms of injuries, a cut in energy use and an increase in greenhouse gas emission savings – that Anglo is going down multiple paths to reach its goals. O’Neill, who joined the company almost six years ago, believes Anglo’s FutureSmart Mining™ programme will play a major role in confronting and overcoming many of the issues it (and the industry) is facing.

“If you look at FutureSmart Mining, at its absolute essence, it is about footprint; how do you change the footprint of mining? How do you have a mine that draws no fresh water? Mines without tailings dams? Mines that look very different?” he told IM.

“It’s getting people to believe there is a different way for mining in an industry that has, to this point, been quite traditional. It is not going to happen overnight, but I think we have a genuine vision that is, in my view, quite feasible.”

IM spoke with O’Neill and Donovan Waller, Group Head of Technology Development, this week to get to the bottom of how technology is making Anglo ever more sustainable.

IM: Could you explain how the Anglo operating model facilitates and fosters innovation within the context of FutureSmart Mining?

TO: The Anglo American operating model is the chassis that underpins everything, giving us certainty in the delivery of our work. When you have got that stability – and the lack of variability – in your business outputs, it is much easier to overlay new technologies and processes. When you then see a difference in operating or financial results, you can confirm it is down to what you have implemented, rather than the underlying processes.

I look at it a little bit like a three-legged stool: you have the operating model on one leg, the P101 benchmark-setting on another, and technology and data analytics on the third leg. They all co-exist in this system and work off each other. Without one, the stool falls over.

The operating model has given us a drumbeat of delivery, and we get the licence to innovate because of this drumbeat.

IM: Do you think FutureSmart Mining is starting to be understood and valued by investors?

TO: They’re awake to it now. I think it is still in the early stages of the story, but they can see what we are doing and the ambition behind it. Ultimately, it will result in a different investment profile, or more investors because of it, but I am not sure that it’s translated in full up to now. The recognition has been more around the general results of the company.

With all these technologies coming through – much of them driven by higher levels of data and the ability to interrogate that data – the vision we imagined way out into the future, I think, is a lot more tangible than when we started out four years ago.

IM: Out of all the tailings dam elimination work you are carrying out (around passive resistivity, fibre-optics, micro-seismic monitoring, coarse particle recovery, polymers, and dry stacking), which innovation will have an impact on Anglo’s operations in the next three-to-five years?

TO: All of them. We started out with our tailings programme in 2013; in fact, our group technical standards were re-issued at the beginning of 2014 and they are now one of the main guidelines the ICMM (International Council on Mining and Metals) uses.

Tailings dams have always been at the back end of the mining process and, in a way, the science behind them has never been part of the mainstream operation. Our view, internally for many years, is tailings dams are one of the industry’s greatest risks.

“Our view, internally for many years, is tailings dams are one of the industry’s greatest risks,” Tony O’Neill says

Ultimately our aim is to eliminate tailings dams. Period. Coarse particle flotation – getting that coarser particle size that drains much more freely – is core to that and you can see a development pathway there. For example, with some of these new flotation techniques, we now only need 1% exposure of the mineral for it to be effective. In the past, it was much higher.

When we upgraded the capability of our tailings organisation, it became clear we needed to get a lot more data off these tailings dams. About three years ago, we started putting fibre-optic sensors into the dams. We have since developed, through our exploration arm, passive resistivity seismic monitoring, which basically tells you where your water sits in the dams. And, we’re putting into Quellaveco micro-seismic measuring techniques, which will be more granular again. You can see the day coming really quickly where tailings dams are a real-time data source for mining companies.

We’re also, with our joint venture partner Debswana, building the first polymer plant in Botswana, which could have an impact on dry tailing disposal.

The thing we need to crack – both ourselves and the industry – is how to dry stack at scale. At the moment, that is still a work-in-progress, but it is doable in the long term.

IM: How is the bulk sorter you have operating at El Soldado, which is equipped with a neutron sensor, working? How has it made a difference to recoveries and grades at the operation?

TO: With the bulk sorter, we’re taking packages of tonnes rather than individual rocks to enable us to get both speed and volume. At El Soldado, we are sorting in four tonne packages. You can adapt the sorting profile by the characteristics of the orebody. We’re generally looking to sort tonnages that are less than you would put in a haul truck body or bucket.

If you step right back, in the past, most processing plants wanted to blend to get an average feed. We are going the other way. We want to use the heterogeneity of the orebody to its advantage; the less mixing we can get ahead of these sorting processes, the better it is for recoveries.

Being able to remove an orebody above the cut-off grade alongside waste tonnages and upgrade the latter has led to an effective lift in head grade. It has been enabled by new sensing technology with a particular type of neutron sensor.

What we have seen in early results has surprised us on the upside. We thought we would see a 5% uplift in head grade, but in fact we have seen about 20% – to qualify that, it’s in its early stages.

O’Neill says the bulk sorting trial at El Soldado has seen about a 20% uplift in head grade in its early stages

If you take this to its logical conclusion, you can see the day coming where you would cut the rock – no drilling and blasting – immediately sort the rock behind the machine cutting it and distribute said rock efficiently into its value in use; you don’t have stockpiles, you have plants sensing the material right through and adapting in real time to the change in mineralogy. I think there is another 3-4% increase in recovery in that whole process when we get it right.

Our sweet spot when we created FutureSmart Mining was always the orebody and processing plants, more so than automation (although that is part of the potential mix). That was different to a lot of the other players in the industry. This focus could lead to the development of different types of plants; ones that are flexible, more modular and you can plug and play.

IM: Do you see these type of neutron sensors being applied elsewhere across a mine site?

TO: Yes, through processing plants and conveyors. In fact, we’re preparing for this on conveyors right now.

