Tag Archives: solar

BHP and TransAlta agree on solar, battery power system for Mt Keith and Leinster

BHP and its power partner in the Goldfields of Western Australia, TransAlta, are to build two solar farms and a battery storage system to help power the Mt Keith and Leinster nickel operations.

This will help BHP reduce emissions from electricity use at Mt Keith and Leinster by 12%, based on financial year 2020 levels.

The Northern Goldfields Solar Project will include a 27.4 MW solar farm at Mt Keith and a 10.7 MW solar farm and 10.1 MW battery at Leinster, and will displace power currently supplied by diesel and gas turbine generation, BHP said.

This will result in an estimated reduction of 540,000 t of CO2e over the first 10 years of operation. This is the equivalent of removing up to 23,000 combustion engine cars from the road every year, according to BHP.

BHP commissioned the solar farms and battery to be built, owned, and operated by TransAlta as part of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) extension signed in October 2020. Construction will commence in the December quarter, is expected to take 12-14 months and, at its peak, will employ over 100 people on site.

BHP Nickel West, Asset President, Eddy Haegel, said: “This is the first large-scale onsite solar farm and battery that BHP has commissioned at any of its global operations.

“The Northern Goldfields Solar Project will further improve our position as one of the lowest carbon nickel miners in the world. It will reduce emissions from electricity use at Mt Keith and Leinster by 12%, reduce fuel costs and improve the reliability of our electricity supply with the addition of the battery storage system.

“This announcement follows the nickel supply agreement we signed with Tesla last week. Sustainable low carbon nickel is essential for our battery and electric vehicle customers.”

TransAlta Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer, John Kousinioris, said: “We are proud to be supporting BHP’s emissions reduction targets and sustainability goals through the expansion of our renewable generation footprint into Australia.”

The partnership will contribute to BHP’s medium-term target to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions from our operated assets by at least 30% from financial year 2020 levels by its 2030 financial year.

The project is subject to final Western Australia state government approvals.

State of Play mine electrification report sheds light on benefits, hurdles and risks

More than half of mining industry executives say they would electrify their mine sites for cost reasons, according to the latest State of Play report on electrification.

With the mining industry rapidly adopting new technologies to decarbonise their operations, the Australia-based State of Play platform has, again, sought to gather industry perspectives on the reasons companies are pursuing their shift away from fossil fuels.

The latest report follows the inaugural State of Play: Electrification report, released in 2020. This report, in part, led to the formation of the Electric Mine Consortium, a collaboration between mining and service companies aiming to accelerate progress towards the fully electrified zero CO2 and zero particulates mine.

The findings from the latest report – which took into account 450-plus individual surveys, five industry webinars and workshops and five interviews with “thought leaders” – have reinforced that mine electrification is a foundation enabler for the clean energy transformation of mine sites.

“The mining industry sees it as one of the most pressing transformation imperatives for the industry, facilitating precision automation and the digitisation of mine operations, whilst improving environmental and health outcomes,” it said.

At the same time, the report acknowledges that mine electrification technology is currently undergoing a “maturation process” with 49% of mining CEOs referenced in the report believing it will take existing mines on average five-to-10 years to electrify.

“Much of the technology for full electrification of mine sites is available today, however a significant knowledge gap exists across industry relating to the capability of electrified mines and the strategy for implementation,” it said.

Of the industry executives surveyed for the report, 57% expect the energy transition to be ‘the’ global trend that will have the biggest impact on the industry over the next 15 years.

Close to 90% (89%) expect mine sites will electrify within the next 20 years and 61% expect the “next generation” of mines will be all-electric.

In keeping with this, 83% expect renewable energy technologies will significantly change mining operations over the next 15 years; and 98% view mine automation as ‘the’ technology to benefit the most from electrification.

The responses related to benefits expected from this transition brought up some of the most interesting insights into the mine electrification evolution, indicating there are environmental, cost and reputation risk advantages associated with electrifying operations.

For instance, of the survey respondents, just over 90% (91%) expected the shift to an electrified system to create opportunities for new business models, while just over half (53%) say they would electrify their mine sites for cost reasons. The latter indicates that the cost of operating, establishing and maintaining new electrified equipment and infrastructure is now at a point where it could not only compete, but provide an economic advantage over fossil fuel-powered operations in the long term.

Close to four-fifths of respondents (79%) expect there to be a health-related industry class action in the next 15 years – indicating the reputational risk that could come with maintaining the operational status quo.

