Tag Archives: Pilbara

Milestone Cat 24 Motor Grader set for Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations

Twenty-seven years after introducing the Cat® 24 Motor Grader to the mining market, Caterpillar has celebrated the production of its 1,000th unit.

At a ceremony held on September 22, 2022, Caterpillar executives and motor grader production team members gathered in Decatur, Illinois, to celebrate the production and sale of this milestone machine. The grader, destined for Australia, was sold by Cat dealer, WesTrac Pty Ltd, to Rio Tinto’s Pilbara Operations in Western Australia.

During the event, Caterpillar team members heard from both WesTrac and Rio Tinto Iron Ore representatives, through videotaped comments. The milestone machine includes a special 1,000th unit commemorative plate.

In 1995, Caterpillar introduced the Cat 24 Motor Grader specifically designed to build and maintain haul roads at mining sites with ultra-class haul trucks. Now in its third generation, the Cat 24 offers 399-518 kW of power, weighs 61,950 kg, comes with a 7.3 m moldboard – with an 8.5 m moldboard option – and technology as standard to work wide haul roads efficiently, according to the OEM.

Sam Vedhakumar Manoharan, Caterpillar’s Vice President of Product Management, Earthmoving, said: “The Cat 24 Motor Grader was and continues to be a game changer for maintenance efficiency of the wide haul roads necessary for ultra-class trucks. We thank the many global mining operations and dedicated Cat dealers around the world for their loyalty to the Cat 24 grader.”

Today’s Cat 24 Motor Grader features more than 30% higher power, 13% more weight and a longer rebuild life than previous generations. It will also soon feature a high-performance circle design for further improved reliability.

Stephen Jones, Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director of Planning, Integration and Assets, said: “For years, we have used Cat 24 Motor Graders to maintain our haul roads for our ultra-class trucks. The Cat 24 series offers a great combination of power, weight and blade width to support road maintenance coverage for our large mining fleet. We are honoured to receive the commemorative 1,000th 24 Motor Grader, and this represents the third generation we’ve used across our Pilbara mining operations.”

Rio Tinto and Baowu to invest $2 billion in Western Range iron ore development

Rio Tinto and China Baowu Steel Group Co. Ltd have agreed to enter into a joint venture with respect to the Western Range iron ore project in the Pilbara, Western Australia, investing $2 billion to develop the mine.

Western Range’s annual production capacity of 25 Mt of iron ore will help sustain production of the Pilbara Blend from Rio Tinto’s existing Paraburdoo mining hub. The project includes construction of a primary crusher and an 18 km conveyor system linking it to the existing Paraburdoo processing plant.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2023 with first production anticipated in 2025. The construction phase will support approximately 1,600 jobs with the mine requiring about 800 ongoing operational roles, which are expected to be filled by existing workers transitioning from other sites in the Paraburdoo mining hub.

Rio Tinto’s share of the capital costs are already included in the group’s capital expenditure guidance of around $9-10 billion for each of 2023 and 2024. Both parties will pay their portion of capital costs for the development of the mine, and mine operating costs, plus a nominal ongoing resource contribution fee calculated by reference to Western Range production volumes. There is no upfront consideration being paid by either party.

Rio Tinto and Baowu, which own 54% and 46%, respectively, of the joint venture, have also agreed to enter into an iron ore sales agreement at market prices covering a total of up to 126.5 Mt of iron ore over approximately 13 years. This volume represents Baowu’s 46% interest in the anticipated 275 Mt of production from Western Range through the joint venture.

Rio Tinto has a long history of successfully partnering and investing with customers to develop new mines in the Pilbara. Rio Tinto and Baowu’s partnership in the Pilbara dates back to the 2002 Bao-HI joint venture to develop the Eastern Range deposits in the Hamersley Ranges (Eastern Range) and Western Range, subject to a production cap of 200 Mt. It is now expected the production cap will be sourced entirely from Eastern Range, and this transaction will continue Rio Tinto’s relationship with Baowu through development of Western Range.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said: “This is a very significant milestone for both Rio Tinto and Baowu, our largest customer globally. We have enjoyed a strong working relationship with Baowu for more than four decades, shipping more than 200 Mt of iron ore under our original joint venture, and we are looking forward to extending our partnership at Western Range.

