Tag Archives: Platinum Group Metals

Anglo American to collaborate on ‘hydrogen valley’ study in South Africa

Anglo American has announced a collaboration agreement to complete a feasibility study to develop a “hydrogen valley” anchored in the platinum group metals-rich Bushveld geological area in South Africa.

Spearheaded by South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the collaboration agreement also includes energy and services company ENGIE, the South African National Development Institute (SANEDI) and clean energy solutions provider Bambili Energy.

The proposed hydrogen valley will stretch approximately 835 km from Anglo American’s Mogalakwena platinum group metals (PGMs) mine (pictured) near Mokopane in Limpopo province in the north of South Africa, along the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and to the south coast at Durban.

This collaboration follows the launch in 2020 of the South African Hydrogen Society Roadmap, aimed at integrating hydrogen into the economy by capitalising on the country’s PGM resources and renewable energy potential to revitalise and decarbonise key industrial sectors. The study will be conducted by ENGIE Impact and will identify tangible opportunities to build hydrogen hubs and explore the potential for green hydrogen production and supply at scale.

Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American’s PGMs business, said: “The transition to a low carbon world is an opportunity to drive the development of cleaner technologies, create new industries and employment, and improve people’s lives. Anglo American was an early supporter of the global potential for a hydrogen economy, recognising its role in enabling the shift to greener energy and cleaner transport. Our integrated approach includes investing in new technologies, supporting entrepreneurial projects and advocating for policy frameworks that enable a supportive long-term investment environment for hydrogen to deliver that potential.”

The regional PGMs industry will be central to such a hydrogen valley, with PGMs playing an important role both in Polymer Electrolyte Membrane electrolysis used to produce hydrogen at scale and in fuel cells themselves, Anglo says.

Anglo American is already investing in renewable hydrogen production technology at its Mogalakwena PGMs mine and in the development of hydrogen-powered fuel cell mine haul trucks – the world’s largest to run on hydrogen.

Dr Phil Mjwara, DSI Director-General, said: “The Department’s hydrogen valley partnership with Anglo American, Bambili Energy and ENGIE is an example of leveraging investments made in the Hydrogen South Africa Programme to create mechanisms for the uptake of publicly financed intellectual property. The hydrogen valley is among the projects that will be implemented in partnership with the private sector to support the Platinum Valley Initiative, which is aimed at supporting small, medium and micro enterprises to take advantage of opportunities in the green economy in support of a just transition.”

The public-private partnership is aligned to the South Africa Government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plans, with science, technology and innovation playing a key role in supporting the country’s plans to revitalise its economy.

Sebastien Arbola, ENGIE Executive Vice President in charge of Thermal Generation and Energy Supply activities, said: “ENGIE is delighted to be part of the hydrogen valley study. We are keen to share our knowledge and expertise encompassing the entire hydrogen value chain to accelerate hydrogen solutions’ deployment in South Africa and beyond. We already have a demonstration project under way to supply the hydrogen for the world’s first hydrogen mining truck being developed by Anglo American at the Mogalakwena PGMs mine.”

Zanele Mavuso Mbatha, CEO Bambili Energy, said: “The initiative to develop the South African hydrogen valley and the collaboration between Bambili, Anglo American, ENGIE and the South African government is significant as it will build material public awareness, confidence and support for the hydrogen economy. This collaboration is illustrative of Bambili’s view that a public-private partnership is critical in the development of this industry in the South African economy.”

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.

Sedibelo Platinum to expand PPM operations and leverage Kell Technology

Sedibelo Platinum Mines has announced plans to expand its Pilanesberg Platinum Mines (PPM) operation on South Africa’s Bushveld Complex, as well as construct a 110,000 t/y beneficiation plant at PPM employing Kell Technology.

The company plans to mine the three contiguous deposits of Sedibelo Central, Magazynskraal and Kruidfontein – known as the Triple Crown properties – as part of the expansion. These three come with an estimated resource base in excess of 60 Moz of 4PGE.

