Tag Archives: solar power

CrossBoundary wind, solar, battery solution set for Rio QMM ilmenite operation

Rio Tinto has signed a power purchasing agreement for a new renewable energy plant to power the operations of its QMM ilmenite mine in Fort Dauphin, Southern Madagascar.

This project, which uses solar and wind energy, will significantly contribute towards Rio Tinto’s operations in Madagascar achieving its carbon neutral objective by 2023, it said. It is part of a broader initiative to reduce the ilmenite mine’s environmental footprint which includes programs that focus on emissions reduction, waste and water management, carbon sequestration, ecological restoration and reforestation.

QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%).

The renewable energy plant, to be built, owned and operated by independent power producer, CrossBoundary Energy, over a 20-year period, will consist of an 8 MW solar facility and a 12 MW wind energy facility to power mining and processing operations. There will also be a lithium-ion battery energy storage system of up to 8.25 MW as reserve capacity to ensure a stable and reliable network.

It will supply all of QMM’s electricity demand during peak generation times, and up to 60% of the operations’ annual electricity consumption, according to Rio. QMM is to replace the majority of the power it currently supplies to the town of Fort Dauphin and the community of around 80,000 people with renewables, the company added.

The renewable energy plant will comprise more than 18,000 solar panels and up to nine wind turbines located in the Port Ehoala Park area. Construction is expected to begin this year with the solar plant scheduled to start operations at the beginning 2022. The wind power plant is planned to commence construction in early 2022 and become operational by the end of 2022.

QMM President, Ny Fanja Rakotomalala, said: “On a sunny and windy day, all the electricity needed by QMM and the Fort Dauphin community will be generated by the Malagasy sun and wind. It is a major step forward on our journey towards a truly sustainable mine, that protects and promotes the uniqueness of Madagascar’s environment and benefits the community with reliable and clean electricity.”

Rio Tinto Minerals Chief Executive, Sinead Kaufman, said: “With this flagship project, QMM is leading the way at Rio Tinto and in Madagascar in utilising renewable energy to power mining operations and reduce carbon emissions.”

CrossBoundary Energy Co-founder and Managing Partner, Matt Tilleard, added: “Emissions from electricity use in mining is estimated to account for around 1% of all greenhouse gases globally. Rio Tinto is leading the way in demonstrating how mines can seize a huge opportunity to reduce these emissions. We are focused on delivering cleaner power to businesses and were, therefore, able to offer Rio Tinto a flexible, fast, all-equity funding approach, combined with our reliable track record as one of Africa’s largest distributed renewable utilities.”

QMM is near Fort Dauphin in the Anosy region of south-eastern Madagascar, and primarily produces ilmenite, in addition to zirsill and monazite. It includes the deep-water Port d’Ehoala, where the raw material is shipped to the Rio Tinto Fer et Titane plant in Canada and processed into titanium dioxide.

Australian government backs mining and metal sector decarbonising initiative

A new Cooperative Research Centre focused on integrating green energy sources such as hydrogen, ammonia and solar into high-heat and high-emission manufacturing processes for products like steel, aluminium and cement has won Australia government backing.

The Heavy Industry Low-carbon Transition Cooperative Research Centre (HILT CRC), to be led by the University of Adelaide, has been provided with A$39 million ($29 million) of funding through the CRC Grants program. It is also backed by an additional A$175.7 million in funding and in-kind support from research and industry partners such as Alcoa, Rio Tinto Aluminium, South32, Roy Hill, Fortescue Metals Group, the Australian National University and the CSIRO.

South Australia Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter, said the CRC would help to secure the future of heavy industries right across the country by helping them to lower costs and establish a reputation as exporters of high-quality, low-carbon, value-added products.

“In order to remain internationally competitive, it is crucial that our heavy industries begin the transition to lower cost and cleaner energy technology to secure the long-term future of their operations,” Minister Porter said. “By connecting those industries with our best and brightest minds from within our major research institutions – coupled with the significant funding that’s now available to fast-track this work – we expect real-world solutions can be delivered within the 10-year life of the CRC.”

Dr David Cochrane, who is Technology Lead at core CRC partner South32 and also an industry leader of the HILT CRC, said: “The HILT CRC will play an important role in transitioning to a low-carbon future by creating a framework for industry to collaborate, sharing knowledge and experience while lowering the risk of trialling technology.