Some 71% view processing and 68% view extraction as having the greatest leverage in decarbonising the mining value chain, the report confirmed, while 46% expect innovation in carbon emissions and 42% expect innovation in diesel replacement will have the greatest environmental benefit in their business. Close to 90% (86%) expect transparency of the source of raw materials to become a significant driver of mining company value.

In key areas of the value chain, miners are faced with distinct choices of which technology to invest in (eg what type of battery storage technology, swap versus fast charging, etc). Of the survey respondents:

  • 60% believe miners should begin transitioning to an all-electric system with installing renewables. Electrical infrastructure was second with 37%, with heavy mobile equipment third with 32%;
  • 87% expect solar will become the most widely used energy source in the industry in the next 15 years, followed by gas, wind and diesel (58%, 44% and 39%, respectively);
  • 76% expect remote mine sites will use batteries to supplement renewables, followed by diesel with 53% and demand management at 42%;
  • There is no consensus as to which energy source will power heavy mobile equipment between lithium batteries, hybrids and diesel (28%, 21% and 18% respectively); and
  • 54% expect infrastructure to be the main challenge for transitioning mine sites to electric.

Of these stats above, the lack of consensus as to which energy source will power heavy mobile equipment is as enlightening as it is expected.

Battery-electric technology has matured to the point where one would expect it to dominate in the underground space, followed closely by fuel cell power, hybrids and some form of trolley, but it is a lot harder to predict the winner in the open-pit mining space, with major miners pursuing different developments related to hydrogen, batteries, trolley assist and alternative fuels.

“The mass adoption of electrification technology and storage systems to power mine sites has so far been slow,” the report stated. “It is clear that as an industry, this knowledge gap will need to be confronted largely through testing and piloting, which allows for the development of case studies for application, economic models and best practice guidelines.”

Of survey respondents:

  • 88% see cost as being the major risk of electrifying a mine site;
  • 63% report that risk aversion is holding back the implementation of electrification technologies;
  • 18% are willing to accept increased risk in asset design to increase financial returns; and
  • 41% are primarily focusing their innovation efforts on energy.

The report authors say the industry should focus on collaborating to overcome the barriers that are beyond the capacity of any one individual company to address, with such efforts requiring the mobilisation of policy makers, miners, service companies, investors and researchers in order to achieve the scale, capital and influence to drive success.

Of survey respondents:

  • The preferred partnering approach for achieving breakthrough innovations is collaborating with selected partners (65%);
  • The majority believe the best way the government can support innovation is through regulation and collaboration (#1 and #2, respectively);
  • 85% believe broad industry standards for battery types are required.
  • 52% see miners as the biggest group driving investment in electrification followed by suppliers and investors (39% and 38%, respectively); and
  • 60% believe the industry should focus its health risk innovation on airborne particulates.

Aggreko to energise mine power space with investment proposition

Mobile power provider Aggreko says it is making the transition from being a pure power provider to a long-term mining project investor that is helping miners navigate the energy transition.

Aggreko has built an almost 60-year-long reputation for powering many sectors around the globe. It has also supplied power and underground cooling to the mining sector for more than 35 years and has evolved into life-of-mine contracts and renewables.

In its latest report – which details its future energy transition – Aggreko cites mining as a major growth sector. Aggreko Australia Pacific Managing Director, George Whyte, stated that Aggreko’s global team’s unique offering is with build-own-operate investments across all continents.

As well as continuing to invest upward of £250 million ($347 million) annually in technology and innovation, the company says it is ready to further boost its investments in the natural resources industry.

Whyte said: “Investor partnerships can support the rapid changes in technology and emissions compliance that our mining customers are facing. Investing millions of dollars in capital for a mine’s power plant is a risk for any company, and, as a partner, Aggreko takes on this risk instead of the mining company. It is a smart way for miners to do business in the post-COVID and renewables era.”

Aggreko’s Global Head of Mining, Rod Saffy, said miners struggling to get funding for capital expenditure projects were looking to outsource, and there was a trend toward creating partnerships with providers.

“Partnerships provide more value beyond de-risking project finances,” Saffy said. “There are technology and emissions risks, so by partnering with us, for example, we aren’t just supplying equipment and labour, we share in decision making and project milestones, we invest and update technology on-site and navigate social and environmental impacts together.”
Saffy said companies looking to build power stations for the first time particularly benefited from supportive partnerships with Aggreko.