The predominantly shallow deposits will enable safe and sustainable mining activities for potentially more than 60 years, according to the company. The approved expansion will be funded through Sedibelo’s existing cash resources and future cash flow, with first ounces from Triple Crown expected to be extracted in 2023.

The Triple Crown expansion will be mined simultaneously with ore from the existing open-pit UG2 and Merensky operation, using two separate decline shaft systems, the company said.

The existing PPM concentrator plant has the capacity to be used to process the Triple Crown ore as well as ore from the open pits. With minimal reconfiguration, the Triple Crown UG2 and Merensky ore will be blended and processed through the existing Merensky plant, thereby reducing capital expenditure as well as lowering operating cost significantly, it said.

Speaking of the 110,000 t beneficiation plant, Sedibelo said Kell Technology reduces energy consumption by some 82% with the associated significant reduction in carbon emissions, also improving recoveries and lowering operating costs.

“Benefitting from being robust in operation, Kell is unconstrained by concentrate grade, is insensitive to chrome levels as well as being resistant to other impurities,” it explained. “Hence, using Kell will improve the economic return of the Triple Crown expansion and is an integral part of Sedibelo’s future development.”

As applied to treatment of PGM concentrates, the Kell Process comprises four main unit operations (pressure oxidation, atmospheric leach, heat treatment and chlorination), all of which are conventional and in commercial use in the minerals and metals industry.

Sedibelo shares an interest in Kell South Africa with the Industrial Development Corp and Founder Keith Liddell, through Lifezone.

Arne H Frandsen, Chairman of Sedibelo, said: “Today is a significant day in Sedibelo’s history. We are opening our next door 60 Moz Triple Crown deposit, thereby securing the future of Sedibelo for many decades to come. The construction of our Kell plant will allow us to produce metal and lower our cost profile further. Equally important, it will reduce our carbon footprint and water usage significantly.

“We trust our environmentally friendly platinum group metals will become an important part of future electrification and the ‘green revolution’ used in fuel-cells around the world.”

Keith Liddell, Founder of Kell and CEO of Lifezone, said: “I developed Kell Technology as a cost-efficient alternative to the conventional smelting of PGMs. We are excited to now proceed with the construction of the Kell plant at PPM. The benefit for Sedibelo and the industry will be significant; delivering beneficiation, energy and cost advantages as well as a reduction in CO2 and SO2 emissions.”

DRA Global to help debottleneck Anglo American Platinum’s Unki PGM concentrator

DRA Global says it has been awarded an engineering procurement and construction management contract to expand Anglo American Platinum’s Unki platinum group metals concentrator, in Zimbabwe.

The engineering company was previously enlisted to carry out a feasibility study on the expansion, referred to as the “debottlenecking” project by Anglo American Platinum, and will now help increase throughput capacity to 210,000 t/mth, it said.

The Unki concentrator, built in 2010, can currently treat up to 180,000 t/mth according to Anglo American Platinum. It processes material from the Unki mine, one the world’s largest PGM deposits outside of South Africa, the miner says.

Anglo American Platinum, in its 2019 results released earlier this year, said it had signed off on the R700 million ($39 million) debottlenecking project and expected commissioning to be completed in the September quarter of 2021.

Unki has steadily been ramping up production in recent years. In 2019, it produced a record 202,000 oz of platinum group metals, up from 193,000 oz in 2018 and 166,000 oz in 2017.

Amplats set for shock-break and coarse particle recovery technology trials

Anglo American Platinum, in its June quarter results presentation, has provided further detail on a range of initiatives it is working on as part of its “P101” and FutureSmart™ initiatives.

The company has been pursuing these developments to “drive improvement in operational performance from current levels”. The P100 benchmark represents “best in class in the industry”, while P101 represents operating assets and equipment at levels beyond what is currently thought to be possible in the industry.

Amplats has previously mentioned several technologies it is working on as part of its FutureSmart development, including “coarse particle flotation, which can reduce energy intensity by over 30%; advanced fragmentation and shock-break technology at concentrators, which has the potential to also reduce energy intensity by 30%; and fine recovery of chrome and PGMs, in conjunction with bulk sorting, which can lead to a 10% increase in feed grade and recoveries”.

