Tag Archives: Prominent Hill

Byrnecut to use six Sandvik 18-t-payload BEVs at OZ Minerals mines

Leading Australia-based contract miner Byrnecut is embracing the many benefits of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) by purchasing six Sandvik battery-powered loaders with AutoMine® for use at OZ Minerals’ operations in South Australia.

Under a deal with Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, Byrnecut will take delivery of the LHDs in 2023 and 2024 for use at the Prominent Hill copper, gold and silver mine, south-west of Coober Pedy, and the Carrapateena copper and gold mine, north of Port Augusta. Byrnecut has been engaged by OZ Minerals to provide underground mining services at the mines and currently has a fleet of Sandvik LH621i loaders equipped with autonomous solutions operating on both sites.

We’re excited to be leading the way with battery-electric vehicles in Australia by putting these six Sandvik loaders into service over the next two years,” Max Woods, Asset Manager for Byrnecut, said. “Not only will the use of electric vehicles significantly improve the working environment underground, but it will also help our customers to work toward their emissions reduction goals – something that is increasingly important in the mining sector.”

Woods says the purchase of the electric loaders is part of Byrnecut’s commitment to explore and embrace new technologies that make its operations safer, more efficient and more sustainable.

“Eliminating emissions from loaders from the underground environment helps us create a better workplace, as does AutoMine technology that enables operators to work from comfortable remote control rooms,” he said.

Another major benefit to Byrnecut is the anticipated increased performance the new loaders could provide, Sandvik says.

The company worked closely with Sandvik prior to purchase to model various application scenarios, including both manual and automated operation.

“We’re expecting the loaders to provide greater throughput in both manual and automated modes while delivering a similar total cost of ownership per tonne delivered to their predecessors,” Woods says.

The new Sandvik loaders are also expected to bring major cost savings across their entire lifecycles, according to Woods. They are likely to require fewer replacement parts than their predecessors, and servicing is also more efficient and simpler.

Sandvik 18-t battery loaders are the most compact on the market, according to the OEM. The powerful electric motors, innovative electric driveline and the smaller tyres on the rear compared with the front, result in a small machine size, high payload with good visibility and unmatched speeds.

Battery machines produce no underground exhaust emissions and significantly less heat than traditional diesel engines, supporting the mines to reach sustainability targets, through reduced CO2 emissions.

Andrew Dawson, Business Line Manager for Load & Haul at Sandvik, praised Byrnecut for helping to pioneer the use of BEVs in Australia.

“The first Sandvik battery-electric loaders only began arriving in the country about a year ago, and the interest has been extremely strong,” he says. “We’re very pleased that Byrnecut and Oz Minerals see the benefits of this technology and is demonstrating it to the rest of the industry. We have always had an excellent working relationship with Byrnecut and look forward to cooperating with them throughout the roll-out and beyond.”

OZ Minerals turns down BHP’s A$25/share cash offer

OZ Minerals says it has rejected an unsolicited, conditional and non-binding indicative proposal from BHP to acquire all shares in the company for A$25/share ($17.3/share) in cash, valuing the company at an reported A$8.34 billion.

Having assessed this proposal, which represents a 13.1% premium to the volume weighted average price (VWAP) of OZ’s share price for the six months prior, the Board has unanimously determined that the offer significantly undervalues OZ Minerals and, as such, is not in the best interests of shareholders.

For its part, BHP points out in a separate press release that the consideration represents an “attractive premium” of 32.1% to OZ Minerals’ closing price of A$18.92/share on August 5 and 41.4% to OZ Minerals’ 30-day VWAP of A$17.67/share up to and including August 5.

OZ Minerals says the proposal is subject to a number of conditions including:

  • The completion of extensive financial, legal, technical and operational due diligence over a proposed six-week timeframe;
  • Various financial assumptions;
  • A unanimous recommendation of the OZ Minerals Board; and
  • Entry into a scheme implementation agreement subject to a range of conditions including no material adverse change, regulatory, shareholder and court approvals and conduct of business restrictions.

OZ Minerals says the Board has been advised by BHP that it has accumulated an interest in OZ Minerals shares via derivative instruments amounting to an interest of less than 5%.

