Tag Archives: Tanami

Titeline mining its underground diamond drilling niche

In looking to retain the mantle of Australia’s safest drilling company while expanding into the underground mining sector, Titeline Drilling has found support from some of the biggest miners in the world.

The company has long been viewed as a leading surface mineral exploration drilling contractor but, as David D’Astoli, CEO of Titeline, explained, this type of work is subject to cyclical exploration budgets.

“The rationale for moving into the underground market was to try to get some ‘lumpiness’ out of our income stream,” he told IM. “As you know, with exploration, it can be pretty up and down. With the underground side, our work is a lot closer to the production side of the business; we’re doing grade control and resource development work in long dated (four to five years) contracts.”

Titeline was looking for consistency and resilience even in market downturns.

To enact this change, the company employed a new General Manager of Underground, Greg Wythes.

Wythes, who had a background in underground drilling in Australia having worked at the likes of Newcrest Mining’s Cadia and Rio Tinto’s (now CMOC’s) majority-owned Northparkes mine, was aware of the pain points the industry was feeling and sought about creating a unique value proposition for the new underground contracting division.

The contract the company bid on – and consequently won – for MMG’s Rosebery mine in Tasmania, Australia, provided just that.

MMG, in a blog post, explained that brief.

“When Rosebery was looking to award the contract for underground drilling services in 2017, all tendering companies were asked to supply a hands-free solution for drill rod handling, in-line with our vision for an injury-free workplace,” the company said.

“The successful company, Titeline, was the only tender that presented a viable solution to hands-free drill rod loading and unloading.”

Titeline – having fitted Boart Longyear rod handlers to their drills that “present the rod in an ergonomic position so the drill assistant can get it and stack it away”, D’Astoli says – knew such a solution could be developed, in theory, but had to search for the right suppliers and solutions to prove it could work in a real-world underground environment.

The Boart Longyear rod handler, along with a rig able to move and set up quickly, drill from +90 to -90 degrees and to depths of 1,500 m, immediately proved productive at Rosebery.

“The brief was to ensure the drills on site were performing before starting their hand-free proposal, and, within six months of commencing their contract, Titeline’s in-house designed drill rigs outperformed the previous contractor,” MMG said.

Yet, the company needed to automate the rod handling process further to fulfil the brief.

This is where the potential of robots came into view.

“These robots were already in the manufacturing industry – which aren’t exactly pristine environments – and were able to operate without an issue,” D’Astoli said. “They were also being employed on sea walls where they were constantly doused with sea water and continued to operate.”

Robot technicians were happy to provide conservative estimates of only having to service these robots every six months in the underground environment, according to D’Astoli. This provided the peace of mind that maintenance issues were not going to knock productivity off-line.

It cemented a relationship with a robotics company in Melbourne, Victoria, not too far away from its Ballarat base, and gave the company the robot drilling brief.

Boart Longyear provided access to the drill rig interface, the DCI control panel.

This year-and-a-half long process led to the development of a world first for underground diamond drilling: a drill and ancillary rod buggy carrier able to drill unattended and perform an autonomous rod trip (pulling the drill string out of the drill holes and then running it back in).

Able to work in confined environments, and drill 360° on azimuth and from -90 degrees to + 90 degrees in dip, the solution was presented to a global audience at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual exploration event earlier this year.

Meanwhile, MMG and Titeline had started commissioning the first rig at Rosebery, and one of the world’s biggest gold miners was putting the rigs through their paces.

Titeline, which already has an existing grade control and resource definition contract at Newmont’s Tanami gold mine, in the Northern Territory, has provided six rigs to the miner, two of which are equipped with the new drill and ancillary rod buggy carrier. More of these robotic rigs will be arriving at the operation by the end of the year.

Modifications to these rigs continue to take place, but the three currently in place at Rosebery and Tanami are very much “producing”, D’Astoli explained.

“We have been making some changes to the programming, to the safety circuit, the laser circuit, etc, but they’ve been performing well,” he said. “We’ve even drilled a few hundred metre shifts with one of the robot rigs.”

He provided some colour to this performance: “The rod pulling process is at least as quick as it is with the Boart Longyear rod handler and is a lot more consistent as you are taking the human element out of it.

“The existing rigs across the underground industry, whether they have total manual handling or are using the Boart Longyear rod handler, still need a drill assistant or driller in there plucking the rod out of the rod handler and putting it away. That can get tiring.”

Accidents can happen when this tiredness occurs.

“The robot will, in the end, always be that bit quicker, as it is consistent over a longer period of time and never gets tired,” D’Astoli added.