“Power stations are our core business, and they have become much more complex on mine sites than they have been in the past,” he said. “It is challenging to get funding to build power stations, and miners are needing support to integrate renewables into their plans immediately or in the future, or needing solutions designed from scratch.

“Partnering with us is a sustainable and beneficial business solution. Miners are wanting hybrid power stations that might utilise a mix of energy sources such as diesel, gas, solar or battery, for example. They also want that power to be scaled up or down and upgraded as their needs change and new technology comes online.”

Saffy said mines throughout the world were becoming less dependent on mass-scale thermal plants to deliver baseload power through national grids.

“With the cost of renewable power generation falling, there is also growth in localised microgrids, which means less dependence or complete independence from the grid,” he said. “Miners in Australia, Africa and South America, where there is less infrastructure in remote locations, are finding it particularly helpful to partner with us from the start of a major project.”

One such example is the Gold Fields Salares Norte Mine in northern Chile where Aggreko has become a major investor, and partner for the mining project for at least 10 years. The mine is located 190 km from the nearest town and is 4,500 m above sea level, and Aggreko is creating an off-grid hybrid power solution, comprising of diesel and solar for the harsh environmental conditions. Aggreko estimates the mine will experience $7.4 million in cost energy savings across the 10 years.

Saffy said the benefits for Aggreko in partnering and investing with miners from the beginning of their project to the end of the life of mine was beneficial for both parties.

“As a partner, Aggreko de-risks the threat of future innovation and technology for miners,” he said. “Our build, own, operate and maintain model frees up working capital without increasing the debt ratio for mining projects. Modular equipment also gives miners the ability to leverage innovation at low risk and not be concerned about having the latest equipment.

“We benefit too, by showcasing our expertise and innovations throughout a project’s lifecycle and support mining companies to reduce emissions and increase their operational efficiencies.”

Late last year, Aggreko committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Gold Fields wins NERSA approval for South Deep solar power plant

Gold Fields says it has received the electricity generation licence approval from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) for the construction of a 40 MW solar power plant at its South Deep gold mine in the country.

The acting CEO of NERSA now has to authorise the licence, a decision that should be forthcoming over the next two weeks, the miner said. All the regulatory approvals to proceed with the project will then be in place.

Gold Fields will update its definitive costings and finalise all the required internal processes to commence the project as soon as possible. The company has stated previously that the solar plant has the potential to provide around 20% of South Deep’s average electricity consumption.

Nick Holland, Gold Fields CEO, said: “The solar power plant will increase the reliability and affordability of power supply to South Deep, ultimately enhancing the long-term sustainability of the mine.

“The approval of this licence sends a strong, positive message to mining companies and their investors, potentially leading to decisions being taken to sustain and grow mining operations in the country, especially in deep-level, underground, marginal mines. Enabling companies to generate their own power also gives Eskom room to address operational issues at its power plants.”

Gold Fields says its energy objectives are based on four pillars – energy must be reliable, available, cost-effective and clean – which promote a shift to self-generation using renewable energy sources. “We are fully committed to making our contribution towards net-zero emissions,” Holland says.

During 2020, Gold Fields successfully implemented solar and wind power plants, backed by battery storage, at two of its Australian mines, Agnew and Granny Smith, and committed to renewables at its other Australian mines, Gruyere and St Ives, as well as the Salares Norte project in Chile when it starts operations in 2023. All its other mines are also reviewing renewable energy options.

Since full commissioning of the Agnew microgrid, renewable electricity averages over 55% of total supply at the mine.

During 2020, renewable electricity averaged 8% for the Australia region and 3% of total group electricity, Gold Fields said. Once the South Deep project is commissioned, renewable’s contribution to the group total will rise to around 11%.

Holland concluded: “We expect our investment in renewable and low-carbon energy sources to contribute significantly to our carbon emission reductions over the next few years. Power from the South Deep solar plant will partially replace coal-fired electricity from Eskom, enabling us to significantly reduce our Scope 2 carbon emissions.”

Galena signs up Contract Power for hybrid power gen facility at Abra JV

Abra Mining Pty Ltd, the joint venture company behind the Abra base metals project, has executed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Contract Power Australia that could see the construction and operation of a hybrid power generation facility made up of a natural gas and solar energy array at the Western Australia project.

Announcing the PPA, Galena Mining, which owns 77.28% of the project, said Contract Power will build, own and operate an integrated hybrid power generation facility combining a 10 MW natural gas fired power station, a 6 MW solar array, 2 MW of battery energy storage and a 900 Kl LNG storage and regasification facility.