“For South32, we have recently set medium-term targets to halve our operational emissions by 2035 as we transition to net zero by 2050 and initiatives like the HILT CRC are part of our plan to achieve these targets.”

Susan Jeanes, who is Chair-elect of the HILT CRC, said: “Decarbonising Australia’s heavy industry will position it to be competitive in the rapidly developing, global low carbon markets for green iron and aluminium products that have higher value than our current exports. These new markets are being driven by our trading partners in countries like China, Japan and Europe, which are introducing a range of financial measures to meet their carbon targets, such as EU’s Carbon Border Tax.

“Our mineral resources geographically co-exist around the continent with our first-class renewable energy resources making decarbonising more competitive here than in other parts of the world.”

OZ Minerals wades into uncharted renewables territory at West Musgrave

You do not get much more remote than OZ Minerals’ West Musgrave copper-nickel project. Located in the Ngaanyatjarra Aboriginal Lands of central Western Australia, it is some 1,300 km northeast of Perth and 1,400 km northwest of Adelaide; near the intersection of the borders between Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The nearest towns include the Indigenous Communities of Jameson (Mantamaru), 26 km north; Blackstone (Papulankutja), 50 km east; and Warburton (Milyirrtjarra), 110 km west.

This makes the company’s ambition of developing a mine able to produce circa-32,000 t/y of copper and around 26,000 t/y of nickel in concentrates that leverages 100% renewable generation and can conduct ‘zero carbon mining’ even bolder.

OZ Minerals is not taking this challenge on by itself. In addition to multiple consultants and engineering companies engaged in a feasibility study, the company has enlisted the help of ENGIE Impact, the consulting arm of multinational electric utility company ENGIE, to come up with a roadmap that could see it employ renewable technologies to reach its zero ambitions.

“We’re providing an understanding of how they could decarbonise the mine to achieve a net zero end game,” Joshua Martin, Senior Director, Sustainability Solutions APAC, told IM.

While ENGIE Impact is focused solely on the energy requirements side of the equation at West Musgrave, its input will prove crucial to the ultimate sustainability success at West Musgrave.

Having worked with others in the mining space such as Vale’s New Caledonia operations (recently sold to the Prony Resources New Caledonia consortium), Martin says OZ Minerals is being “pretty ambitious” when it comes to decarbonisation.

“Our job is to assess if the renewable base case stacks up for West Musgrave, create multiple decarbonisation pathways for their consideration and look at what technology should be adopted to achieve their overall aims,” he said.

This latter element is particularly important for an off-grid project like West Musgrave, which is unlikely to start producing until around mid-2025 should a positive investment decision follow the upcoming feasibility study.

While solar, wind and battery back-up are all likely to play a role in the power plans at West Musgrave – technologies that are frequently factored into hybrid projects looking to wean themselves off diesel or heavy fuel oil use – more emerging technologies are likely to be factored into a roadmap towards 100% renewable adoption.

“We are developing a series of roadmaps that factor in where we think technologies will be in the future,” Martin said. “These roadmaps come with a series of decision gates where the company will need to take one option at that point in time if they are to pursue that particular decarbonisation pathway.”

These roadmaps utilise ENGIE Impact’s consulting and engineering nous, as well as the consultancy’s PROSUMER software (screenshot below) that is used on any asset-level decarbonisation project roadmap, according to Martin.

“This software was specifically built for that purpose,” Martin said. “There is nothing on the market like this.”

Progress at PFS level

OZ Minerals’ December 2020 prefeasibility study update went some way to mapping out its decarbonisation ambition for West Musgrave, with a 50 MW Power Purchase Agreement that involved hybrid renewables (wind, solar, battery, plus diesel or gas).

The company said in this study: “Modelling has demonstrated that circa 70-80% renewables penetration can be achieved for the site, with the current modelled to be an optimised mix of wind, solar and diesel supported by a battery installation.”

OZ Minerals said there was considerable upside in power cost through matching plant power demand with the availability of renewable supply (load scheduling), haulage electrification to maximise the proportion of renewable energy used, and the continued improvement in the efficiency of renewable energy solutions.

ENGIE Impact’s view on hydrogen and electric haulage in the pit may be considered here, complemented by the preliminary results coming out of the Electric Mine Consortium, a collaborative mine electrification project OZ Minerals is taking part in with other miners such as Evolution Mining, South32, Gold Fields and IGO. And, on the non-electric pathway, ENGIE Impact’s opinion is being informed by a study it is undertaking in collaboration with Anglo American on developing a “hydrogen valley” in South Africa.