Shift change opportunities

The automation elements on these drill rigs are not only removing personnel from the danger zones, they are also providing a productivity boost.

D’Astoli feels the value driver comes with being able to drill throughout shift changes and other times where manual drilling would normally have stopped.

“One of the biggest impediments to production in the underground environment is how many hours you can drill in a 12-hour day,” he said. “Quite often it is a lot less than you think. That can be due to ventilation issues, water issues, dewatering issues, heat, etc.

“The biggest improvement from a productivity point of view available to us is being able to drill and pull rods between shift changes, crib breaks and those types of things. Or, if the ventilation system goes down, personnel will move away from the area, and allow the drill to drill autonomously. That is where the productivity gains are going to come from.

“All of this leads to being able to drill more hours over a shift.”

The company is not finished automating, though, with D’Astoli saying it intends to further leverage this robotised drilling and rod pulling ability.

“With Wi-Fi in the mines, it is at the point where you could be able to take that to the next level and have someone sitting on the surface controlling the rig,” D’Astoli said.

“Or, you might have a similar application to the way semi-autonomous underground boggers (LHDs) work in a block cave mine, where the operators are in a controlled environment and one operator might be operating three boggers at a time.”

That is some way ahead.

For the time being, the company is focused on switching out all of the manual rigs it has delivered to Rosebery and Tanami with the semi-autonomous ones.

Each new rig is a large undertaking for the company, with the learnings from Rosebery to Tanami – and vice versa – reflected in every build.

This is where being aligned with major companies such as Newmont and MMG comes in handy.

“MMG have been very understanding of the process we are going through,” D’Astoli said. “They came and visited us in Ballarat, pre-COVID-19, to see how we were getting along. Newmont have been exactly the same; very supportive giving us the time and space to deliver.”

Major attraction

While the PDAC debut excited lots of attention, D’Astoli is keen to foster the relationship with these two companies further, in addition to aligning with other major companies – and major mines – in the future.

“They’re the ones that probably own the bigger, lower-cost mines, which is where we want to be,” he said. “It is those orebodies that demand the amount of drilling where it makes sense to automate as much of the process as possible,” D’Astoli said.

“When you set up these long-term contracts to deploy such technology, you want to make sure the mine has a long life ahead of it and the owner is not going to be chopping and changing the budget from year to year.”

Asked whether the wider industry is willing to pay for such innovation, D’Astoli was resolute in his answer.

“For a company really focused on safety, they are not going to be knocked out by the price of this solution,” he said.

Surface safety

This is not all Titeline is interested in at the moment.

Titeline has to this point in its underground automation journey been helped along the way by Chile-based Exploration Drill Masters (EDM).

EDM, which Titeline owns 50% of, has been fabricating the frames and other components for these new rigs before they head to Australia for final assembly.

But the Santiago-based company is working on a new development of its own.

Its patent-pending EDM rod-feeder system for handling drill pipe has been used across the globe as an add-on to existing fleets, many of them being used on Titeline rigs.

D’Astoli says operators can park this solution up behind any top drive drill rig in Australia and remove 90% of the manual handling risks that come with the handling of diamond drill pipe to and from the drill string.

The EDM Mark I has already achieved this, but Mark II will further improve this solution, providing a bridge between manual handling and full hands-free solutions, he says.

“The national fleet in Australia mainly consists of top drive drill rigs and there is no real hands-free solution on the market that does not currently affect the productivity of these rigs in the majority of applications,” he said.

“The EDM Mark II rod feeder fills the gap while a new, hands-free solution is being developed.”

Titeline brings automated diamond drilling tech to Newmont’s Tanami gold mine

Newmont has confirmed it is working with Titeline Drilling on the deployment of autonomous underground diamond drilling technology at its Tanami gold mine, in the Northern Territory of Australia.

In the miner’s March quarter results investor call, Chief Operating Officer, Rob Atkinson, highlighted the use of “industry-leading robotic technology for diamond rig drilling” at the mine, saying it had the capacity to remove employees from the line of fire when drilling and removing the fatality risk associated with equipment entanglement.

Titeline, having previously automated the drill rod handling function on surface drill rigs, has recently been looking to replicate this achievement underground. Working with Chile-based Exploration Drill Masters (EDM), who with Titeline helped develop the patent-pending EDM rod-feeder system for handling drill pipe on Titeline’s autonomous surface drills, the company has now come up with a system able to complete a drilling rod pull autonomously in the underground environment and, of course, drill autonomously.