What we have found with all this new technology is that, when we implement it, quite often another opportunity arrives. They end up playing off each other, and that is the context for the bulk sorting and coarse particle flotation.

IM: How have Anglo’s Open Forums played into these developments?

TO: We have held eight Open Forums on sustainability, processing, mining, exploration (two), future of work, energy and maintenance.

Out of those eight, I think we have got around 10,000 ideas from them. These forums have been specifically designed where only about a third of participants are from the mining industry, with the other two thirds coming from the best and brightest analogous industries we can tap into – automobile, oil & gas, food, construction, even Formula 1 racing and NASA.

The reality is that out of those 10,000 ideas, the success rate is about 1:1,000, but the one that makes it is quite often a game changer.

IM: Going back to the bulk sorters, am I right in thinking you plan to put these into Mogalakwena and Barro Alto too?

TO: The aim is to have them across our business. At El Soldado, the copper angle is very important. The technology – the sensing and using the data – is probably a touch more advanced in copper, but we are building one currently in our PGMs business at Mogalakwena and a bit behind that, but ready to be built, is one in nickel, yes.

In terms of our programme, you will see them spread across our business in the next, hopefully, 18 months.

IM: Where does your approach to advanced process control (APC) fit into the FutureSmart Mining platform?

TO: We want to have APC in some form across all our business by the end of this year. We have probably come from a little behind some of the other players in the industry, but we’re pushing it quite aggressively to give us the platform for data analytics. The upside we have seen just by putting the process control in so far has surprised me a bit – in a good way; power reductions, throughput, having this different level of control. All of it has been pleasing.

We spent about 12 months looking at the whole data analytics space to see how we were going to implement our solution. If you look around at the sector, everyone wants to be involved and profit share. If you add it all up, you could end up with not a lot of profitable pieces at the end. We have strategically chosen the pieces we think are important to us and our profit pool and have been happy to be a little looser on some of the non-core areas.

The other key plank to the APC is that we own the data. The reality is, in the new world, data is like a new orebody and we’re not willing to let go of that.

IM: Your Smart Energy project involving a haul truck powered on hydrogen has certainly caught the attention of the market: how did you come up with this innovation?

TO: Initially, we couldn’t make renewables work from an investment criteria perspective – it was always close, but never quite there. Donovan’s team then took an approach where they said, ‘forget the normal investment criteria. All we want to do is, make the business case wash its face.’ In doing so, it enabled them to oversize a renewable or photovoltaic energy source – the power plant – using that extra power to produce hydrogen and putting that hydrogen to use in the haulage fleet. Re-engineering the haulage fleet gave us the business outcomes we were looking for.

DW: These business cases bring you to temporary barriers. When you hit that temporary barrier, people normally stop, but what we said was, ‘OK, just assume it is not there and go forward.’ That brought the whole business case back again by looking at it differently again.

Anglo’s Smart Energy project is aiming to power a 300-t class truck with hydrogen fuel

IM: Where is this project likely to be situated within the group?

TO: We’re still not 100% fixed as the initial work will be done here (the UK). You are talking about quite specialist skills working with hydrogen.

When the system has gone past its initial testing, it will go to a site, probably in South Africa, but we are not 100% locked into that at this point.

IM: On the 12-month timeline you have given, when would you have to be on site?

TO: The infrastructure will be pre-built here in the UK. We’re effectively testing it here. In a way, the physical truck is the easy bit.

It’s going to be using a 300-t class truck. The guys have already done quite a bit of the detailed measuring and the design elements are well under way.

We’ve also taken the approach to use pre-approved technology, which Donovan can talk about.

DW: This minimises the risk on the first go and allows us to, later, tailor it. For example, if you don’t have a right sized fuel cell currently available off-the-shelf, you just use multiple standard-size fuel cells for now. Then, when you get into the final version you could tailor them into something more specific.

IM: On mechanised cutting, you recently mentioned the building of a “production-sized machine” for at least one of your mines in South Africa. Is this a variant of the Epiroc machine – the Rapid Mine Development System – you have been using at Twickenham?

TO: It’s the next generation of machines. It’s fair to say that, in the last 12 months, the technology has come to the point where we are confident it is viable.

What we’re looking for is a fundamental breakthrough where, for example, we can take the development rates up three or four times from what you would usually expect. That is what we’re chasing. It would involve some sort of pre-conditioning of the rock ahead of the cutting, but the cutting, itself, works.

For us, mechanised cutting is a real solution to some of the safety issues we have had on our plate. Regardless of whether it goes into South Africa or another underground mine, we see it as a key part of our future underground design and operation.

IM: What type of rock pre-conditioning is this likely to be?

TO: I think around the world, people are looking at electricity, microwave, laser, a whole suite of things. None of them have yet quite landed, but they all have potential.

IM: Where does haul truck automation fit into the pipeline for Anglo American?

TO: All the equipment we buy, going forward, will be autonomous-capable, which means we can run it in either format (manned or unmanned). You are then left with a number of decisions – have you got the design to retrofit automation? Is there a safety issue to be considered? Is there a weather issue to contend with? There are a whole series of gates that we’ll take it (automation projects) through.

It’s good to go back to P101 here. Where P100 is getting all of our key processes to world-class benchmarks, P101 is about establishing a new benchmark. By definition, if you get your operations to that point, the gap between that manned performance and autonomous performance is not that great.

Autonomy is part of our future armoury, but when and where and how, we’ll have to wait and see. For example, we are currently looking at the option of autonomous haulage trucks at one of our open-cut mines in Queensland.

When you look at our portfolio of operations, it’s often a more complex environment than when you are just working in the wide open Pilbara.