In the June quarter results presentation, the company said it had made some headway on many of these.

In terms of bulk sorting technologies, which majority-owner Anglo American has been using in trials at the El Soldado copper mine, in Chile, Amplats said technology evaluation was progressing at its Mogalakwena PGM mine, in South Africa.

With the shock-break technology, Amplats said it had an “evaluation unit” installed at its Baobab concentrator, also in South Africa. Amplats has access to this concentrator through an agreement it signed with Lonmin (now part of Sibanye-Stillwater) a few years ago, with the company, previously saying use of the concentrator would allow it to process excess ore and unlock value at Mogalakwena (dispatch control room pictured).

The shock-break technology Amplats refers to uses VeRo Liberator® technology from PMS GmbH. Gregor Borg from PMS told attendees at MEI’s Physical Separation conference in Falmouth, UK, in June, that on an industrial scale, Amplats had already applied two customised VeRo Liberators at its South Africa platinum operations and had ordered a third which is due to be shipped. All three were specially designed to be used in industrial‐scale pilot tests at the miners’ operations, he said.

Coming back to P101, Amplats said its Shovel Performance project was in progress at Mogalakwena. This is seeking to increase the rope shovel performance at the mine from 26 Mt/y to over 45 Mt/y.

The coarse particle recovery technology – a core part of the company’s plan to ultimately eliminate tailings dams, according to Anglo American Technical Director, Tony O’Neill – is set for trials at Amplats’ operations in 2020, the company said.

At the same time as this, there was a fine particle recovery concept study in progress, as well as a prefeasibility study on fine chrome recovery, Amplats said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drones continue to make mining activities safer, Anglo American says

Anglo American, in its 2018 annual report, says its use of drones for safety, surveying and security is continuing to expand as it looks to remote-control more of its mining activities.

The company has used drones attached to manned aerial-reconnaissance planes for many years and, today, considers itself an industry leader when it comes to drone use.

Anglo said it has an expanding fleet of drones, from fixed-wing aircraft to quadcopters, with about 50 skilled operators and another 30 people working in drone maintenance across the group. This is spread across its platinum group metal operations in South Africa, the Kumba iron ore mines (also in South Africa), and at De Beers diamond asset sites in Canada, Namibia and South Africa.

“Drones are an important part of our drive to remote-control many of our mining activities while gathering enhanced data and real-time operational performance metrics,” Anglo said. “They provide rapid visual access and multiple views, with smaller drones being used to inspect confined spaces on mines and in processing plants, while bigger aircraft are able to fly at night and stay aloft for up to eight hours.”

Drones are being used in varied tasks such as exploration, mine mapping and calculating the volume of stockpiles, Anglo said, adding that they are proving to be cost effective.

“The deployment of drones is assisting in making our activities safer. Crucially, their use avoids the need for people in potentially hazardous areas,” the company said.

Drones are now being used to inspect and monitor high-risk areas, including stockpiles, mine slopes, ore passes, tailings dams and chemical-storage facilities, Anglo said. They can check for the presence of personnel in a blast area, and measure fragmentation or the direction of dust movement after a blast. By employing them in such applications, it removes the possibility of Anglo personnel entering dangerous areas.

Other applications the company is using them on include traffic management at operations, as well as monitoring rehabilitation activity, including in areas where it can be difficult and risky for people on the ground to gain access.

Frans Kruger, Anglo American’s Global Aviation Safety Principal, said: “Drones increase our safety and efficiency, and they let us take human beings out of potentially dangerous environments.”

Anglo concluded: “Drone technology is evolving fast and, as a responsible operator, we are working closely with other drone operators and South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority, for example, to develop appropriate standards, while also serving with other mining companies on the technical advisory committee of the Flight Safety Foundation.”

Ivanplats reports on Platreef PGM-nickel-copper-gold project progress

Following a site visit to the Platreef PGM-nickel-copper-gold asset in South Africa just after this month’s Mining Indaba, Ivanplats has provided an update on progress at the project.