OZ Minerals Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cole, said: “We have a unique set of copper and nickel assets, all with strong long-term growth potential in quality locations. We are mining minerals that are in strong demand particularly for the global electrification and decarbonisation thematic and we have a long-life resource and reserve base. We do not consider the proposal from BHP sufficiently recognises these attributes.”

In coming to its decision, OZ Minerals says the Board considered that the proposal does not adequately compensate shareholders for:

  • The unique nature of OZ Minerals’ core business which represents a high-quality portfolio of copper and nickel assets, located in a Tier-1 mining jurisdiction with long mine lives, first quartile cost positioning and extensive strategic optionality;
  • The unique investment proposition which OZ Minerals provides as the only primary copper company in the ASX 100;
  • The low carbon intensity of OZ Minerals’ assets relative to its peers with a defined and market- leading plan for further decarbonisation to meet our target of net zero Scope 1 and 2 operational emissions by 2030;
  • The high-quality nature of OZ Minerals’ growth projects which include the West Musgrave project (final investment decision scheduled for H2 2022), the Carrapateena Block Cave and the Prominent Hill Extension which together are expected to generate significant production growth over the next five years;
  • The strong long-term outlook for both the copper and nickel markets underpinned by increasing geological scarcity, global electrification and accelerating decarbonisation, to which OZ Minerals is highly leveraged; and
  • The strong and consistent returns that the OZ Minerals management team has delivered with a total shareholder return of circa-145% over the past five years.

In addition to the above, OZ Minerals would deliver significant synergies and other benefits to BHP which the Board considers are not reflected in the value of BHP’s indicative proposal.

Among there are the operational synergies in both South Australia (between Olympic Dam, Carrapateena and Prominent Hill) and in Western Australia (between Nickel West and West Musgrave).

BHP says the cash offer it has made would deliver immediate value to OZ Minerals shareholders and de-risk any value which may (or may not) eventually be reflected in the company’s share price.

BHP CEO, Mike Henry, said: “Our proposal represents compelling value and certainty for OZ Minerals shareholders in the face of a deteriorating external environment and increased OZ Minerals operational- and growth-related funding challenges.

“We are disappointed that the Board of OZ Minerals has indicated that it is not willing to entertain our compelling offer or provide us with access to due diligence in relation to our proposal.”

OZ Minerals Prominent Hill joins Aqura 5G Underground Initiative

Aqura says its 5G Underground Initiative in Australia is progressing to plan, with the company having recently added OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill mine to the project, joining representatives from one of Northern Star Resources’ operations in the project.

Aqura, recently acquired by Telstra Purple, was awarded a grant back in 2021 from the Australian Government under the 5G Innovation Initiative to augment the organisation’s own development work to address the challenge of delivering underground 5G LTE. This development work included technical architectures, commercial model development and installation of a live Private 5G LTE network in an operating mine.

The 5G Underground Initiative leverages learnings from a 2017 project where Aqura successfully delivered Private 4G LTE in an underground mine in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia.

Aqura says it has onboarded Northern Star and OZ Minerals by providing a detailed design for both of its chosen mines.

“Having two different mines involved in the project will greatly extend the diversity of the technology architectures developed to suit more mine operation types,” it noted.

Site visits to validate terrain and existing infrastructure are currently in progress. Equipment acquisition is also underway, with works expected to commence at both sites in August 2022, Aqura said.

ABB to deliver highest payload Koepe production hoist to OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill

ABB says it has won a large order for its highest payload Koepe production hoist, associated infrastructure and safety systems from Australia-based mining company OZ Minerals.

The contract will help to ensure efficient processing performance and a long service life as part of an ongoing $400 million expansion at the Prominent Hill mine in South Australia.

The hoist, which will be designed and supplied by ABB, has a capacity of 39,400 kg and the strongest drivetrain that ABB has ever installed in Australia. ABB specialists will also supervise installation and commissioning.

OZ Minerals’ gold, silver and copper mine began operations in 2009 as an open-pit mine, but it is now an underground mine producing 4.5 Mt/y, moving to between 4.5 Mt/t and 5 Mt/y from 2022 via a trucking operation. The hoisting shaft provides access to mineral resources outside the current trucking mine plan that would have been uneconomical via a trucking operation from around 2033, ABB said.