If OZ Minerals’ early technology views are anything to go by, it is willing to take some risk when it comes to adopting new technology.

The preliminary flowsheet in the prefeasibility study factored in a significant reduction in carbon emissions and power demand through the adoption of vertical roller mills (VRMs) as the grinding mill solution, and a flotation component that achieves metal recovery at a much coarser grind size than was previously considered in the design.

Loesche is working with OZ Minerals on the VRM side, and Woodgrove’s Direct Flotation Reactors got a shout out in the process flowsheet.

While mining at West Musgrave is modelled to be conventional drill, blast, load and haul, the haulage fleet will comprise up to 25, 220 t haul trucks, with optionality being maintained to allow for these trucks to be fully autonomous in the future, OZ Minerals said.

‘True’ zero miners

OZ Minerals is aware of the statement it would make to industry if it were to power all this technology from renewable sources.

“With a future focus on developing a roadmap to 100% renewable generation, and reducing dependency upon fossil fuels over time, West Musgrave will become one of the largest fully off-grid, renewable powered mines in the world,” it said in the updated PFS. “The solution would result in the avoidance of in excess of 220,000 tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide emissions compared to a fully diesel-powered operation.”

The company’s Hybrid Energy Plant at Carrapateena in South Australia, whose initial setup includes solar PV, battery storage, diesel generation and a micro-grid controller, will provide a test case for this. This is a “unique facility designed to host experiments on how various equipment and energy technologies interact on an operating mine site”, the company says.

Martin and ENGIE Impact agree OZ Minerals is one of many forward-thinking mining companies striving for zero operations with a serious decarbonisation plan.

“The mining projects we are working on are all looking to achieve ‘true’ net zero operations, factoring in no offsets,” he said. “Having said that, I wouldn’t say the use of offsets is an ‘easy out’ for these companies. They can form part of the decarbonisation equation when they have a specific purpose, for instance, in trying to support indigenous communities.”

These industry leaders would do well to communicate with each other on their renewable ambitions, according to Martin. Such collaboration can help them all achieve their goals collectively, as opposed to individually. The coming together of BHP, Rio Tinto, Vale, Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden and Thiess for the ‘Charge on Innovation Challenge’ is a good example of this, where the patrons are pooling resources to come up with workable solutions for faster charging of large surface electric mining trucks.

“In the Pilbara, for example, there is a real opportunity to create a decarbonisation masterplan that seeks to capitalise on economies of scale,” he said. “If all the companies work towards that end goal collaboratively, they could achieve it much faster and at a much lower cost than if they go it alone.”

When it comes to OZ Minerals, the miner is clearly open to collaboration, whether it be with ENGIE Impact on decarbonisation, The Electric Mine Consortium with its fellow miners, the recently opened Hybrid Energy Plant at Carrapateena, the EU-funded NEXGEN SIMS project to develop autonomous, carbon-neutral mining processes, or through its various crowd sourcing challenges.

Orezone ties up LNG and solar power options for Bomboré gold project

Orezone Gold Corp’s Bomboré gold project is to become the first mine in Burkina Faso to use LNG to power its operations after the Vancouver-based company signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Genser Energy Burkina SA for the supply of “clean energy electrical power” to the project.

Under the PPA, Genser will use liquefied natural gas (LNG) as its main fuel, augmented with a staged solar plant, Orezone said. A fixed rate energy tariff will apply over the life of mine oxide operation with a fixed rate tariff to be negotiated for the additional energy demand upon commissioning of the sulphide processing circuit expected in Year three of commercial production.

The power plant will consist of 6 2.5 MW LNG generators with four 2.6 MW diesel back-up units. This configuration is sized for the initial oxide operation and the planned sulphide expansion, the company explained. At the same time, a solar photovoltaic plant, up to 14 MWp, is to be installed in stages with an 11 kV powerline to connect the gas and backup diesel generators, and solar plant.

Genser is to design, permit, finance and install all power generating equipment and associated infrastructure including LNG storage and diesel storage terminals. It will also be the operator and owner of the power plant facility.