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

In the latest update, Ivanplats said good progress continued to be made on Shaft 1’s 850-m-level station. This is the second of three horizontal mining access stations planned for Shaft 1 at Platreef on the northern limb of the Bushveld Complex.

Platreef said: “The first underground mining access station has been constructed at the 750-m level, following earlier development of a water-pumping station at the 450-m level. The third mining access station will be developed at a mine-working depth of 950 m.”

Shaft 1 is expected to reach its projected, final depth of approximately 980 m below surface, complete with all four of the stations, in early 2020, Ivanplats said. The mining zones in the current Platreef mine plan occur at depths ranging from approximately 700 m to 1,200 m below surface.

Construction also is underway on the concrete foundation for the project’s main production shaft ─ Shaft 2, according to Ivanplats. “This foundation will support the 103-m-tall concrete headgear (headframe) that will house Shaft 2’s permanent hoisting facilities and support the shaft collar,” the company said.

Shaft 2 will have an internal diameter of 10 m and will be equipped with two 40-t rock-hoisting skips with a capacity to hoist a total of 6 Mt/y of ore – the single largest hoisting capacity at any mine in Africa, according to Ivanplats.

The South African beneficiaries of the approved broad-based, black economic empowerment structure have a 26% stake in the Platreef project. The remaining 10% is owned by a Japanese consortium of ITOCHU Corp; Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation; and Japan Gas Corp.

Ivanhoe Mines’ Platreef Shaft 1 intersects ‘Flatreef’ PGM deposit

Ivanhoe Mines and sinking contractor Aveng Mining have reached a new milestone at its Platreef PGM-nickel-copper-gold project in South Africa with Shaft 1 now at the top of the ‘Flatreef’ deposit, 780 m below surface.

At the Shaft 1 intersection, the flat-to-gently-dipping deposit is an estimated 26 m thick, making it amenable to the sort of bulk-scale mechanised mining most PGM operators would dream of.

This is the first time Platreef, in the Northern Limb of South Africa’s renowned Bushveld complex, has been intercepted by underground mining activity, according to Ivanhoe Mines.

The mining team has now delivered first ore from the underground mine development to a surface stockpile for metallurgical sampling. “The estimated thickness of the mineralised reef (T1 and T2 mineralised zones) at Shaft 1 is 26 m, with grades of platinum-group metals ranging up to 11 g/t 3PE (platinum, palladium and rhodium) plus gold, as well as significant quantities of nickel and copper,” the company said.

The 26 m intersection is expected to yield some 3,000 t of ore, estimated to contain more than 400 oz of PGMs.

The 750 m station on Shaft 1 will provide initial, underground access to the orebody, enabling mine development to proceed during the construction of Shaft 2 – the mine’s main production shaft.

The mining zones in the current Platreef mine plan occur at depths ranging from approximately 700 m to 1,200 m below surface.

Shaft 1’s 750 m station will also allow access for the first raisebore shaft, which will have an internal diameter of 6 m, to provide ventilation to the underground workings during the mine’s ramp-up phase.

As shaft-sinking advances, two additional shaft stations will be developed at mine-working depths of 850 m and 950 m. Shaft 1 is expected to reach its projected, final depth of 980 m below surface, complete with the stations, in early 2020.

Shaft 2

Excavation of the Shaft 2 box cut to a depth of approximately 29 m below surface is progressing well, according to Ivanhoe.

Completion of the box cut will allow for the construction of the concrete hitch (foundation) for the 103 m-tall concrete headframe that will house the shaft’s permanent hoisting facilities and support the shaft collar.

Shaft 2, around 100 m northeast of Shaft 1, will have an internal diameter of 10 m, will be lined with concrete and sunk to a planned, final depth of 1,104 m below surface. It will be equipped with two 40 t rock-hoisting skips with a capacity to hoist a total of 6 Mt/y of ore. This is the single largest hoisting capacity at any mine in Africa, according to Ivanhoe.

Headgear for the permanent hoisting facility was designed by South Africa-based Murray & Roberts Cementation.

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