Installing the Wira shaft will increase the annual underground mining rate, extend the mine life, reduce operating costs, lower emissions intensity, and reduce overall operational risk, according to OZ Minerals.

ABB has been awarded the last four mine hoists installed in Australia.

“The project is important for the country’s mining industry and metals security,” Stuart Cowie, Head of Process Industries, ABB Australia, said. “The local supply chain and workforce also relies on the mine and at ABB we’re enabling it to continue for several more years with increased safety, higher production rates and lower emissions.”

Once operational, the installation at Prominent Hill will have ABB Ability™ Safety Plus for hoists, a suite of mine hoist safety products that brings the highest level of personnel and equipment safety available to the mining industry, the company said. It is the first fully SIL 3 (Safety Integrity Level) certified suite of solutions for hoists, rigorously examined and certified by an independent global functional safety certifying body, and strictly developed in accordance with the International “Safety of Machinery” standard IEC62061, the company said.

The products include Safety Plus Hoist Monitor (SPHM), Safety Plus Hoist Protector (SPHP) and Safety Plus Brake System (SPBS) including Safety Brake Hydraulics (SBH).

Polymathian, SimGenics, Simulation Engineering Technologies, MathWorks, First Mode to tackle electric mine simulation tasks

Five teams have been selected to join the Think & Act Differently (TAD) ideas incubator, powered by OZ Minerals and Unearthed, tasked with developing and testing an open architecture simulation platform to develop electric mine designs, with the goal to achieve zero scope one emissions.

Last September, the Electric Mine Consortium launched the Electric Mine Simulation crowd challenge in partnership with the (TAD) ideas incubator, noting that electrification of mine sites remained a critical step change needed for the mining industry to achieve a zero-carbon future.

“Switching to electrified solutions and renewable energy represents a transformational shift that will change the way mines are designed,” OZ Minerals said. “This challenge is about using simulation to understand the impacts of electrification on mine design, infrastructure and energy management.”

The crowd challenge closed in November last year and attracted 179 participants from 36 countries, resulting in 23 submissions. Five teams have now been selected to join the TAD incubator where they will be supported to develop and test their simulations.

Finalist teams include:

  • Polymathian – Colin Eustace, Michael Dallimore, Steven Donaldson and Mitchel Grice are experts in solving complex planning and scheduling problems for the industry, OZ Minerals said. Their solution is to provide a widely used scalable simulation model platform to model large and complex operations, from mining and processing to full supply chain operations;
  • SimGenics – Abrie Venter and Kobus Viljoen are using a software platform that can integrate continuous and discrete-event simulation tools from multiple vendors into one solution;
  • Simulation Engineering Technologies – Jaco Botha, Henk Jenkinson, Fredrik Sundqvist and Marco Agas are the team behind a mine simulator (SimMine®) that allows for the construction of a complete mine simulation, including development, production and ore handling systems;
  • MathWorks – Wilco Volwerk, Peter Brady, Ruth-Anne Marchant and Sam Oliver are using a mathematical computing software that can be used to model dynamic, discrete and continuous processes with multiple time scales to create a mine simulation framework; and
  • First Mode – Aidan Morgan, Jan Haak and Clara Sekowski represent a creative engineering company, using modelling and simulation to inform design decisions and optimise the use of technology.

The teams will work together to explore and develop concepts for the development of an open architecture simulation platform to develop electric mine designs, with the goal to achieve zero scope one emissions. A use case for testing the value of simulation will be provided by OZ Minerals’ copper-gold mine, Prominent Hill, with further use cases developed in collaboration with the Electric Mine Consortium member companies.

The TAD Incubator program is a supportive environment that includes funding, technical mentoring, opportunities for collaboration, capability uplift and access to mining data and mining operations, OZ Minerals said. The teams will be supported by mining business improvement specialists from Imvelo, Sharna Glover and Alan Bye and Simulation SME Luigi Barone, an internationally recognised expert in artificial intelligence.

Brett Triffett, OZ Minerals’ Transformation Technologist, said: “This challenge will help us learn about the power of simulation together with some really talented and collaborative people, as we accelerate progress towards a fully electrified zero carbon zero particulate mine. The benefit of crowdsourcing, particularly in an area where ideas may come from outside our traditional mining networks, is that we can scour the globe to find start-ups, academics and individuals that we would not have otherwise had encountered.”