“The development of Western Range represents the commencement of the next significant phase of investment in our iron ore business, helping underpin future production of the Pilbara Blend, the market benchmark.

“At the same time, Rio Tinto and Baowu continue to work together on low-carbon steelmaking research, exploring new methods to reduce carbon emissions and improve environmental performance across the steel value chain.”

Baowu Resources Chairman, Shi Bing, said: “The signing of the joint venture agreement for the Western Range project is a significant event in the history of cooperation between Baowu and Rio Tinto. We fully appreciate the persistent efforts of both teams in accomplishing the important achievement. The Bao-HI joint venture has been successfully operating for more than 20 years, leading us to a win-win result, and reaping friendship and trust.

“We hope that the two parties will deepen the mutually beneficial and win-win partnership, continue to carry forward the spirit of sincere cooperation and further expand cooperation in more fields and aspects on the basis of working together to operate the project well.”

Rio Tinto has worked closely with the Traditional Owners on whose country Western Range is situated, the Yinhawangka People, to co-design a Social and Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the project, designed to protect signiticant cultural and heritage values in the area.

The plan, which was agreed with Yinhawangka Aboriginal Corporation and announced earlier this year, outlines protocols for joint decision-making on environmental matters and mine planning.

Rio Tinto’s Paraburdoo hub is comprised of three operating mines, Paraburdoo, Channar and Eastern Range. Western Range contains two deposits, 36W–50W and 55W–66W, which are located within the Hamersley Basin of Western Australia. The deposits’ mineralisation is primarily hosted by the Brockman Iron Formation with additional detrital mineralisation present. The 36W–50W and 55W-66W deposits contain a measured resource of 22 Mt at 59.1% Fe, indicated resource of 102 Mt at 61.5% Fe and an inferred resource of 108 Mt at 61.4% Fe. The 36W–50W deposit contains a proven reserve of 109 Mt at 62.1% Fe and a probable reserve of 56 Mt at 61.7% Fe.

BHP signs up PMW Industries for crushing and screening plant gig at Mining Area C

BHP has celebrated what it says is an historic agreement with PMW Industries and its Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) team, which will see the 100%-owned-and-operated Banjima Pilbara Aboriginal Traditional Owner business maintain a semi-mobile crushing and screening plant at its Mining Area C operation, in the Pilbara, supported by new strategic partner and Mineral Resources Limited owned company, CSI Mining Services.

Led by Banjima business owner, Paula White (pictured on the right), PMW will operate on country at the iron ore operation as part of this large-scale, long-term scope of work. It is expected to create up to 30 new employment and training opportunities for Banjima and Indigenous people.

The agreement builds upon WAIO’s existing relationship with PMW, which started more than three years ago through its Local Buying Program.

WAIO Asset President, Brandon Craig (pictured on the left), said he was proud of the growing relationship between BHP and PMW Industries, saying the crushing contract award was one of the largest in WAIO’s history.

“Our Mining Area C iron ore operation is on Banjima country – in line with our commitment to become the partner of choice for Indigenous people, this partnership is founded on respect and mutual benefit,” he said. “We are working hard to create more opportunities for Indigenous businesses to support the growth of Indigenous enterprise, partnering for the future.”

White added: “PMW Industries is very proud to be partnering with BHP and CSI to enable more employment and economic empowerment for Traditional Owners and Indigenous people. As a Banjima woman and business owner, I’m also delighted to be creating opportunities for other Indigenous women and young girls to follow their dreams.”

This step forward builds upon BHP’s commitment to drive more sustainable, profitable and enduring partnerships with Indigenous businesses across its operations. In WAIO alone, by the 2024 financial year, BHP expects to double its current annual spend with Indigenous businesses to over A$300 million ($204 million).

