Tag Archives: PGM

Anglo American Platinum’s modernisation drive to continue into 2021

Anglo American Platinum says it is looking to deliver the next phase of value to its stakeholders after reporting record EBITDA for 2020 in the face of COVID-19-related disruption.

The miner, majority-owned by Anglo American, saw production drop 14% year-on-year in 2020 to 3.8 Moz (on a 100% basis) due to COVID-related stoppages. Despite this, a higher basket price for its platinum group metals saw EBITDA jump 39% to R41.6 billion ($2.8 billion) for the year.

As all its mines are now back to their full operating rates, the company was confident enough to state PGM metal in concentrate production should rise to 4.2-4.6 Moz in 2021.

Part of its pledge to deliver more value to stakeholders was related to turning 100% of its operations into fully modernised and mechanised mines by 2030. At the end of 2020, the company said 88% of its mines could be classified as fully modernised and mechanised.

There were some operational bright spots during 2020 the company flagged.

At Mogalakwena – very much the company’s flagship operation – Anglo Platinum said the South Africa mine continued its journey to deliver best-in-class performance through its P101 program.

Rope-shovel performance improved to 26 Mt in 2020, from 15 Mt in 2019, while drill penetration rates for big rigs increased from 15 m/h, to 16.7 m/h. Alongside this, the company said its Komatsu 930E truck fleet performance improved to 298 t/load in 2020, from 292 t/load in 2019.

These were contributing factors to concentrator recoveries increasing by two percentage points in 2020 over 2019.

During the next few years, the company has big plans to further improve Mogalakwena’s performance.

In 2020, the mine invested R500 million in operating and capital expenditure, which included commissioning a full-scale bulk ore sorting plant, coarse particle rejection project and development of the hydrogen-powered fuel-cell mining haul-truck (otherwise referred to as the FCEV haul truck).

First motion of the 291 t FCEV haul truck is still on track for the second half of 2021, with the company planning to roll out circa-40 such trucks from 2024.

Anglo Platinum said the bulk sorting plant (which includes a Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis and XRF sensor-based setup, pictured) campaign at the Mogalakwena operation is due to end this quarter.

The company’s hydraulic dry stacking project is only just getting started.

This project, which involves coarse gangue rejection before primary flotation for safer tailings storage facilities, is expected to see a construction start in the June quarter, followed by a campaign commencement and conclusion in the September quarter and December quarters, respectively.

On another of Anglo Platinum’s big technology breakthrough projects – coarse particle rejection for post primary milling rejection of coarse gangue before primary flotation – the company plans to start a campaign in the December quarter of this year and conclude said campaign by the end of the March quarter of 2022.

The company also has eyes on making progress underground at Mogalakwena, with a hard-rock cutting project to “increase stoping productivity and safety” set for Phase A early access works this year. This project is set to involve swarm robotics for autonomous, 24/7 self-learning underground mining, the company said.

Lastly, the company’s said the digital operational planning part of its VOXEL digital platform had gone live at Mogalakwena. VOXEL is expected to eventually connect assets, processes, and people in a new digital thread across the value chain to create a family of digital twins of the entire mining environment, the company says. Development is currently ongoing.

Looking back to 2020 performance at the Unki mine, in Zimbabwe, Anglo reflected on some more technology initiatives related to R26 million of expenditure for a digitalisation program. This included installing underground Wi-Fi infrastructure, as well as a fleet data management system to track analytics on primary production equipment. The company says these digital developments will enhance real-time data analysis, improve short-interval control and overall equipment effectiveness.

To step up mechanisation of its PGM operations at Amandelbult, Anglo American Platinum is also investing in innovation.

This includes in-stope safety technologies such as split panel layouts to allow buffer times between cycles, creating safer continuous operation and reduced employee exposure; improved roof support technology and new drilling technologies; a shift to emulsion blasting from throw blasting; and safety enhancements through fall of ground indicators, 2 t safety nets, LED lights, and winch proximity detection.

Meanwhile, at the company’s Mototolo/Der Brochen operations, it is working on developing the first lined tailings storage facility at Mareesburg in South Africa to ensure zero contamination of ground water. The three-phase approach adopted for construction of this facility will be completed this year.

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.

Condra delivers fully automated overhead crane to South Africa PGM operation

Condra says it has developed fully automated overhead crane capability, with the first machine of this type recently delivered to a South Africa platinum group metals operation.

Marc Kleiner, Condra’s Managing Director, said the company was making full use of new developments in sensors, controls and software to offer a very precise positioning capability in automated applications, with the company aware of an industry shift towards more automated operations.

“This is a capability that we will offer to our customers as an option,” Kleiner said. “We will mainly, but not solely, target the copper mines, especially tankhouse and copper-leaching applications where we have extensive experience.”