Multiple mining companies from the EMC will be able to collaborate on the outcomes of this experiment and we’re excited to see what we can learn about the process as well as the technology. The teams will work together over a three-month period to develop simulation concepts.

OZ Minerals, IGO South 32, Blackstone Minerals, Evolution Mining, Barminco and Gold Fields have committed to significantly reducing their carbon footprint. These seven mining companies, along with a number of partner companies, have come together to form the Electric Mine Consortium, a collaborative group seeking to accelerate progress towards a fully electrified zero carbon and zero particulate mine.

The TAD incubator is powered by OZ Minerals and is focused on themes that prioritise social and environmental responsibility for the future of mining.

Howden to supply complete mine cooling system for OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill mine

Howden says it has won a contract to supply a cooling system for the expansion of OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill mine in South Australia.

The solution provided by Howden will be for the complete mine cooling system, with Howden’s equipment ensuring safe productive outcomes at depth and additional efficiencies to reduce environmental impact for current and future carbon footprint compliance.

Howden will focus on sustainability and the solution will include closed circuitry on both condenser and evaporator circuits and R717 (Ammonia) compressors which emit no harmful CO2 or HFCs, the company said. The system consumes no water, using the ambient air as the cooling medium and Howden will supply chillers, air cooled condensers, bulk air coolers, pumps, electronic controls and hydraulic design.

Camille Levy, President of Howden APAC, said: “Howden works in partnership with customers to create solutions for their needs which are of the highest functionality, while supporting their net zero targets. This project is no exception. Our unique combination of manufacturing excellence, technical and project deliverables, and our global experience, also contributes to the reduction of carbon impact of operations.”

The use of Howden refrigeration screw compressor technology coupled with supplies of condenser coolers and bulk air coolers were other supporting factors in the successful offer which will be delivered by the Howden team in China, the company said.

The OZ Minerals Board approved construction of a hoisting shaft at the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia last year, paving the way for a mine life extension and throughput expansion.

Byrnecut assigned to Wira shaft sinking at OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill operation

OZ Minerals, in its latest quarterly results, has confirmed that Byrnecut Group will sink the Wira shaft at its Prominent Hill copper-gold operation in South Australia.

Byrnecut has extensive experience of shaft sinking in the Asia-Pacific region, according to OZ. It is also the underground mining contractor at its Prominent Hill and Carrapateena mines, which, the miner says, will assist in the integration of activities as it continues to increase production rates from Prominent Hill.

Back in August, the OZ Minerals Board approved construction of a hoisting shaft at Prominent Hill, paving the way for a mine life extension and throughput expansion.

Coming with a pre-production capital expenditure of A$600 million ($449 million), the Wira Shaft expansion project will see the underground production rate increase to 6 Mt/y from 2025. At this point, the average annual copper and gold production is expected to be circa-54,000 t and circa-108,000 oz, respectively, some 23% more than expected in the current trucking operation.

Back then, OZ said sinking of the shaft was expected to commence in the March quarter of 2022. Mining and installation of underground and surface infrastructure was scheduled for completion along with commissioning of the Wira shaft at the end of 2024, with nameplate capacity expected in the first half of 2025.

In an update last week, OZ said the shaft collar construction site works had commenced and were due for completion in January 2022.

“The award of the shaft sink contract followed after a lengthy period of Early Contractor Involvement working through various contractors’ proposals and then selecting the best for project outcome with reduced risk and an effective delivery period at an economic cost,” it said. “The designs for the shaft sinking equipment are progressing well. Orders have been placed on the mill runs for the headframe steel with delivery scheduled for December 2021.”

The shaft design comprises a 1,329-m-deep, concrete-lined shaft with a diameter of 7.5 m. Construction of the shaft will be via conventional strip and line method, with the sinking period approximately two years.

The shaft mine expansion also enables generational province potential with further mine life extensions possible as 67 Mt of resource remains outside the shaft expansion mine plan, OZ Minerals says. Further, an exploration program has also identified that mineralisation remains open at depth beyond the current resource boundary, potentially accessible via the shaft.

Prominent Hill produced 17,565 t of copper and 41,245 oz of gold in the September quarter.