“At the same time, we are actively improving our sourcing systems and procurement processes, in partnership with Traditional Owner and indigenous businesses,” BHP says. “This was demonstrated with the PMW agreement, which followed a competitive Banjima-only tender, structured specifically to enable Traditional Owner businesses to operate on country.”

Mineral Resources kicks off work at ‘dust free’ iron ore project in the Pilbara

Mineral Resources has commenced early works at its Onslow Iron project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, a project that, according to Chris Ellison, will be “dust-free from pit-to-port”.

The early works at Onslow, formerly known as the Ashburton project, will support first ore on ship around December 2023, MinRes says.

Onslow Iron will unlock stranded deposits that would otherwise remain undeveloped in the West Pilbara region, using MinRes’ innovative and proprietary equipment designed to process and move bulk commodities at lower costs and with a reduced environmental footprint, the company said.

Following receipt of preliminary approvals, project preparations are on track and early construction activities including bulk earthworks have commenced at the Port of Ashburton, south of Onslow. At the nearby Truck Maintenance Facility, installation of the temporary construction village is underway, with first buildings to be installed from early September.

Mine development activities have also progressed at the Ken’s Bore Deposit, east of Onslow, with construction of the A320-capacity airport and the installation of two camps to support drilling and early construction works.

Recruitment for the construction phase of Onslow Iron is also well underway alongside a continued focus on community and stakeholder consultation.

In line with the project schedule, long-lead items have been ordered including the first transhippers, which will be used to load capesize vessels that will be anchored offshore from the Port of Ashburton. Each transhipper has a 20,000-t capacity, is fully enclosed to avoid dust pollution and has a significantly lower environmental footprint when compared with the major dredging activities that would be required to construct deepwater berths at the port, according to the company.

Onslow Iron will be one of the largest iron ore developments undertaken in Western Australia, delivering substantial benefits to the state including thousands of construction and operational jobs, billions of dollars of direct local investment through capital expenditure and billions of dollars of state and commonwealth royalties over the life of the project, it added.

Mineral Resources Managing Director, Chris Ellison, said: “Onslow Iron will be transformational, not just for MinRes but for the State of Western Australia. This project will be the cornerstone of our iron ore strategy to deliver low-cost, long-life operations with project economics that are compelling through commodity price cycles.

“We’re looking forward to delivering thousands of jobs for Western Australians and investing billions in the economy.

“Importantly, our innovations will drive lower emissions across the project. Onslow Iron has been designed with a low environmental footprint and will be dust-free from pit-to-port.

“We’re also setting a new FIFO standard with our industry first, resort-style accommodation to ensure the physical and mental safety of our people and to encourage more women, and couples, to live on site.

“It’s in our DNA to aim higher, push the boundaries and forge new paths, which is why Onslow Iron really represents a new paradigm for mining in Western Australia.”

On top of the dust-free innovation and FIFO aims, MinRes has mooted it will run autonomous road trains between the pit and the port at Onslow Iron.

IMDEX’s BLAST DOG to receive first commercial runout at Iron Bridge

Mining support technology, BLAST DOG, which was developed in Australia by IMDEX Limited, is set to be used at the Iron Bridge Operations in the Pilbara of Western Australia under a new three-year agreement.

Iron Bridge is an unincorporated joint venture between Fortescue Metals Group subsidiary FMG Iron Bridge and Formosa Steel IB, with the agreement being the first commercial application of IMDEX’s BLAST DOG.

The agreement provides for the staged utilisation of BLAST DOGs, which IMDEX estimates will generate revenue of A$13 million ($9.2 million) over the initial term.

The BLAST DOG is a commodity-agnostic blasthole sensing and physical measurement technology that is semi-autonomously deployed for logging material properties and blasthole characteristics at high spatial density across the bench and mine.

IMDEX Chief Executive Officer, Paul House, said this contract win was a defining moment for IMDEX.

“This is homegrown technology designed to provide meaningful, quantifiable benefits for the mining industry,” House said.