Patrick Downey, President & CEO of Orezone, said: “We are extremely excited to be the first mine in Burkina Faso to use a LNG and solar hybrid power supply. Besides being an excellent cost-effective choice for Bomboré, we also see this new power solution as being a very positive step for the Burkina Faso mining and electricity generating sectors. LNG power systems, coupled with solar, will enable energy intensive industries such as mining to reduce fuel consumption, decrease energy costs, and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

He added: “This life of mine fixed cost agreement for clean energy from Genser provides power cost certainty over life of mine oxide production at Bomboré and provides an excellent platform for project expansion and growth.”

The Honourable Dr Bachir Ismael Ouedraogo, The Minister of Mines and Energy for Burkina Faso, said: “Having the first LNG plant at a mining operation is a great step forward for the industry and we congratulate Orezone in this regard. As a government, we continue to support clean energy alternatives that provides a platform for sustainable growth and benefits our communities.”

Alongside the announcement of the PPA, Orezone said that significant progress had been made at Bomboré during the first two quarters of the year. Engineering is now approximately 30% complete and on schedule, with design and bulk quantities from this work trending favourably against the quantity estimates used in the 2019 feasibility study.

Procurement is well advanced with firm orders placed for most mechanical and electrical equipment with purchase costs generally below budget estimates, it added.

In January, the company appointed Lycopodium Minerals Pty Ltd as the project’s EPCM contractor, while, in February, Sila Equipement ET BTP SA was named as its open-pit mining contractor.

Meanwhile, bulk materials including concrete reinforcing bar and embeds, CIL tank platework, structural steel and platework, HDPE liner, and overland piping have also been ordered with costs also trending within budget, Orezone said.

Off-channel reservoir mining, earthworks for the plant site area and tailings storage facility are rapidly advancing, and the award of the contracts for concrete installation and CIL tank erection and overland piping are imminent, it added.

Orezone’s 2019 feasibility study on Bomboré envisaged a 5.2 Mt/y throughput operation able to produce, on average, 117,760 oz of gold over a 13-year mine life where both oxide and sulphides would be mined and processed. The project remains on track for first gold pour in the September quarter of 2022.

Suntrace, BayWa re, B2Gold commission ‘world’s largest’ off-grid solar-battery system

Suntrace GmbH and BayWa re, together with B2Gold, have completed commissioning of what they say is the world’s largest off-grid solar-battery hybrid system for the mining industry at the Fekola gold mine in Mali.

The solar-battery hybrid plant was integrated and commissioned successfully with the existing power plant operation, with the solar plant on course to be 100% complete by the end of June.

Hybrid projects such as this, which combine solar energy with conventional energy generation and battery storage, are an effective way to provide reliable power supply day and night in off-grid areas, Suntrace says. “Ideally suited to their needs, B2Gold approved the hybrid project for implementation in July 2019, following completion of preliminary studies by Suntrace and BayWa re.”

The Fekola gold mine operates 24-hours a day. During the daytime, the new 30 MW solar plant allows three out of six heavy fuel oil generators to be shut down; the energy production of the residual three generators could also be significantly reduced. The 15.4 MWh battery storage compensates for energy generation fluctuations and assures a reliable operation, which allows up to 75% of the electricity demand of the gold mine to be covered by renewable energy during the daytime, Suntrace said.

Dennis Stansbury, Senior Vice President at B2Gold, said: “Suntrace and BayWa re have played a vital role in our work towards more sustainable production at Fekola. The implementation of a solar-battery hybrid system was an obvious choice to help achieve this, not only for its environmental credentials, but also its economic viability. This is a landmark project which we expect to pave the way for more sustainable power generation within the mining industry in West Africa.”

The integration of the solar power plant with the battery system will ensure safe and reliable power, saving 13.1 million litres of heavy fuel oil a year.

Martin Schlecht, COO of Suntrace, said: “We are very proud that B2Gold has entrusted Suntrace, together with BayWa re as engineering and procurement contractor, to support the development and implementation of this innovative project. Thanks to excellent team work with B2Gold and BayWa re, we were able to manage the completion despite the global challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on all of us. We are proud to jointly deliver a functioning project, well integrated with the mining operations, which reduces CO2 emissions from power generation for the Fekola mine by roughly 20%.”

The photovoltaic-battery system will help to reduce CO2 emissions by 39 000 t/y, according to the company.