ERM on executing the mining sector’s sustainability strategies

With sustainability close to the number one topic shaping the business landscape, the mining industry faces perhaps more scrutiny today than ever before. From stakeholder engagement to employee welfare and the emissions generated from using mined commodities, there is a spectrum of issues on which mining companies are judged. Not just by traditional critics such as NGOs, but increasingly by policymakers, investors and consumers themselves.

As a result, mining companies are seeking the advice of consultants that live and breathe environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to adapt to this evolving backdrop (see the mining consultants focus in IM October 2021 for more on this).

In this regard, they don’t come much bigger than ERM, which calls itself the largest global pure play sustainability consultancy. With a remit that goes into strategic, operational and tactical challenges, the company’s services have been in serious demand of late.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead; Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead; Peter Rawlings, Low Carbon Economy Transition Lead; and Geraint Bowden, Regional Client Director – Mining, were happy to go into some detail about how the company is serving the industry across multiple disciplines.

In demand

According to the four, there is increasing demand for services from miners interested in energy/battery minerals (lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, platinum, palladium and rhodium (PGMs)) on the back of rising numbers of new mines coming onto the scene, “shorter supply chains to customers”, the perceived need to secure domestic supply of these minerals, and requirements of “evidence of responsibly-produced certifications from industry organisations such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)”.

Such trends have been underwritten by a shift in both the requirements and considerations around the extraction of these minerals, according to Molyneux.

“In the last five to seven years, the main ESG incentives for change have come from access to capital (ie investor ESG preferences, especially in relation to catastrophic incidents),” he said.

“Over the last three years, we have seen a strong rise in expectations from downstream customers, particularly leading brands.”

Jonathan Molyneux, ERM Mining ESG Strategy Lead

Automotive original equipment manufacturers like BMW and Daimler are placing sustainability at the centre of their brands, according to ERM. Their initial focus has been on ‘net-zero’ driving/electrification – and they have made progress on this with several major electric car launches. They then shifted to examining the carbon emissions and ESG, or responsible practices, of tier-one and tier-two component manufacturers. The last step has been a full analysis of the ESG credentials of input materials right back to source, ie the mine.

“We see a shift from the historic lens of customers managing supply risk by sourcing from organisations which ‘do little/no harm’ (eg human rights compliance, catastrophic incident avoidance) to supply partners that can contribute to the ‘do net good’ or ‘create value for all stakeholders’ (ie communities, workforce, nature positive),” Pearce said.

Such a shift has resulted in more clients considering “circular thinking” in their operational strategy, as well as carrying out risk reviews and transformation projects focused on a company’s social or cultural heritage. Tied to this, these same companies have been evaluating their water use, biodiversity requirements and, of course, decarbonisation efforts.

It is the latter on which the steel raw materials companies predominantly have been looking for advice, according to ERM.

The focus has been on ‘green’ iron ore, low-carbon steel and ‘circular’ steel, according to Molyneux and Bowden, with ERM providing input on how companies in this supply chain can integrate sustainability into their strategy and operations.

On the thermal coal side, meanwhile, it is a very different type of ERM service in demand: mine retirements, closure/local/regional regeneration transitions and responsible disposals.

Delivering on decarbonisation

The mining industry decarbonisation targets have come thick and fast in the last 18-24 months, with the latest announcement from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) seeing all 28 mining and metals members sign up to a goal of net zero Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 or sooner, in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

Many have gone further than Scope 1 (direct emissions from owned or controlled sources) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company) emissions, looking at including Scope 3 (all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain) targets.

Fortescue Metals Group, this month, announced what it said is an industry-leading target to achieve net zero Scope 3 emissions by 2040, for example.

These are essential goals – and ones that all interested parties are calling for – in order to deliver on the Paris Agreement, yet many miners are not yet in the position to deliver on them, according to Pearce, Molyneux, Rawlings and Bowden.

“Miners need to look at decarbonisation at a holistic level across their operations and value chain, and cannot just delegate the net zero requirements to individual assets,” Rawlings said. “The solutions needed require investment and are often at a scale well beyond individual assets/sites.”

Much of this decarbonisation effort mirrors other industries, with the use of alternative fuels for plant and equipment, accessing renewable electricity supplies, etc, they said.

Process-specific activities can present challenges and is where innovation is required.