“We are not aware of any other technology that has the capacity to produce the same quantity and quality of pre-blast rock data and provide as large an impact on downstream processes.”

“The commercial success of BLAST DOG reflected in today’s announcement is a credit to IMDEX’s R&D team and their drive to make a difference in the mining industry.”

IMDEX Chief Geoscientist, Dave Lawie, said the company overcame many obstacles, including mine access issues caused by COVID-19, to deliver the BLAST DOG project in Australia and the Americas.

“Today’s announcement is exciting because we know what BLAST DOG can produce,” Lawie said.

“It is recognition for five years of intense effort spanning the USA, Queensland, Western Australia and Chile in conjunction with our METS Ignited project partners.

“In addition to the work for the Iron Bridge joint venture, we are involved in ongoing, pre-commercial trials across various operations in Australia, Canada and Chile.”

IMDEX’s BLAST DOG provides material physical property measurements prior to blasthole drilling to inform decisions regarding blasting, screening, blending and stockpiling, among others, before these materials are subject to processing. These properties form the inputs to a tactical approach to ore characterisation and processing, IMDEX says.

Possible benefits offered by IMDEX’s BLAST DOG include the ability of mining companies to develop programs which:

  • Optimise explosive selection and costs;
  • Improve fragmentation;
  • Improve material and grade control;
  • Reduce geotechnical risk;
  • Detect voids;
  • Define ore boundaries and prevent ore waste dilution; and
  • Reduce fume, flyrock, vibration, air-blast and dust.

The BLAST DOG contract capped off a year in which IMDEX delivered record revenue, record earnings and continued margin expansion.

It reported record revenue of $341.8 million, a 29.3% increase on the same time last year; alongside record EBITDA of A$104.9 million, an increase of 38.9% on last year; and net profit after tax of A$44.7 million, up 41% on last year.

Hitachi Rail helps expand Rio Tinto AutoHaul network with Gudai-Darri connection

Hitachi Rail says it and Rio Tinto have marked another significant AutoHaul™ milestone with the commissioning of the autonomous rail transport system for the new Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The greenfield mine development has involved the construction of a 166-km rail spur to connect the new mine to Rio Tinto’s existing AutoHaul rail network in the region.

The world’s first fully automated heavy-haul, long-distance rail system, AutoHaul enables 220 trains, which are monitored remotely from an operations centre in Perth, to travel safely and efficiently across more than 1,866 km of track from mines to ports – without the need for onboard drivers, Rio says.

Hitachi Rail, as the technical lead behind AutoHaul’s development, has provided the systems and software to connect the new section of rail for Gudai-Darri. This has included onboard and control centre technology, trackside equipment, radio base stations and automatic train operation interface software for locomotive control, level crossing safety and location tracking, Hitachi Rail said.

All systems and software are now operational following the first production test run and subsequent successful system commissioning .

Hitachi Rail Australia Senior Director, Roslyn Stuart, said: “The Gudai-Darri AutoHaul network expansion project is a natural extension of Hitachi Rail’s long-term collaboration to deliver innovative rail transport solutions for Rio Tinto. The project has seen Hitachi Rail and the Rio Tinto AutoHaul team deliver another ‘first’, with back-to-back loading (high performing automated train loading) to be introduced on the Gudai-Darri mine rail loop.”

The Gudai-Darri mine will also deploy autonomous haul trucks, fully autonomous water trucks and autonomous training solutions, and will be partially powered by a 34 MW photovoltaic solar farm solar plant.

WesTrac holds Cat D10T2 dozer handover ceremony with a difference

An equipment handover ceremony of a Cat® D10T2 dozer at WesTrac’s South Guildford facility, in Western Australia, this week held special meaning for the stakeholders involved, the Cat dealer says.

Indigenous contracting business Civil Road & Rail SX5, part of the broader SX5 Group of companies, will use the new dozer for mine rehabilitation services at Rio Tinto’s mine sites in the Pilbara.

According to SX5 Directors, Ralph Keller and Cherie Keller, and Co-Director and Eastern Guruma Senior Elder, Kenzie Smith, the act of rehabilitating the land has grown in significance over recent years.