Condra’s announcement follows the increasing sophistication of its semi-automated installations, which began in 2003 with a grabbing crane installed at a Durban spice company to pick spices and transport them to specific points for release over hoppers, the company said.

At Sibanye Stillwater’s Marikana platinum mine (owned by Lonmin prior to Sibanye-Stillwater’s acquisition of the company), the fully-automated machine recently installed and commissioned is a 16 t, 16 m-span double-girder electric overhead travelling grabbing crane. It features a customer-specified mechanical rope grab in place of the hydraulic alternative to deliver the improved durability of mechanical operation within Marikana’s abrasive operating environment, Condra said.

There are dual hoists in the design; one to raise and lower the load, the other to mechanically close the grab by means of an internal sheave arrangement to overcome the spring-loaded open state.

Variable speed drives are fitted throughout the crane, delivering maximum speeds of 10 m/min on the lift, and 20 m/min and 40 m/min on the cross-travel and long-travel respectively. Four long-travel motors deliver the materials handling equivalent of four-wheel-drive, enabling automated control of all four wheels for precise crane positioning accurate to within 5 mm.

The crane is fully automated with a manual override, according to Condra, and is programmed by an operator from a remotely located control room, where on-screen monitoring is complemented by visual monitoring capability via closed-circuit television.

Condra’s fully automated option applies across the company’s product offering of single girder and double-girder overhead travelling cranes, gantry cranes, bridge cranes and cantilever cranes for markets worldwide, it said.

These machines go up to heavy duty Class 4, with a focus on product quality and reliability to the standards of ISO, GOST and other internationally recognised quality control bodies, Condra said.

Two lines of hoists are manufactured in several standard models suited to most mining, industrial and general applications, from 1 t to 500 t, with motors bought from external suppliers.

Plug Power on the charge for world’s largest hydrogen-powered mining truck

Plug Power Inc is to provide a custom refuelling system for the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck, set to begin operating next year as part of a project between Anglo American and ENGIE.

Plug Power, a leading provider of hydrogen engines and fuelling solutions enabling e-mobility, was selected by ENGIE following the signing of a global partnership agreement between the two announced in September.

ENGIE is working with Anglo American to develop a renewable hydrogen production and refuelling solution to support a new hydrogen-powered haul truck that, according to Anglo, will have ‘first motion’ next year, followed by a testing and validation program at the Mogalakwena platinum group metals mine (pictured. Credit: Anglo American), in South Africa. After this point, the trucks are expected to be deployed at other Anglo American operations. All of this is part of the miner’s FutureSmart Mining program.

To support the refuelling project, Plug Power has been tasked with building a full compression, storage, and dispensing system to service the new hydrogen-powered vehicle. Plug Power’s system will be the first of its kind, and the largest refuelling system built by the company to-date, with an expected output of 1,000 kg/d, it said.

Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power, said: “The incredible scope of this project reaffirms not only Plug Power’s commitment to facilitating the global adoption of hydrogen as a clean energy source, but also our position as the world leader in hydrogen refuelling.

“Our partnership with ENGIE is opening the door to exciting new opportunities outside of both the US, and the material handling market, where we have continuously demonstrated our expertise.”

SPH Kundalila crushing it at Pilanesberg platinum mine

Raubex Group subsidiary SPH Kundalila has recently seen its contract expand at the Pilanesberg platinum mine on South Africa’s Bushveld Complex.

The two already have a nine-year relationship to fall back on, with SPH Kundalila’s primary contract at Pilanesberg entailing managing the mine’s primary crushing requirements. This includes crushing all run of mine (ROM) material from the mine before it is transported to the concentrator.

Pilanesberg, which has many outsourced contractors, recently celebrated 10 years of production excellence at the mine.

The nine-year relationship between Pilanesberg and SPH Kundalila can be attributed to the trust and partnership the company has built with the mine but also its high level technical skills set, according to the contractor.

SPH Kundalila Production Manager, Walter Eriksen, said: “With our 260 people on site, 75% from the local Bakgatla tribe, we operate four 63 t mobile crushing machines on the outskirts of the pit which have a combined design capacity of 380,000 t/mth.

“Our crushers have been replaced over the years as the mine’s production requirements have grown. Throughout this process we have maintained our machines’ high availability thanks to an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the mine’s production requirements.

“To ensure our performance further, we have established on-site technical support infrastructure including a workshop and plus-40 workshop crew. This facility enables us to conduct preventative maintenance equipment routines as well as full services and minor repairs which results in minimal downtime.”

The mine has expanded SPH Kundalila’s work on site of late, which now includes materials handling services delivered from its fleet of wheel loaders, dump trucks and tippers. In June 2018, the company’s workload expanded even further to include loading and hauling waste material from the pit.