Thorsten Althaus, Project Manager at BayWa re, added: “Integrating such a large amount of solar into a small, isolated grid safely and reliably has been a major technical challenge and required the use of battery storage as well as a tailor-made control system. This was conceptualised in the early stages of the project and we ensured that our vision was implemented accordingly by the suppliers. It is extremely rewarding to see how well this solution performs in reality and shows that the technology works and is just waiting to be applied on further projects.”

Wiluna Mining lays renewable energy groundwork with Contract Power extension

Wiluna Mining Corp has signed a 10-year contract extension with Contract Power Group that will see the power provider charge up the Wiluna Mining Operation in Western Australia until at least 2031.

The contract is geared towards meeting the forward needs of the Stage 1 development project at Wiluna, to provide a total rated power output of the power station of 14.1 MW. It will also re-configure the power station to increase gas generation and add a 2 MW battery energy storage unit to significantly reduce the need for back-up diesel generation, with four diesel generators being removed.

The new pact will also allow amortisation of costs over a longer period, therefore reducing Wiluna’s overall operating power charges; the company said.

And, when it comes to the Stage 2 development expansion project in 2023 at Wiluna, the contract will provide a solid base for a future mixed renewables power station, the company said.

Back in October, Wiluna Mining’s board gave the thumbs up to the Stage 1 development, which will see the company transition from its current production profile of producing 62,000 oz/y from mining free milling ore through the current 2.1 Mt/y carbon-in-leach processing facility, to initially producing 100,000-120,000 oz/y of gold and gold in concentrate. This will be implemented using the current, recently refurbished crushing circuit, the previously expanded mill circuit and a new 750,000 t/y concentrator by October 2021, the company said.

Wiluna then intends to increase production of gold and gold in concentrate by, at a minimum, doubling the mining rate and the concentrator to produce circa-250,000 oz/y by the end of 2023/early 2024 as part of Stage 2.

Contract Power, a subsidiary of Pacific Energy, has provided Wiluna’s power – a mix of natural gas and diesel power backup – since June 2016.

“Contract Power Group are experts in efficient generation of electrical power and in decarbonisation by harnessing off-grid wind or solar power,” Wiluna said. “Wiluna are refining its plans with Contract Power Group to include decarbonisation within our methods of power generation at site. This may also moderate our exposure to future volatility in the cost of hydrocarbon fuels.”

Wiluna will now focus on renewable power studies and options during 2021 and 2022 to:

  • Assess the right mix of renewables including solar, wind or pumped storage options;
  • Determine how best to integrate renewables into the total power delivery for an expanded operation; and
  • Optimise the decarbonisation of power generation with reliability and cost effectiveness.

Milan Jerkovic, Wiluna Mining’s Executive Chair, said: “We look forward to working with Contract Power to not only transitioning the Wiluna Mine once again into one of Australia’s biggest and most profitable gold mines, but to helping it become one of Australia’s cleanest mines.”

Red 5 taps Zenith Energy for hybrid power options at King of the Hills gold project

Red 5 Ltd has entered into a Power Purchase Agreement with a subsidiary of Zenith Energy Ltd that will see the growing Australia-based power producer build, own and operate approximately 30 MW of hybrid power generation capacity to service the needs of the King of the Hills (KOTH) project in Western Australia.

The power inputs as part of the BOO agreement comprise high efficiency reciprocating gas fuel power generation together with a 2 MW photovoltaic solar farm (an example from Zenith’s other work shown above) and a battery energy storage system.

Power supply to the site is planned to commence in the March quarter of 2022 with an initial term of 10 years. The contract includes provision for a potential future upgrade to the power station to support increased plant throughput beyond the initial planned 4 Mt/y run rate, Red 5 says.

Gas will be supplied from the Goldfields Gas Pipeline, 12 km west of the mine, under separate contracts, the company clarified.

Red 5 Managing Director, Mark Williams, said the award of the agreement marked another important construction milestone for the King of the Hills project while, at the same time, helping to achieve one of the company’s environmental, social and governance commitments to reduce the carbon footprint of the project.

“We are pleased to have signed the Power Purchase Agreement with Zenith, an experienced power producer which provided us with a compelling hybrid thermal and sustainable power solution that includes renewable energy,” he said. “Zenith’s combination of a gas and solar power station, supported by a battery energy storage system, provides the efficiency and stability required for the processing plant and infrastructure to enable King of the Hills to be a long-life, low-cost gold producer.”

The KOTH project is an open pit and underground gold deposit with a projected mine life of over 16 years. This could see the company produce 176,000 oz/y of gold over the first six years, according to a recent feasibility study.