“We’re making things green again, making Country feel better,” Ralph Keller said. “In repairing Country, we’re helping repair the trust and relationships with the region’s Traditional Owners.”

As well as being among the Traditional Owners of the land, Smith’s family have a long history of helping modern enterprises use and rehabilitate the land. The family once helped break horses and muster cattle on the stations in the region and was permitted to gather any stock left behind to sell themselves. SX5 was the brand applied to those stray cattle before they were taken to market. That set the family on an entrepreneurial path that resulted in Smith helping to establish and run SX5’s contracting business, according to WesTrac.

WesTrac General Manager, Cameron Callaway, said miners, as well as their suppliers and service providers, understand the vital importance of engaging with the Traditional Owners on whose country they operate to ensure continual improvement in environmental, social and governance outcomes.

“The world needs miners to supply the mineral resources required for a more sustainable future, and that means we need to support sustainable mining initiatives,” Callaway said. “Drawing on the knowledge of Traditional Owners and the expertise of knowledgeable, experienced Indigenous organisations such as SX5 is a key aspect of that, and it’s especially rewarding for WesTrac to be involved in projects such as this.”

The Cat D10T2, itself, comes with onboard technologies to drive greater efficiency, productivity and fuel economy, as well as improved operator safety and comfort. It is also equipped with the building blocks to enable remote and semi-autonomous operations.

Ralph Keller says technology has been key to SX5’s success, and support from Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) has made it possible for the group to continue to purchase equipment with the latest machine control technologies.

“What makes us different is that SX5 continues to reinvent itself every day,” he said. “It’s all about technology. That’s how you achieve excellence and how you mitigate risk.”

IBA, a commercially-focused Federal Government organisation, supports First Nations businesses with cashflow and performance bond guarantees to enable business growth.

Kirsty Moore, IBA’s Chief Executive Officer, says: “Putting the regeneration of Country back in the hands of First Nations companies like SX5 is smart business and we’re so glad to support their efforts.

“IBA provides leasing opportunities to First Nations businesses so they can acquire critical capital equipment without tying up large amounts of cash that is needed to cover the operating costs of the business. The new equipment has stepped up the production and quality of work that the business has been able to achieve by using equipment that is purpose-built for the task.

“SX5 is a great example of a First Nations business transforming its opportunities to work with big business – all while restoring Country and being trained in new technology.”

Martin Roedhammer, Rio Tinto Manager Rehabilitation and Closure, said: “We work hard to leave a lasting, positive legacy everywhere we work. As part of this, we strive to generate opportunities for businesses to be part of our supply chain and deliver local economic benefits.

“Rio Tinto has worked with SX5 for more than seven years to support and develop the group’s capacity and understanding of our requirements and facilitate introductions across our Pilbara operations.

“A credit to SX5 is the business’ ability to think of ways to increase efficiency and get the best quality outcomes, trialling the use of chains to improve final surface finishes and modifying equipment to achieve improved vegetation establishment.

“We look forward to a continued successful relationship with SX5 and witnessing them grow even more in the future.”

Geomagnetic Design looks to revolutionise RC and diamond drilling with GM1 rig

Emerging drill rig manufacturer, Geomagnetic Design has announced results from field trials on its specialty, patented RC and diamond GM1 drill rig.

Now in advanced stages of research and development (R&D), field testing in Western Australia’s Pilbara Region has confirmed the drill rig’s ability to halve the carbon footprint of traditional exploration drilling programs, with exceptional operational and environmental outcomes, according to the company.

Of note, the GM1’s performance across exploration drilling programs at six separate sites across the state showed a significant reduction in fuel consumption of up to 400 litres per 11-hour shift at RC configurations, and 60 litres per 11-hour shift at diamond configurations, as well as reducing ambient noise emissions.

The GM1 can also commence drilling in RC mode, and change to diamond coring within three hours, a significant reduction compared with current market changeover configurations, which typically take between 1-3 days, Geomagnetic Design says.