Power will be purchased by Abra under the PPA for an initial term of 16-years (extendable), it said.

Galena Managing Director, Alex Molyneux, said: “We’re pleased to partner with Contract Power on a clean, cost-effective power solution for Abra. Integrating solar with relatively clean natural gas instead of diesel achieves a marked reduction in Abra’s carbon footprint compared to alternatives considered in the tender process.

“Pleasingly, the design also offered the most cost-effective solution, in line with our feasibility study estimates.”

This definitive feasibility study outlined development of a mine and processing facility with a 16-year life producing a high-value, high-grade lead-silver concentrate containing around 95,000 t/y of lead and 805,000 oz/y of silver after ramp-up.

A Western Australia-based company wholly-owned by Pacific Energy Ltd, Contract Power specialises in the design, construction and operation of remote power stations for the mining and government sectors.

Contract Power has operated power stations around Australia under turnkey build-own-operate arrangements since 1999, and recent projects include a 56 MW gas fired power station for Mineral Resources Ltd’s Wodgina lithium project, a 18 MW gas fired station for Capricorn Resources’ Karlawinda project and a 18 MW gas and diesel power station at Wiluna Mining Corp‘s Wiluna gold project.

Contract Power’s Managing Director, Leon Hodges, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Galena on this important project and look forward to rewarding their confidence by delivering a world-class hybrid power station.

“Contract Power’s combined LNG and renewables integration capability has allowed our design team to maximise solar penetration as high as the economics and technology allows, providing the Abra project with the highest reliability and lowest cost of power on an unsubsidised basis.”

The PPA remains subject to the condition of Abra Mining Pty Ltd proceeding to final investment decision for the project, Galena said.

Almonty aims for ‘carbon neutrality’ at Sandong molybdenum mine

Almonty Industries is expanding its current environmental, social and governance (ESG) program at its Panasqueira mine in Portugal and at its Sangdong project (pictured) in South Korea, with the former set to receive a solar facility in the next 12 months and the latter eying up the use of underground electric fleets.

The solar project at Panasqueira, a tungsten mine, will see a 2.52 MW installation implemented over the next 12 months to produce 4.1 million kWh/y of renewable energy, which represents 21.5% of power consumption at the mine.

At the Sangdong tungsten mine, a third-party report will be concluded over the next three months to analyse the asset’s carbon footprint and how best to minimise it. Given the energy from the grid supplied to the Sangdong project is 100% renewable, the company says it has a “unique opportunity” to push towards carbon neutrality at the Korea site. The underground mine is currently under construction.

Lewis Black, Chairman, President and CEO of Almonty, said: “As we transition into the wider financial ETF markets of Asia and Australia, and our visibility continues to increase as a significant producer of the strategic metals of tungsten and molybdenum once Sangdong and Almonty Korea Moly opens, it has become increasingly important to ensure that we are continually reviewing and developing our ESG which sits perfectly in line with the equator principles around which the Sangdong project is being built.”

He added: “The aim for carbon neutrality at Sangdong is potentially achievable once underground electric fleets can maintain a charge for an entire shift, which is estimated to be technically possible within the next 18 months, but we are extremely fortunate that 100% of our energy comes from a renewable source making the target of carbon neutrality achievable.”

North sets Ferrexpo on a course for ‘carbon neutrality’

Ferrexpo is used to setting trends. It was the first company to launch a new open-pit iron ore mine in the CIS since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 and has recently become the first miner in Ukraine to adopt autonomous open-pit drilling and haulage technology.

It plans to keep up this innovative streak if a conversation with Acting CEO Jim North is anything to go by.

North, former Chief Operating Officer of London Mining and Ferrexpo, has seen the technology shift in mining first-hand. A holder of a variety of senior operational management roles in multiple commodities with Rio Tinto and BHP, he witnessed the take-off of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) in the Pilbara, as well as the productivity and operating cost benefits that came with removing operators from blasthole drills.

He says the rationale for adopting autonomous technology at Ferrexpo’s Yeristovo mine is slightly different to the traditional Pilbara investment case.

“This move was not based on reduction in salaries; it was all based on utilisation of capital,” North told IM. While miners receive comparatively good salaries in Ukraine, they cannot compete with the wages of those Pilbara haul truck drivers.

Ferrexpo Acting CEO, Jim North

North provided a bit of background here: “The focus for the last six years since I came into the company was about driving mining efficiencies and getting benchmark performance out of our mining fleet. This is not rocket science; it is all about carrying out good planning and executing to that plan.”

