Tag Archives: rutile

Qube to help fill Coburn mineral sands transport gaps for Strandline

Strandline Resources Ltd says it has made another important step in its preparations for production at the Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia, executing a long‐term haulage and logistics services agreement with Qube Bulk Pty Ltd.

Qube is Australia’s largest integrated provider of export logistics services and is highly experienced in haulage, storage and ship loading of bulk mineral sands products, including at the Port of Geraldton, according to Strandline.

Qube’s scope comprises a turnkey logistics solution from mine‐to‐ship, including operating the haulage fleet, product storage facilities at Geraldton and coordinating ship loading activities. The agreement covers 100% of the mineral sands products to be produced at Coburn over an initial 10‐year term (around 225,000 t/y).

Qube’s services include load product at Coburn mine site into Qube‐owned triple road trains on a continuous 24‐7 basis; transport of ilmenite and zircon concentrate products to Qube’s existing Berth 4 storage facility at the Port of Geraldton ready for direct loading to ship; transport of zircon and rutile products to purpose‐built storage facility at Narngulu, ready for campaign loading at Berth 4, Port of Geraldton; and coordinate product deliveries for ship loading at the port to meet Strandline’s customer requirements.

The terms of the contract are in accordance with the production plan, logistics requirements and overall operating cost assumptions contained in the Coburn definitive feasibility study, released in June 2020, which outlined a mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.

Appointment of Qube follows the previously announced 10‐year port access and services agreement with the Mid West Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Geraldton in Western Australia.

Qube is now preparing its Narngulu storage facility and existing Berth 4 port storage facility and trucking fleet ready for first cargo later next year, Strandline said.

With the strong construction progress achieved to date at Coburn, Strandline remains on track to achieve first production of heavy mineral concentrate in the December quarter of 2022.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said: “We are delighted to establish this long‐term relationship with Qube, a leading logistics provider across Australia and a well‐established operator in the mid‐west region of Western Australia. Securing the strategic storage at port berth‐side for most of Coburn’s product volume is a significant advantage, resulting in extra flexibility and cost efficiencies.

“This agreement, when combined with the previously announced operational contracts, including for the contract mining services, supply of electricity, LNG, fuel and facilities management on site, means Strandline has already locked‐in circa-65% of its forecast operating costs in line with the assumptions contained in the Coburn DFS.”

Appian continues to flex ‘multi-faceted’ skillset in latest mining deals

Private equity firms might not be the most obvious port of call for companies in need of the technical skillsets to transition ‘projects’ to ‘mines’, but, in recent years, Appian Capital Advisory LLP has shown the industry that it has all the credentials to help with this transition.

The firm, headquartered in London but calling on expertise from across the globe, has just completed divestments of the Santa Rita nickel mine and the Serrote copper mine, both in Brazil.

Sibanye-Stillwater, the purchaser, agreed to pay Appian $1 billion, plus a 5% net smelter return (NSR) royalty over potential future underground production at Santa Rita, for the assets, with the private equity firm, in the process, pocketing a pretty profit.

In 2018, Appian acquired Atlantic Nickel (owner of Santa Rita) out of bankruptcy for $68 million and Mineração Vale Verde, the owner of Serrote, for $40 million.

It reoriented the former large-scale open-pit mine into a much more conservative – and profitable – mine able to produce around 20,000-25,000 t/y of contained nickel sulphide equivalent. It also carried out extensive drilling to showcase its underground potential, prolonging its mine life.

The plans at Serrote, meanwhile, were re-evaluated in a DFS. Having completed project construction and commissioning ahead of schedule and under budget, the mine is now ramping up to nameplate capacity of 20,000 t/y of copper equivalent.

These two divestments represent the fourth and fifth portfolio sales the company completed this year. The others included the sale of its 13.2% interest in West Africa-focused gold company Roxgold to Fortuna Silver Mines, the sale of its 0.28% NSR royalty over the large-scale Caserones copper mine in Chile and the repayment of a royalty Appian held over Peak Resources’ Ngualla rare earth project in Tanzania.