“These hard to abate areas are where a lot of efforts are currently focused,” Rawlings said.

Tied into this discussion is the allowance and estimates made for carbon.

There has been anecdotal evidence of miners taking account of carbon in annual and technical reports – a recent standout example being OZ Minerals inclusion of a carbon price in determining the valuation of its Prominent Hill shaft expansion project in South Australia – but there is no current legislation in place.

“We are seeing a broad spectrum of price and sophistication (targeted audience, knowledge level), but it is an active board level discussion for most clients,” Bowden said on this subject. “Most clients view this as market-driven requirements as opposed to a voluntary disclosure.”

This has been driven, in part, from the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, which many miners – including all the majors – are aligning their reporting with.

Some clients are also looking into scenarios to work around carbon regimes such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which proposes a carbon-based levy on imports of specific products.

Having acquired several companies in recent months focused on the low carbon economy transition – such as E4tech, Element Energy and RCG – ERM feels best placed to provide the technical expertise and experience to deliver the sustainable energy solutions miners require to decarbonise their operations.

“With these companies, combined with ERM’s expertise, it means we can support clients on the decarbonisation journeys from the initial strategy and ambition development through to implementation and delivery of their roadmaps,” Rawlings said. “We can support clients from boots to boardroom as they assess decarbonisation options and technologies; help them understand the financial, policy and practical aspects linked to deployment of solutions; and access the financing necessary to support deployment.”

ESG dilemmas

There is more to this evolving backdrop than setting and meeting ambitious environmental goals, yet, in ERM’s experience, the advice provided by consultants – and requested by miners – has historically been focused on individual ESG domains.

“This has often been driven by their realisation that their (miner’s) in-house policies and standards require updating,” Pearce said.

Louise Pearce, ERM Global Mining Lead

A siloed or disaggregated approach to ESG strategy development often reduces risk, but rarely generates value for the enterprise at hand, according to Pearce.

“What we have learned is that in order for organisations to create value, they need to focus on value drivers for the corporation,” she said. “These value levers are typically influenced by an integrated suite of ESG dimensions. For example, this could be looking at carbon emissions, connected with water use and nature, connected with local socio-economic development.”

“Sustainability and ESG are about understanding the inter-relationships between our social, natural and economic environments over the longer term. It cannot be about addressing one topic at a time or responding to the loudest voices.”

This is where ERM’s ‘second-generation’ ESG advice, which is driven by data and opportunities to create value as well as manage risk, is fit for the task.

“We are also finding that, at its heart, the central issue to second-generation ESG performance delivery/improvement for our clients is not just the strategy, but a willingness of organisations to reflect on their core values, how these have driven their traditional approaches and decisions and how they will need to evolve these if they want to achieve a genuine brand and reputation for ESG and achieve impact on the value drivers they have selected,” she added.

Such thinking is proving definitive in ERM’s mining sector mergers and acquisition due diligence.

“We have multiple experiences where clients have asked us to carry out an ESG review of a target portfolio, only to find that there is too great a gap between the target’s ESG asset footprint to align them with the client’s standard – or, that the carbon, water, closure or tailings profile of the target carries a too high-risk profile,” Molyneux said.

This is presenting clients with a dilemma as they want to increase their exposure to certain minerals, but are, in some instances, finding M&A is a too high-risk route. At the same time, the lead time to find and develop their own new assets is longer than they would wish for building market share.

Such a market dynamic opens the door for juniors looking for assets early in their lifecycles, yet it places a high load on the management teams of these companies to think strategically about the ESG profile of the asset they are setting the foundations for to eventually appeal to a potential acquirer.

“This is, in itself, a dilemma because, typically, the cash scarcity at the junior stage leads management teams to focus on the immediate technical challenges, sometimes at the cost of also addressing the priority non-technical challenges,” Bowden said.

Those companies who can take a strategic view on the ESG requirements of the future – rooted in a deep understanding of how to deliver change on the ground – will be best placed in such a market, and ERM says it is on hand to provide the tools to develop such an appropriate approach.

(Lead photo credit: @Talaat Bakri, ERM)

OZ Minerals Board gives go ahead for shaft expansion at Prominent Hill

The OZ Minerals Board has approved construction of a hoisting shaft at the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia, paving the way for a mine life extension and throughput expansion.