Rio Tinto investigates Heliogen’s AI-backed solar technology to decarbonise Boron ops

Rio Tinto and renewable energy technology company, Heliogen, have announced an agreement to explore the deployment of Heliogen’s solar technology at Rio Tinto’s borates mine in Boron, California.

Under a memorandum of understanding, Heliogen will deploy its proprietary, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology at the Boron operation, where it will use heat from the sun to generate and store carbon-free energy to power the mine’s industrial processes.

The two companies will begin detailed planning and securing government permits for the project, with the aim of starting operations from 2022. They will also use the Boron installation to begin exploring the potential for deployments of Heliogen’s technology at Rio Tinto’s other operations around the world to supply process heat, which accounted for 14% of Scope 1 & 2 emissions from the group’s managed operations in 2020.

Heliogen’s high-temperature solar technology is designed to cost-effectively replace fossil fuels with sunlight for a range of industrial processes, including those used in mining. At Rio Tinto’s Boron mine, the company’s proprietary technology will use AI to control a network of mirrors that concentrate sunlight to capture energy used to make steam, the companies said. Heliogen’s system will also store the captured energy in the form of heat, allowing it to power night-time operations and provide the same uninterrupted energy stream offered by legacy fuels.

The Boron operation mines and refines borates into products ranging from fertilisers to construction materials and is producing lithium carbonate from a demonstration plant. The site currently generates steam using a natural gas co-generation plant and natural gas fired boilers. Heliogen’s installation will supplement these energy sources by generating up to 35,000 pounds per hour (15.9 t/h) of steam to power operations, with the potential to reduce carbon emissions at the Boron site by around 7% – equivalent to taking more than 5,000 cars off the road. Rio Tinto will also be assessing the potential for larger scale use of the Heliogen technology at Boron to reduce the site’s carbon footprint by up to 24%.

Heliogen’s mission of slashing global carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels with sunlight, as well as its focus on industrial sectors, made it an ideal partner for Rio Tinto, which is committed to decarbonising its global operations, it said.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jakob Stausholm, said: “This partnership with Heliogen has the potential to significantly reduce our emissions at Boron by using this ground-breaking solar technology, and we look forward to exploring opportunities across our global portfolio.

“Addressing climate change effectively will require businesses, governments and society to work together through partnerships like this one, to explore innovative new solutions throughout the entire value chain. Our work with Heliogen is part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to spend approximately $1 billion on emissions reduction initiatives through to 2025 and our commitment to work with world-leading technology providers to achieve this goal.”

Heliogen CEO and Founder, Bill Gross, said: “Since its founding, Heliogen has been laser-focused on decarbonising industrial sectors, including mining. As a result, this agreement with Rio Tinto is incredibly gratifying.

“We’re pleased to find a partner committed to cutting its contributions to climate change. We’re also pleased that Rio Tinto is exploring our technology to play an important role in helping reach its sustainability goals while dramatically reducing its energy costs. More broadly, we’re excited to take this important step as we pursue Heliogen’s goal of avoiding more than 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions – 5% of the world’s annual total – from the global economy by turning sunlight into an industrial energy source.”

Ferrexpo confirms trolley assist scoping studies at Poltava

Ferrexpo, as part of its efforts towards integrating into a ‘Green Steel’ supply chain, is embarking on scoping studies looking at installing trolley assist technology at its Poltava mine in Ukraine.

The iron ore miner produced 11.2 Mt of iron ore pellets in 2020 from its Yeristovo and Poltava mines, up from 10.5 Mt in 2019. With iron ore prices on the rise and costs down during the 12-month period, the company recorded underlying EBITDA of $859 million, 46% higher than 2019.

During 2020, the company achieved material reductions in its carbon footprint per tonne for both Scope 1 (8%) and Scope 2 (21%) emissions, with a similar trajectory expected in 2021, Lucio Genovese, Non-executive Chair of Ferrexpo, said.

In the future growth investment program of its 2020 annual results statement, the company unveiled several projects to boost production, operating efficiency and sustainability.

The first one up was its mining fleet automation project.

In December 2020, the company commenced Phase 1 deployment of autonomous trucks at its Yeristovo iron ore mine, also in Ukraine. This project saw Caterpillar 793 haul trucks retrofitted with autonomous haulage capabilities through an agreement with ASI Mining.