The company used the same philosophy in its process plant – a philosophy that is likely to see it produce close to 12 Mt of high grade (65% Fe) iron ore pellets and concentrate next year.

Using his industry knowledge, North pitted Ferrexpo’s fleet performance against others on the global stage.

“Mining is a highly capital-intensive business and that equipment you buy has got be moving – either loaded or empty – throughout the day,” North said. “24 hours-a-day operation is impossible as you must put fuel in vehicles and you need to change operators, so, in the beginning, we focused on increasing the utilised hours. After a couple of years, I noticed we were getting very close to the benchmark performance globally set by the majors.

“If you are looking at pushing your utilisation further, it inevitably leads you to automation.”

Ferrexpo was up for pushing it further and, four years ago, started the process of going autonomous, with its Yeristovo iron ore mine, opened in 2011, the first candidate for an operational shakeup.

“Yeristovo is a far simpler configuration from a mining point of view,” North explained. “It is basically just a large box cut. Poltava, on the other hand (its other iron ore producing mine currently), has been around for 50 years; it is a very deep and complex operation.

“We thought the place to dip our toe into the water and get good at autonomy was Yeristovo.”

This started off in 2017 with deployment of teleremote operation on its Epiroc Pit Viper 275 blasthole drill rigs. The company has gradually increased the level of autonomy, progressing to remotely operating these rigs from a central control room. In 2021-2022, these rigs will move to fully-autonomous mode, North says.

Ferrexpo has also been leveraging remotely-operated technology for mine site surveying, employing drones to speed up and improve the accuracy of the process. The miner has invested in three of these drones to carry out not only site surveys, but stockpile mapping and – perhaps next year – engineering inspections.

“The productivity benefits from these drones are huge,” North said. “In just two days of drone operation, you can carry out the same amount of work it would take three or four surveyors to do in one or two weeks!”

OEM-agnostic solution

It is the haul truck segment of the mine automation project at Yeristovo that has caught the most industry attention, with Ferrexpo one of the first to choose an OEM-agnostic solution from a company outside of the big four open-pit mining haul truck manufacturers.

The company settled on a solution from ASI Mining, owned 34% by Epiroc, after the completion of a trial of the Mobius® Haulage A.I. system on a Cat 793D last year.

The first phase of the commercial project is already kicking off, with the first of six Cat 793s converted to autonomous mode now up and running at Yeristovo. On completion of this first phase of six trucks, consideration will be given to timing of further deployment for the remainder of the Yeristovo truck fleet.

This trial and rollout may appear fairly routine, but behind the scenes was an 18-month process to settle on ASI’s solution.

“For us, as a business, we have about 86 trucks deployed on site,” North said. “We simply couldn’t take the same route BHP or Rio took three or four years ago in acquiring an entirely new autonomous fleet. At that point, Cat and Komatsu were the only major OEMs offering these solutions and they were offering limited numbers of trucks models with no fleet integration possibilities.

“If you had a mixed fleet – which we do – then you were looking at a multi-hundred-million-dollar decision to change out your mining fleet. That is prohibitive for a business like ours.”

Ferrexpo personnel visited ASI Mining’s facility in Utah, USA, several times, hearing all about the parent company’s work with NASA on robotics. “We knew they had the technical capability to work in tough environments,” North remarked.

“We also saw work they had been doing with Ford and Toyota for a number of years on their unmanned vehicles, and we witnessed the object detect and collision avoidance solutions in action on a test track.”

Convinced by these demonstrations and with an eye to the future of its operations, Ferrexpo committed to an OEM-agnostic autonomous future.

“If we want to get to a fully autonomous fleet at some stage in the future, we will need to pick a provider that could turn any unit into an autonomous vehicle,” North said. It found that in ASI Mining’s Mobius platform.

Such due diligence is representative not only of the team’s thorough approach to this project, it also reflects the realities of deploying such a solution in Ukraine.

“It is all about building capability,” North said. “This is new technology in Ukraine – it’s not like you can go down the road and find somebody that has worked on this type of technology before. As a result, it’s all about training and building up the capacity in our workforce.”

After this expertise has been established, the automation rollout will inevitably accelerate.

“Once we have Yeristovo fully autonomous, we intend to move the autonomy program to Belanovo, which we started excavating a couple of years ago,” North said. “The last pit we would automate would be Poltava, purely due to complexity.”