SPH Kundalila Pit Manager, Danie de Jager, said: “Since June of last year we have successfully been moving waste material from the northern side of the pit. We have also steadily grown our volumes which started at 145,000 t/mth to around 500,000 t/mth. Through this service we are giving the mine quick and easy access to the reef.”

SPH Kundalila’s earthmoving fleet comprises two excavators, two bulldozers and eight 45 t dump trucks carefully selected to allow accurate waste-only removal.

SPH Kundalila Site Manager, Pieter Boonzaier, said: “Our service delivery, technical capability and ongoing dedication to helping Pilanesberg platinum mine meet its 150,000 oz per annum of PGM production requirements is a proud achievement for SPH Kundalila and we hope to continue working with the mine as its explores new and exciting chapters of its life.”

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.

Norilsk Nickel continues digitalisation drive towards automation

Russia-based Norilsk Nickel is actively implementing its Technology Breakthrough programme and is seeing significant returns when it comes to exploration and operations knowledge, Sergey Dyachenko told IM earlier this week ahead of the company’s Capital Markets Day in London.

While the programme, which started in 2014, aimed to digitise and automate most processes at the company’s extensive mining and processing facilities by 2020, Norilsk’s Chief Operating Officer said increasing the company’s exploration knowledge was a fundamental aim.

“We spent a substantial amount of money, time and expertise to get the best understanding of what our mineable reserve is,” he said. The company has now taken this fully-digitised dataset and put it into a 3D environment, where geologists, mine planners and engineers can analyse and interpret where the company may look to explore, drill, develop or mine next.

This is having a knock-on effect across the group, according to Dyachenko.

“The further we move with resource knowledge, the more precise figures will go into our strategic plan,” he said.

He talked about the company moving from longer-term planning scenarios to hourly planning with the help of an underground automated dispatch system and simulation models that could be run as regularly as every month.

After successful trials at one of the company’s mines, simulation models have been developed for every operation and are now in use for regular mine planning in order to confirm operating drivers, he said, adding that the vendor could launch this programme commercially in the next few years.

These investments have been bolstered by a new data centre platform and enterprise data network, and the installation of 956 km of high-speed fibre cable to its main Norilsk hub in Russia.

Norilsk is a city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, located above the Arctic Circle, where the company has been mining nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum group metals for several decades. The mineral-rich region has played a big role in the company becoming and retaining its position as the largest high-grade nickel and palladium producer in the world.

These technology developments should allow the company to improve transparency at its underground mines and speed up operational changes and maintenance, according to Dyachenko (pictured, left).

“By mid-next year, we will have all of our processes – not just loading and hauling – in a real-time environment,” he said.

Moving maintenance procedures into real-time and predictive mode, plus transitioning from a paper-based to electronic metal accounting system were two of the other aims of the Technology Breakthrough programme, he added.

Automation and electrification

The company is to continue spending on what it calls “advanced digital technology”, with some $80 million set aside for 2018 to 2021.
From January 1, SAP’s enterprise resource planning software will have been rolled out across all production sites for improved productivity, and sensor equipment (such as bucket teeth monitoring on excavators) will also be installed at key operations.

Pilot projects in computer vision, robotics and data mining will also progress, while exploration projects using drones and other airborne surveillance tools are being weighed up.

“In all of our operations, we look at the opportunities to use artificial intelligence and big data, end-user analysis and preventative maintenance,” Dyachenko said, adding that the drivers for these were around safety, productivity, operational performance and cost efficiencies.

And, as is becoming commonplace across the mining space, Norilsk is looking into bringing greater means of automation into future underground operations.

“Currently, we have a vision to introduce a fully-automated mine,” he said.

The first candidate for such a shift is likely to be the Skalisty nickel-copper-PGM underground project (pictured) at the company’s Polar Division, Norilsk’s key production asset located on the Taimyr Peninsula.

The project is currently commissioned at an operating capacity of 700,000 t/y and is expected to be ramped up by an additional 1 Mt/y by 2021. The overall target capacity is 2.4 Mt/y and the total capital expenditure (2013-2020) will amount to $2 billion.

Dyachenko said the company was in the process of finishing the shaft sinking and lateral development work and, after completion, would start to look at how to utilise new technologies to automate operations.

The development of Skalisty, the deepest mine in Eurasia at more than 2,000 m depth, according to Norilsk, could also see the company introduce battery-electric equipment, according to Dyachenko.

While the company has not yet identified a specific piece of battery-powered equipment for the task, Dyachenko said the company was already analysing how it could accommodate such loading and hauling machinery into operations.

“Those technologies don’t provide a continuous operation for extensive periods of time and we will have to take this into account,” he said, explaining that the mine plan will need to incorporate battery re-charging or change-out approximately every five hours.