Prominent Hill mine began operation in 2009 as an open pit and is now an underground mine producing 4.5 Mt/y, moving to 4.5-5 Mt/y from 2022 via a trucking operation.

Coming with a pre-production capital expenditure of A$600 million ($436 million), the Wira Shaft expansion project will see the underground production rate increase to 6 Mt/y from 2025. At this point, the average annual copper and gold production is expected to be circa-54,000 t and circa-108,000 oz, respectively, some 23% more than expected in the current trucking operation.

The study leverages close to 100 Mt of mineral resources outside the previous Prominent Hill ore reserves of 38 Mt of underground material.

Sinking of the shaft is expected to commence in the March quarter of 2022. Mining and installation of underground and surface infrastructure is scheduled for completion along with commissioning of the Wira shaft at the end of 2024, with nameplate capacity expected in the first half of 2025.

The shaft design comprises a 1,329-m-deep, concrete-lined shaft with a diameter of 7.5 m. Construction of the shaft will be via conventional strip and line method, with the sinking period approximately two years.

The shaft mine expansion also enables generational province potential with further mine life extensions possible as 67 Mt of resource remains outside the shaft expansion mine plan, OZ Minerals says. Further, an exploration program has also identified that mineralisation remains open at depth beyond the current resource boundary, potentially accessible via the shaft.

Announcing the expansion today, OZ Minerals Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Cole, said: “We are thrilled to see a long and productive future for Prominent Hill with the Wira shaft mine expansion enabling access to areas previously thought uneconomic and opening up potential new prospects.

“Prominent Hill is a quality orebody and remains open at depth. The reliable performance of the operation and its consistent resource to reserve conversion rate were all influential in the decision.”

For the first time, the company has used a carbon price in determining the project valuation, a practice it plans to adopt in other OZ Minerals projects going forward, Cole said.

The company plans to reduce its underground loading fleet to eight vehicles, from nine after the shaft expansion, with its trucking fleet going from circa-14 to five, post-shaft.

Scope 1 emissions intensity per tonne of concentrate are also expected to drop from 0.47 t CO2-e/t to 0.28 t CO2-e/t after the shaft installation.

The pre-production capital of A$600 million, which was an increase on the A$450 million outlined in the November 2020 expansion study, enables transformation of the site in line with the strategic aspirations of OZ Minerals, it said.

Provisions have been included in site capital projections to support this transformation, including progressing underground fleet electrification, upgrading some of the existing infrastructure, remote operation capability and automation.

The company expanded on this: “A battery-powered mining fleet is part of the future vision as OZ Minerals moves towards its zero-carbon emission aspiration. For this study, diesel trucks were assumed. However, installation of enabling infrastructure is included in the Prominent Hill Expansion case to minimise future disruptions when the switch to an electric fleet occurs. This, implemented as part of the asset’s site-wide electrification aspiration, would contribute to a further reduction in Scope 1 emissions.”

A pilot study is also being undertaken to review a low-energy dry grinding option. The Prominent Hill Expansion Study is not directly connected to, nor dependent on this ongoing work, however, the work presents potential future cost reduction and other opportunities, OZ Minerals said.

OZ Minerals, Titeline investigate hydrogen-powered surface diamond drilling opportunities

OZ Minerals, in partnership with Titeline Drilling, has commenced a trial to test a hydrogen direct injection system to improve engine combustion efficiency for surface diamond drill rigs.

The system has the potential to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and particulates, as well as improve fuel consumption, according to the company.

The news came out with the release of the company’s June quarter results, which saw a 22% quarter-on-quarter uplift in copper production following a strong performance from the company’s South Australian operations (Prominent Hill and Carrapateena).

In addition to the trial of hydrogen-powered surface drill rigs, OZ Minerals said the mining tri-alliance it has in place with Byrnecut and Sandvik – designed to identify and introduce smart and innovative ideas – had progressed during the quarter, with in-roads made on several associated projects.

Significant work was undertaken towards trialling the use of tele-remote loading of trucks, which has now been implemented in a key stope in July, it said.

OZ Minerals previously said it was working with Byrnecut and Sandvik to roll out Sandvik’s AutoMine® platform at its Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia. This followed a project between the two to implement an automation upgrade for a Sandvik DD422i development drill at the operation.