Belanovo, which has a JORC Mineral Resource of 1,700 Mt, is currently mining overburden with 30-40 t ADTs shifting this material. While ASI Mining said it would be able to automate such machines, North decided the automation program will only begin when large fleet is deployed.

“When we deploy large fleet at Belanovo and start to move significant volumes, we intend for it to become a fully-autonomous operation,” he said.

Poltava, which is a single pit covering a 7 km long by 2 km wide area (pictured below), has a five-decade-long history and a more diverse mining fleet than Yeristovo. In this respect, it was always going to be harder to automate from a loading and haulage point of view.

“If you think about the fleet numbers deployed when Belanovo is running, we will probably have 50% of our fleet running autonomously,” North said. “The level of capability to run that level of technology would be high, so it makes sense to take on the more complex operation at Poltava at that point in time.”

Consolidation and decarbonisation

This autonomy transition has also given North and his team the chance to re-evaluate its fleet needs for now and in the future.

This is not as simple as it may sound to those thinking of a typical Pilbara AHS fleet deployment, with the Yeristovo and Poltava mines containing different ore types that require blending at the processing plant in order to sustain a cost-effective operation able to produce circa-12 Mt/y of high-grade (65%-plus Fe) iron ore pellets and concentrate.

“That limits our ability in terms of fleet size for ore mining because we want to match the capacity of the fleet to the different ore streams we feed into the plant,” North said.

This has seen the company standardise on circa-220 t trucks for ore movement and 300-320 t trucks for waste haulage.

On the latter, North explained: “That is about shovel utilisation, not necessarily about trucks. If you go much larger than that 320-t truck, you are talking about the need to use large rope shovels and we don’t have enough consistent stripping requirements for that. We think the 800 t-class electric hydraulic excavator is a suitable match for the circa-320 t truck.”

This standardisation process at Poltava has seen BELAZ 40 t trucks previously working in the pit re-assigned for auxiliary work, with the smallest in-pit Cat 777 trucks acting as fuel, water and lubrication service vehicles at Poltava.

“The Cat 785s are the smallest operating primary fleet we have at Poltava,” North said. “We also have the Hitachi EH3500s and Cat 789s and Cat 793s, tending to keep the bigger fleet towards Yeristovo and the smaller fleet at Poltava.”

In carrying out this evaluation, the company has also plotted its next electrification steps.

“Given we have got to the point where we know we want 220 t for ore and 300-320 t nominally for waste at Yeristovo, we have a very clear understanding of where we are going in our efforts to support our climate action,” North said.

Electrification of the company’s entire operation – both the power generation and pelletising segment, and the mobile fleet – forms a significant part of its carbon reduction plans.

A 5 MW solar farm is being built to trial the efficacy of photovoltaic generation in the region, while, in the pelletiser, the company is blending sunflower husks with natural gas to power the process. Fine tuning over the past few years has seen the company settle on a 30:70 sunflower husk:natural gas energy ratio, allowing the company to make the most of a waste product in plentiful supply in Ukraine.

On top of this, the company is recuperating heat from the pelletisation process where possible and reusing it for other processes.

With a significant amount of ‘blue’ (nuclear) or ‘green’ (renewable) power available through the grid and plans to incorporate renewables on site, Ferrexpo looks to have the input part of the decarbonisation equation covered.

In the pellet lines, North says green hydrogen is believed to be the partial or full displacement solution for gas firing, with the company keenly watching developments such as the HYBRIT project in Sweden.

On the diesel side of things, Ferrexpo is also charting its decarbonisation course. This will start with a move to electric drive haul trucks in the next few years.

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.

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

“We know we are going to have to buy a fleet in the next couple of years, but the problem is when you make that sort of purchase, you are committing to using those machines for the next 20 years,” North said. “During all our conversations with OEMs we are recognising that we will need to buy a fleet before they have probably finalised their ‘decarbonised’ solutions, so all the contracts are based on the OEM providing that fully carbon-free solution when it becomes available.”

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 the transition to trolley assist makes 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.”

This is not all North offered up on the company’s carbon reduction plans.

At both of Ferrexpo’s operations, the company moves a lot of ore internally with shuttle trains, some of which are powered by diesel engines. A more environmentally friendly alternative is being sought for these locomotives.

“We are working with rail consultants that are delivering solutions for others to ‘fast follow’ that sector,” North said referencing the project already underway with Vale at its operations in Brazil. “We are investigating at the moment how we could design and deploy the solution at our operations for a lithium-ion battery loco.”