The diversity of these asset exits is indicative of how well-versed mining-focused Appian is in the sector’s ‘hot commodities’, but there is more to appreciate here than purely financial gains and well-timed acquisitions and divestments.

“People know that not all money is created equal,” Michael W Scherb, Founder and CEO of Appian (pictured), told IM. “We have a team that is able to solve specific operational challenges – we can call on specialists to solve problems on the process flowsheet side, for instance – while providing financial advice to avoid expensive streams and set assets up for profitability.”

Scherb’s words are backed up by a solid track record: seven of nine investments it has made have resulted in mine builds. Its divestments have also provided healthy returns.

The company has been able to do this by recruiting industry specialists – mining and finance – and educating them on the facets they need to succeed in both the private equity and mining world.

“People that join Appian need to be multi-faceted,” Scherb said. “We get mining folks to think like investors and vice versa,” he said.

This has seen them build a project review team populated with former consultants and an operations team full of mine personnel with operational experience.

“We then get all personnel to cross-train across these teams to avoid any siloed disciplines,” Scherb explained.

Take Santa Rita as an example of where this expertise paid off.

The company carried out a six-month due diligence process on Santa Rita, which led to the development of a more defensive and low-cost mine plan able to see the asset through nickel price peaks and troughs – in stark contrast to the plan former operator Mirabela Nickel had for the asset.

Among the operating changes implemented were the use of a smaller, locally procured equipment fleet of 40 t trucks (Santa Rita previously used Caterpillar 777 90 t and 785 137 t payload trucks), the use of shorter benches and tighter blasting patterns.

This resulted in better grade and fragmentation control, improving the feed to the crusher.

It also defined a significant underground resource base at the mine, which it will still be leveraged to thanks to the NSR royalty.

Such moves were based on exploiting the nickel sulphides at Santa Rita. This reoriented focus aligned with the industry preference for nickel tied to the battery materials space, which eventually paid off with the amount of interest in the asset.

This blend of technical and financial expertise has served the company – and any company it has an interest in – well. Backed by a long-term investment philosophy where its funds are 12 years in duration, the company can make moves aligned with the realities and timelines associated with turning assets into mines.

The next asset on the Appian books likely to move into construction-ready territory is Kalbar Operations’ Fingerboards mineral sands project, which focuses on the Glenaladale deposit, about 20 km northwest of Bairnsdale in Victoria, Australia.

Scherb said this project will be “build-ready” very soon, explaining that it is currently going through the permitting stage.

The project has the potential to be one of the world’s major producers of zircon, ilmenite, rutile and rare earths, and Kalbar is proposing an investment of over A$200 million ($148 million) in the development of a project able to produce around 575,000 t/y of heavy mineral concentrate over 15-20 years.

Scherb said Appian is keen to further pursue commodities associated with the electrification of industry, but he is aware of the premiums that may come with these deals.

“A lot of money has flooded into the battery metals,” he said. “We can be patient and are starting to look earlier stage in some investments.”

“Earlier stage” still has the potential to be producing in four- or five-year’s time, he clarified.

What’s clear is that the Appian team is gaining widespread recognition, with Scherb saying larger mining companies are starting to approach them with proposals that would see Appian gain operational control of assets, realising the firm has the right blend of “operational skill” and “value principles” to succeed.

Having acknowledged a skills shortage across the sector – one Appian is doing its bit to tackle with internship programs with universities in Canada, the UK and Australia – Scherb was confident the company’s talent would be retained and, ultimately, grow.

“In terms of talent retention, we at Appian offer experience of reviewing many different assets at different times in their lifecycle,” he said. “If you’re in-house at a mining company, you run the ruler over the same assets, stress testing them against different scenarios. We offer our teams variety that they cannot get in many places.

“At the same time, our structure means employees invest directly in companies to ensure they are correctly incentivised. This means they get to share in the profits.”

With plans to make one-to-three investments per year – along with the same number of exits – and expectations of committing its latest $775 million fund within the next two quarters, expect to hear more from Appian into 2022.