Titeline, which has an existing grade control and resource definition contract at Tanami, supplied the two autonomous drill rigs now running at the underground mine, with Atkinson saying on the call that more robotic rigs were on the way.

“During 2020, we will integrate five robotic rigs to the fleet, and we’ll replicate this impressive technology at other Newmont underground sites globally,” he said.

Tanami is currently undergoing a stage two expansion including the construction of a 1,460 m shaft, additional capacity in the processing plant, and supporting infrastructure to enable profitable recovery of ore at a depth of 2,140 m below surface.

Valmec extends stay at Tanami expansion project

Valmec has been awarded A$23 million ($14.9 million) worth of new projects across Australia, including another works package from Newmont for its Tanami gold mine in the Northern Territory.

The contract with Newmont Mining Services Pty is for an additional package of infrastructure works at the Tanami Expansion 2 (TE2) project, Valmec said.

The energy services company was awarded the original A$6 million TE2 contract back in June 2019, with the majority of the works expected to be completed by November 2019.

Newmont’s board signed off on the TE2 project in October 2019. The project is expected to exceed the company’s required internal rate of return with profitable production and mine life extending beyond 2040. The expansion includes construction of a 1,460 m shaft, additional capacity in the processing plant, and supporting infrastructure to enable profitable recovery of ore at a depth of 2,140 m below surface.

Valmec, meanwhile, said the group’s current order book totalling circa-A$65 million remains “robust”, with several larger upstream energy and infrastructure projects also expected to be committed before June 30, 2020.

Valmec’s Managing Director, Steve Dropulich, said: “Together with Valmec’s current suite of services in onshore gas infrastructure, our latest awarded projects and service contracts are testament to the resilience of our market offerings, even within these challenging COVID-19 economic conditions.”

Sun shines on Newmont Goldcorp’s sustainability efforts

Newmont Goldcorp has published its 2018 sustainability report, which has shown why the company continues to rank near the top of several indices measuring mining companies’ global footprint.

The company, which completed the acquisition of Goldcorp only last week, shared several insights into its sustainability goals and achievements in the report, with its solar energy success notable.

Last year, the company installed a new solar plant at its Akyem gold mine in Ghana. The 120 kW plant, which has four of Cambridge Energy Partners’ Nomad solar PV trackers included, will power the camp and mess hall during daylight hours, Newmont Goldcorp said.

“It has a 25-year asset life and is redeployable, so it can be disassembled and moved to another location at closure,” the company said.

Initial data has shown measurable cost, environmental and social benefits, according to the gold miner. Over five months, the plant produced more than 75,000 kWh of solar energy, resulting in a reduction of more than 32,000 kg of CO2, it said, adding that the plant is expected to produce energy at half the cost of grid power.

On top of this, the miner said it was negotiating with Ghana’s Volta River Authority on a purchase power agreement for 8 MW of solar power.

In Nevada, US, meanwhile, the company’s Phoenix mine installed solar arrays that will generate a total of 10 kW of power for two wireless communications sites.

Additional solar projects are under evaluation at Tanami (Australia), which completed the construction of a natural gas project recently, and the Merian mine in Suriname, the company said.

These current projects are just some of the initiatives the company has put in place at its operations.

As of the end of 2018, the company said it had reduced our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by 11.7% compared with its 2013 baseline. This is around 70% of its public target to reduce GHG emissions intensity by 16.5% (compared with 2013) by 2020. These numbers do not include any data from Goldcorp.

Completion of the Tanami power project in Australia is expected to reduce its GHG emissions intensity over the next two years, the company said. “We also continue to evaluate fuel switching (from coal to natural gas) at our TS Power Plant in Nevada.”

Newmont Australia progresses with Maptek Vulcan and Cat MineStar/Minetec work

Newmont’s Boddington and Tanami gold mines, in Australia, are piloting and deploying technological innovations as they look to optimise resource value and deliver improved operational performance, the company says.

To do this, the company is using regional technology teams that, according to Newmont’s Vice President of Operational Technology and Innovation, Mike Wundenberg, are “instrumental to digital transformation at Newmont”.

The team of technicians and engineers in Australia are, among other initiatives, working on a full rollout at Boddington, one of Australia’s largest gold mines, of the first commercial application of Maptek’s Vulcan optimiser, which Newmont referred to as “an automated, revenue-based ore control software that reduces variability while optimising ore recovery and cutting down on waste”.