Not all the company’s decarbonisation and energy-efficiency initiatives started as recently as the last few years.

When examining a plan to reach 12 Mt/y of iron ore pellet production, North and his team looked at the whole ‘mine to mill’ approach.

“The cheapest place to optimise your comminution of rock is within the mine itself,” North said. “If you can optimise your blasting and get better fragmentation in the pit, you are saving energy, wear on materials, etc and you are doing some of the job of the concentrator and comminution process in the mine.”

A transition to a full emulsion blasting product came out of this study, and a move from NONEL detonators to electronic detonators could follow in the forthcoming years.

“That also led us into thinking about the future crusher – where we want to put it, what materials to feed into the expanded plant in the future, and what blending ratio we want to have from the pits,” North said. “The problem with pit development in a business that is moving 150-200 Mt of material a year is the crusher location needs to change as the mining horizons change.”

It ended up becoming a tradeoff between placing a new crusher in the pit on an assigned bench or putting it on top of the bench and hauling ore to that location.

The favoured location looks like being within the pit, according to North.

“It will be a substantial distance away from where our existing facility at Poltava is and we will convey the material into the plant,” he said. “We did the tradeoff study between hauling with trains/trucks, or conveying and, particularly for Belanovo, we need to take that ore to the crusher from the train network we already have in place.”

These internal ‘green’ initiatives are representative of the products Ferrexpo is supplying the steel industry.

Having shifted away from lower grade pellets to a higher-grade product in the past five years and started to introduce direct reduced iron pellet products to the market with trial shipments, Ferrexpo is looking to be a major player in the ‘green steel’ value chain.

North says as much.

“We are getting very close to understanding our path forward and our journey to carbon neutrality.”

Strandline energises Coburn mineral sands plan with Contract Power BOO agreement

Strandline Resources says it has taken another important step towards development of its Coburn mineral sands project in Western Australia by appointing Contract Power Australia as preferred contractor to build, own and operate (BOO) the power generation facilities for the project.

Coburn’s purpose-designed power infrastructure is based on a low-cost, low-emission solution integrating natural gas fuelled generation with solar and battery storage technology.

The proposed power solution enables Strandline to capture energy supply cost savings relative to the definitive feasibility study published in June 2020, it said.

Contract Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pacific Energy Ltd, specialises in turnkey design, installation and operation of energy assets and has a strong track record of delivery in the mining sector of Western Australia, Strandline says.

Coburn’s power station will be located near the mineral separation plant. The power station is designed for a maximum demand capacity of 16 MW and average consumed power of circa-10 MW. Natural gas will be supplied by others under an industry standard long-term LNG supply agreement and trucked to an on-site storage and re-vapourisation facility supplied by Contract Power (Contract Power’s typical LNG-fuelled power station build layout, pictured), according to Strandline. The LNG then feeds a set of engine generators on an N+1 basis and has circa-30% solar penetration for the major stable loads. Generation is at 11 kV with step up to 22 kV for power transmission to the project loads across the mine site, Strandline says.

As preferred contractor, the parties will now compile final contract documentation to the satisfaction of Strandline and Coburn’s lenders. The contract is based on a 15-year BOO (and maintain) commercial model with fixed and variable payment regime for power consumed over the term.

This appointment follows Strandline’s recent A$18.5 million ($13.1 million) equity raising to advance early works development activities while finalising the balance of project funding. Strandline says it continues to make strong progress towards definitive finance documentation and conditions precedent for the NAIF A$150 million loan facility and is advancing discussions to secure a commercial debt tranche expected to stand alongside the NAIF funding.

Since raising the A$18.5 million, Strandline has appointed Macmahon as the principal contractor to provide site-wide civil and bulk earthworks construction services for the project, instructed Piacentini & Son to design and construct three mobile dozer mining units for Coburn and awarded preferred EPC status to Primero Group for the mineral sands asset.

Strandline Managing Director, Luke Graham, said the appointment marked another key step in its strategy to bring Coburn into production and establishes an important relationship with Contract Power, a leader in sustainable clean energy generation in Western Australia.

Coburn has a JORC compliant mineral resource of 1,600 Mt at 1.2% total heavy mineral (THM), classified as 119 Mt measured, 607 Mt indicated, and 880 Mt inferred. The ore reserve comes in at 523 Mt grading 1.11% THM for circa-5.8 Mt of contained heavy mineral, underpinning an initial mine life of 22.5 years at a mining rate of 23.4 Mt/y.