Primero, Mineral Technologies enlisted for Strandline’s Coburn mineral sands project

Primero Group has been awarded preferred EPC status on a substantial contract with Strandline Resources on the Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia.

The total volume of awarded engineering procurement and construction (EPC) works totals around A$150 million ($107 million), according to Primero, and follows an initial eight-week Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) process that provided further definition of the delivery strategy and project deliverables between the groups. It also coincided with the appointment of Mineral Technologies (MT), a global services provider and leader in the design and supply of mineral sands processing facilities (and a subsidiary of Downer Group), as the strategic technology partner alongside Primero for the project delivery.

Strandline said the contract involved the engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning and performance testing of the Wet Concentration Plant (WCP), Mineral Separation Plant (MSP) and associated processing circuits at the operation.

The Coburn WCP is designed to beneficiate the heavy minerals (ilmenite, leucoxene, rutile, zircon and monazite) and reject the non-valuable, lighter minerals through multiple stages of high capacity gravity separation and classification, according to Strandline. The rich heavy mineral concentrate produced from the WCP will be transported to the MSP and stockpiled ready for processing.

“The WCP infrastructure is relocatable and is planned to be moved several times during the mine life as the mine advances along the orebody,” Strandline said. “The MSP design comprises conventional electrostatic separation, gravity and magnetic fractionation to recover a range of premium-quality final products, including chloride ilmenite, rutile, premium zircon and zircon concentrate.”

The full project award is subject to Strandline Resources approving a Final Investment Decision in the coming months, Primero said. The ECI process came after Strandline’s recent A$18.5 million equity raising.

Primero Managing Director and CEO, Cameron Henry, said: “This award is an excellent example of Primero’s ECI phase in action and adds to our growing book of projects in preferred contractor status. We have worked intensively with Strandline over the past two months in designing a delivery solution that best meets the key project objectives and value drivers, while also minimising execution risks.”

Strandline has also already appointed Piacentini & Son to design and construct three mobile dozer mining units for the project, while Macmahon has been named as the principal contractor to provide site-wide civil and bulk earthworks construction services for the project.

Rio Tinto bringing Richards Bay Minerals back online

Close to four weeks after deciding to curtail operations at its Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operations in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Rio Tinto says it has started the process of resuming work at the zircon, rutile, iron and slag works.

The U-turn follows discussions led by the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, involving all stakeholders focused on securing stability in order to address the issues in the community and provide the stable environment necessary for RBM to resume operations, Rio said.

Rio, which owns 74% of RBM, previously made the call to suspend work to ensure the safety and security of its employees due to an escalation in violence in the communities surrounding the operations.

In the December 4 announcement, it said: “There has been an escalation of criminal activity towards RBM employees and one was shot and seriously injured in the last few days. As a result, all mining operations at RBM have been halted and the smelters are operating at a reduced level, with a minimum number of employees now on site. Construction of the Zulti South project has also been temporarily paused.”

In its latest statement, the company said a phased restart is now in progress across the operation, with RBM expected to return to full operations in early January, leading to regular production in early 2020.

Having previously advised of a force majeure in supply following the suspension, Rio is now contacting customers to say this declaration has been lifted. The company said it would also review the restart of the Zulti South project after normalisation of operations at RBM.

The $463 million Zulti South project will sustain RBM’s current capacity and extend mine life. RBM currently operates four mines in the Zulti North lease area, a mineral separation plant and smelting complex. The Zulti South mine will underpin RBM’s supply of zircon and ilmenite over the life of mine, according to the company.

Bold Baatar, chief executive, Energy & Minerals, said: “The safety and security of our people is always our first priority and we are pleased that we will now be able to get back to work creating value for our people, our communities, South Africa and RBM’s shareholders.

“I would like to thank the Government of South Africa and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal for their support and assistance in getting us to a position where we can restart operations at RBM. I would also acknowledge the work of community leaders and the police over the previous few weeks.”

Rio previously advised that titanium dioxide slag production for 2019 was expected to be at the bottom end of 2019 guidance of between 1.2-1.4 Mt.