The IT team at Boddington provided new infrastructure and support needed to deploy the technology, Newmont said. They also worked to replace Boddington’s old Wi-Fi system in the last two years – a move that now allows for seamless, continuous interoperability and will support the execution of numerous digital initiatives going forward.

Meanwhile, at the Tanami underground gold mine, which produced 500,000 oz of gold last year, a pilot study of the Caterpillar MineStar suite of technologies for underground is underway at Tanami. “This exciting pilot of the latest Caterpillar and Minetec technologies will lay the foundation for a range of Newmont’s safety, productivity and cost initiatives,” Newmont said.

Last year, Caterpillar and Minetec announced this trial at Tanami, saying Newmont would provide operational input from its underground hard-rock mining operations.

Grant Cunningham, Regional IT Operational Engagement Architect, is the primary liaison between the vendors and Newmont site teams. He explained that an important aspect of the pilot is “getting a broad cross-section of personnel exposed to the technologies so they can gain working knowledge of its benefits and contribute to the final assessment”.

Newmont powers up at Tanami gold mine in Australia

Newmont Mining says it has completed the Tanami power project, in the Northern Territory of Australia, safely and on schedule.

The project included the installation of two power stations, a 66 kV interconnected power line, and a 450 km natural gas pipeline. The pipeline was built and will be maintained by Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, while the power stations were constructed and will be operated by Zenith Energy. Capital costs are estimated at approximately $245 million with annual cash lease payments over a 10-year term beginning in 2019.

The successfully completed project is expected to provide the Tanami gold mine a safe and reliable energy source while lowering power costs and carbon emission by 20%, Newmont said. The project is expected to generate net cash savings of $34/oz from 2019 to 2023, delivering an internal rate of return of greater than 50%.

Newmont Chief Executive Officer, Gary Goldberg, said: “In addition to lowering costs and carbon emissions, the completed Tanami power project will pave the way to further extend the life of the operation.

“Consistent execution and delivery remain the hallmark of our ability to generate free cash flow and create long-term value for our shareholders and other stakeholders. Completion of the project coincides with Tanami pouring its 10 millionth ounce of gold on the back of record production of 500,000 oz last year. This achievement is a testament to the skill of our team as well as our valued partnership with the Walpiri people, the Traditional Owners of the land.”

Tanami is Australia’s second largest underground gold mine and one of the most cost competitive gold producers in the world, according to Newmont. Newmont’s continued exploration work at Tanami has created the potential to extend mine life beyond 2028, with additional upside through a possible second expansion project the company expects to make a full funding decision on in the second half of 2019. Last year, more than 800,000 oz of gold resources were converted into reserves from Tanami’s Auron orebody.

Diesel power up and running at Tanami gold project, Zenith Energy says

Zenith Energy says it has achieved completion on the diesel portion of its 62 MW power station for Newmont Mining’s Tanami gold mine in the Northern Territory of Australia.

The remote power generation specialist said it had energised the 42 km 66 kV interconnect between the Dead Bullock Soak and Granites sites, enabling transmission of power for the site in line with previous estimates.

The agreement between Zenith and Newmont – a build, own and operate (BOO) contract for a 62 MW power station at the mine – is the largest such power purchase agreement Zenith has signed to date. It is for an initial 10-year term, with an option to extend the contract for a further 10 years.

“Zenith is also delighted to confirm that the supply commencement milestone of Q1 2019 has been successfully achieved, with numerous complex design, engineering, logistics and construction challenges met and overcome, resulting in the on‐time, on‐budget and safe completion of this landmark project by Zenith’s world‐class team,” Zenith said.

The power station comprises 52 MW of gas‐fired and circa 10 MW of diesel (back‐up) power generation. Zenith said: “To put the scale of the power station in perspective, the average Australian household consumes circa 25 kWh/d of power, whereas the Tanami facility will produce upwards of 864,000 kWh/d.”

With the completion of this facility, Zenith has 428 MW of total generation capacity under control.

The design and construction phase for Tanami required the transport of three 150‐t Wartsila 34DF generators by road train from Fremantle in Western Australia; a 3,000 km journey (pictured) taking more than one week to complete, according to Zenith.

Managing Director of Zenith Energy, Hamish Moffat, said: “The construction of our 62 MW power station at Tanami, on time and within budget, is testament to the capability and commitment of the entire Zenith Energy team. As the largest BOO hybrid gas‐diesel project we have undertaken, completion of the Tanami power station is a major milestone for Zenith.

“Diesel-fuelled electricity supply from the facility has commenced and gas supply is imminent. We look forward to delivering cost‐effective, reliable power to Newmont’s Tanami operation for years to come.”