Teck and AES shake on renewable power agreement for Carmen de Andacollo copper mine

Teck Resources and The AES Corp’s Chile affiliates, Compañía Minera Teck Carmen de Andacollo SA (CdA) and AES Gener SA, have entered into a long-term power purchase agreement to provide 100% renewable power for Teck’s Carmen de Andacollo Operation in Chile.

Under the agreement, CdA will source 72 MW (550 GWh/y) from AES Gener’s growing renewable portfolio of wind, solar and hydroelectric energy.

The transition to renewable power will replace previous fossil fuel power sources and eliminate around 200,000 t/y of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent to removing over 40,000 passenger vehicles from the road, Teck says.

Don Lindsay, President and CEO of Teck, said: “Teck is tackling the global challenge of climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of our operations and working towards our goal of becoming carbon neutral. This agreement takes Teck a step closer to achieving our sustainability goals, while also ensuring a reliable, long-term clean power supply for CdA at a reduced cost to Teck.”

Andrés Gluski, AES Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer, said the company was honoured to continue working with Teck to help the miner progress towards its goal of carbon neutrality.

“By providing Teck with innovative renewable energy solutions, AES Gener is helping build Chile’s sustainable and reliable grid of the future,” Gluski said.

As part of its updated Sustainability Strategy, Teck has set the goal of being a carbon-neutral operator by 2050. In support of that long-term objective, Teck has established milestone goals including sourcing 100% of all power needs in Chile from renewable power by 2030 and reducing the carbon intensity of operations by 33% by 2030. Teck previously announced an agreement with AES Gener to supply renewable power for the Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 (QB2) project currently under construction. Once effective, more than 50% of QB2’s total operating power needs will be from renewable sources.

The Carmen de Andacollo renewable power arrangement is in effect as of September 1, 2020, and will run through to the end of 2031.

Alejandro Vásquez, Vice President, South America, Teck, said: “Switching to clean, renewable power for Carmen de Andacollo is another step forward in our ongoing commitment to responsible resource development across our operations and activities.”

Carmen de Andacollo is an open-pit copper mine located in the Coquimbo Region of central Chile, around 350 km north of Santiago. Teck owns a 90% interest in the mine, with Empresa Nacional de Minería holding the remaining 10%. It produced 54,000 t of copper in 2019.

Caterpillar microgrid hybrid power solution keeps Peru copper mine energised

Caterpillar dealer Ferreyros has been selected by Ferrenergy, Ferreycorp’s energy company in Peru, to provide a microgrid power system for the Agromin La Bonita underground copper mine in Acarí, Peru.

Supplied by Ferreyros to support a power purchase agreement between Ferrenergy and the operators of the Agromin La Bonita mine, the system includes more than 2,400 ground-mounted photovoltaic solar modules that supply a total of over 960 kW of energy, twelve 75 kW power inverters, a 1.5 MVA power transformer, and a 500 m medium-voltage transmission line. The solution helps to provide power around the clock for mine lighting and ventilation, ore processing, and workforce accommodations, according to Cat.

“Southern Peru features some of the highest photovoltaic power potential in the world, making it an ideal location for a solar microgrid system,” Bart Myers, General Manager for Caterpillar Large Electric Power Solutions, said. “The solution designed by Ferreyros for the Agromin La Bonita mine illustrates how Cat dealers combine technical expertise with a deep knowledge of their customers’ businesses to leverage renewable sources of energy while delivering reliable power for critical enterprise activities.”

Caterpillar’s hybrid energy solutions technology suite is designed to reduce fuel expenses, lower utility bills, decrease emissions, and reduce the total cost of ownership while increasing energy resiliency in even the most challenging environments, it says.

Key offerings include:

  • The Cat Microgrid Master Controller, which keeps loads continuously energised with high-quality power at low cost by managing the flow of power from every source in the system;
  • Cat Connect Remote Asset Monitoring, which provides data visualisation, reporting and alerts from anywhere in the world through a web interface;
  • Cat Bi-Directional Power (BDP) inverters, which supply real and reactive power with grid-forming and grid-following capabilities;
  • Cat Energy Storage System modules, which use advanced lithium-ion batteries with superior energy density, high discharge/recharge efficiency and high cycle life to compensate for fluctuations in output from renewable energy sources; and
  • Cat photovoltaic solar modules that deliver reliable and predictable output, robust performance, scalability, compatibility, and simplified installation.