The company said: “Phase 1 deployment of autonomous trucks commenced in December 2020, with an expectation to deploy additional autonomous Cat 793 haul trucks to production areas throughout 2021 (Phase 1), delivering gains in both safety and productivity.”

The autonomous truck deployment represents a significant milestone, with Yeristovo becoming the first mine in Europe to successfully invest in this modern technology, Ferrexpo said.

Deployment of autonomous haul trucks follows Ferrexpo’s investment in semi-autonomous/autonomous drill rigs (with Epiroc) and drone surveys since 2017 and 2018, respectively, which have brought significant safety improvements, it said.

“We expect to see similar benefits throughout our mining department as further automation investments are realised,” the company added.

On the trolley assist project at Poltava, Ferrexpo said scoping studies were underway to install a pantograph network of overhead cables in the group’s mines, which would enable haul trucks to ascend the open pit using electricity rather than diesel. It noted benefits were expected in its C1 cost base and Scope 1 carbon footprint.

In December, Ferrexpo Acting CEO, Jim North, told IM that the company planned to move to electric drive haul trucks in the next few years as a precursor to applying trolley assist at the operation.

Power infrastructure is already available in the pits energising most of its electric-hydraulic shovels and backhoes, and the intention is for these new electric drive trucks to go on trolley line infrastructure to eradicate some of the operation’s diesel use.

“Initially we would still need to rely on diesel engines at the end of ramps and the bottom of pits, but our intention is to utilise some alternative powerpack on these trucks as the technology becomes available,” North said at the time.

He expected that alternative powerpack to be battery-based, but he and the company were keeping their options open during conversations with OEMs about its fleet replacement plans.

With around 15% of the company’s carbon footprint tied to diesel use, this could have a big impact on Ferrexpo’s ‘green’ credentials, yet North said the transition to trolley assist made sense even without this sustainability benefit.

“The advantages in terms of mining productivity are huge,” North said. “You go from 15 km/h on ramp to just under 30 km/h on ramp.”

Another carbon-reduction project the company is pursuing is the development of a 5 MW pilot solar plant positioned at its concentrator. In its 2020 results statement, the company said procurement for this project was expected in the second half of the year.

There was $4 million of capital outstanding associated with this project in 2021, with the pilot looking to investigate the potential for industrial-scale generation of solar power at the company’s operations, commencing with the 5 MW pilot plant.

Ferrexpo said: “Electricity consumption accounted for 55% of the group’s Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions in 2020, with solar power offering significant potential for cutting the group’s carbon footprint.

“Should this trial be successful, we will look to significantly expand this particular project.”

KPS to leverage ETC tech in hybrid power conversion at Iluka’s Jacinth Ambrosia mine

Pacific Energy Ltd’s wholly owned KPS subsidiary has signed a contract to convert its 10 MW diesel power station at Iluka Resources’ Jacinth Ambrosia mineral sands mine in South Australia to a hybrid facility.

The facility will incorporate electric turbo compounding (ETC) technology, which, the company says, allows generators to maintain the same power output using less fuel and producing lower CO2 emissions.

The conversion and upgrade will have a meaningful impact on lowering emissions and fuel costs for Iluka, Pacific Energy claims.

KPS has operated the 10 MW diesel power station at the Jacinth Ambrosia site since 2009. Under the new contract, which runs for an initial term of seven years, KPS will:

  • Install 3.5 MW of solar power generation;
  • Integrate the solar array with the diesel power station; and
  • Introduce ETC technology to each of the 10 1 MW generators.

ETC technology makes generators work more cleanly and effectively by recovering waste energy from the exhaust to improve power density and fuel efficiency, the company explained.

Juwi Renewable Energy Pty Ltd, the Brisbane-based subsidiary of juwi AG, is to construct the medium penetration solar/diesel hybrid power solution for Jacinth Ambrosia, with KPS owning and operating the hybrid project. After completion, it is expected to deliver almost 21% of the mine site’s annual electricity needs.

Pacific Energy Chief Executive, Jamie Cullen, said: “This is an exciting development for both Pacific Energy and Iluka Resources in what we believe is a world first – integrating solar and ETC technology with an existing fossil fuel facility. The reduction in diesel consumption and improvement in fuel efficiency is expected to save over 2 million litres of diesel and over 5,500 tonnes of CO2 per year, every year, for at least the next seven years.”