Commenting on the driving factors for innovation, Geomagnetic Design Founder and General Manager, Darren Papst, said: “Drillers are facing growing scrutiny and pressure from governments, investors and communities to exceed environmental considerations in their program design. We made it our business to address a multitude of performance factors that have never been achieved in one drill rig.

Once our R&D is complete later this year, our solution will be the first of its kind, an ‘all-in-one’ RC and diamond rig that delivers reduced fuel consumption, carbon output and noise emissions all while covering more ground, with less holes and less metres.”

Designed and manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Perth, the patented blueprint for the GM1 uses a hydraulic system, enabling the rig to operate with a drastically reduced carbon output (from 59 kg/h down to 29 kg/h) while still retaining the same operational capacity as competitor rigs, the company says.

As well as halving carbon emissions, the physical machine footprint is substantially less than other drill rigs – measuring just 2.5 m x 3 m. The GM1 rig requires support from only one air truck, where competitor rigs are normally accompanied by two to three large trucks, it says.

Unique to the GM1 drill rig is its ability to conduct shallow angle RC drilling on 2 axes. This capability has been addressed during R&D and, if successful in future trials, will provide a cheaper form of drilling that allows clients to cover more ground with less holes and less metres, the company said.

The concept of a magnetically-driven drill rig has been a long-time plan of Papst’s.

“I began ideating the GM1 drill rig years ago when I noticed a gap in the market between having a superior-functioning rig versus having a sustainable, environmentally-designed rig.

This current drill rig that we aim to go to market with has phenomenal fuel efficiencies, but we don’t plan on stopping there. Phase two of our engineering process will involve removing the need for diesel altogether with the use of a magnetic drive in its place.”

If the project continues to move at the expected timeline, Geomagnetic Design’s GM1 rig could be commercially available as soon as December 2022, the company says.

MACA civils contract book swells with new Rio Tinto, Roy Hill work

MACA Limited has announced three new civil contract awards with a total value of approximately A$115 million ($79.5 million), two of which are for mining companies in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The contractor has been awarded an early works contract on Rio Tinto’s Western Range Project, 8 km west of Paraburdoo in the Pilbara.

The project, which is expected to generate approximately A$60 million in revenue, consists of pre-approval works for construction of a camp pad and access road, in addition to crushing and screening work.

The delivery of the works will commence in the second half of 2022 for a duration of approximately 12 months.

MACA has also been awarded a further civil works package with Roy Hill Iron Ore Pty Ltd at the Roy Hill iron ore operation in the Pilbara. The Roy Hill project is owned by Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd, Marubeni Corporation, POSCO and China Steel Corporation, and is 115 km north of Newman in the Pilbara.

The package consists of supporting Roy Hill with the Sierra Hydraulic Structure works, and is expected to generate A$16 million of revenue with delivery of the works commencing this month and expected to run through to the end of the calendar year.

MACA incoming CEO, David Greig, said of these contracts: “These awards are great examples of MACA’s deliberate pursuit of capital light earnings, improved revenue diversity and attractive delivery models. MACA looks forward to delivering these projects and contributing to successful outcomes for our clients.”

Monadelphous banks Australia work with FMG, Rio Tinto, Roy Hill and BMA

Engineering company Monadelphous Group Limited says it has secured new contracts and contract extensions in the resources and infrastructure sectors totalling approximately A$220 million ($150 million).

Within this is a number of contracts for work in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, including:

  • A five-year contract to provide maintenance, repairs, general shutdown services and minor projects across Fortescue Metals Group’s Pilbara operations;
  • A multi-disciplinary contract with Rio Tinto for the construction of a new conveyor at the Tom Price iron ore mine, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2023; and
  • A contract associated with the construction of a pipeline and access road at the Roy Hill Mine site. The work is expected to be completed towards the end of 2022.

In Queensland, Monadelphous has also secured a 12-month extension to its existing contract with BHP Mitsubishi Alliance for the provision of dragline shutdown and maintenance services to its operations in the Bowen Basin.