Newmont’s Tanami underground gold mine produced 419,000 oz of gold (attributable to Newmont) in 2017.

Gas starts flowing from AGIG’s 440 km Tanami pipeline

Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) says it has commissioned Australia’s newest major natural gas pipeline project ahead of schedule.

The 440 km Tanami Natural Gas Pipeline was recently given the final signoff to start operating by the Northern Territory Government. It will fuel the power stations at Newmont Mining’s Tanami gold mine in the Northern Territory.

AGIG’s Chief Customer Officer, Andrew Staniford, said: “We have now commissioned the pipeline and gas is already flowing into Newmont’s Tanami mine site.”

Staniford said the final go-ahead for the pipeline to move into full operational mode followed the introduction of gas and extensive commissioning and testing of the pipe and the facilities at the pressure under which the pipeline will operate. Operations were initially expected to start up in the March quarter.

“These tests were successfully undertaken by AGIG and independently verified, thereby enabling the final approval to be given,” he said.

AGIG was, last year, awarded the contract by Newmont to build, own and operate the new 440 km pipeline, which transports gas to the Newmont mine site, about 540 km northwest of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory.

Staniford said: “To deliver the project safely and ahead of schedule for Newmont and its operating gold mine is a feather in the caps of all involved and has further cemented AGIG’s proud position as a leading provider and operator of key energy infrastructure throughout Australia.”

The new NT pipeline follows the alignment of Tanami Road and passes through a mix of pastoral land, Aboriginal freehold land and Crown land.

Newmont’s Tanami underground gold mine produced 419,000 oz of gold (attributable to Newmont) in 2017.

Swick Mining boosts profits as it looks to drill deeper at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine

Swick Mining’s strategies of shifting drill rigs on to better performing contracts or new projects and reducing costs has continued to pay off with the underground and surface mineral drilling business posting a more than 100% year-on-year increase in EBITDA in the December quarter.

The company delivered “strong unaudited results” for the three-month period, it said, with the drilling business’ earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) up 109% to A$9.5 million ($6.8 million). This coincided with the company completing 263,690 m of drilling and the average fleet use coming in at 75% across the quarter.

Drilling business revenue of A$37.7 million was up 8% compared with the same quarter of 2017. Overall group revenue and EBITDA was marginally up on the drilling business numbers as the company’s mineral technology business, Orexplore, registered several commercial scans during the period.

In addition to shifting drill rigs and cutting costs, Swick benefitted from improved short-term rates at two existing underground drilling services contracts in the quarter – for Newmont and its Tanami and Mt Charlotte assets, where 11 rigs are deployed. Swick said: “These rates will run through to March 2019, to allow for a competitive tender process for the long-term contracts to be completed (in which Swick is participating).”

Swick Managing Director, Kent Swick (pictured), said: “The earnings rebound of our drilling business has continued and shows how we can unlock Swick’s potential when we target the right projects for the right clients and ensure we deliver value for money for our clients.

“The improved margins are a mixture of adjusted rates where needed and also from a 6% year-on-year reduction in our operating costs per shift in the underground division by focusing on manning levels, consumables usage, procurement processes and inventory management.”

The Swick MD added that its recently established deep exploration division, DeepEx, continued to move forward during the quarter with preparations underway to deploy two high-torque mobile drills this month at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine. This will further assist the deep underground exploration drilling it is already carrying out at the mine.

This came on top of an update on Orexplore, which in the eight months since launch has secured seven customers and numerous trial programmes with a range of miners, explorers and consultants, Kent Swick said.

He also said the gold spectrometer was undergoing testing at Orexplore’s R&D headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, and that the company expects to have initial feedback on the in-machine prototypes performance during this quarter.

Newmont speeding up mine plan decisions with digital and VR technologies

Newmont Mining, in a recent blog, has provided more details of how it is using digital technology and strategic mine planning to improve decision making at its operations.

One of the examples the leading gold miner gave was how it is using Maptek’s Vulcan Stope Optimiser at its Tanami gold operation in Australia.

This software delivers full 3D capabilities on stope shape generation and block model analysis without manual digitising, according to Maptek.

“Used at our Tanami operation, Vulcan delivers an improved approach for open-pit ore control polygon optimisation and helps reduce design time by roughly 98%,” Newmont said, citing a Maptek case study.

Virtual reality is another technology helping the company make smarter decisions, faster, it added.

“Paraview software – an open-source, multi-platform data analysis and visualisation application – delivers 2D data maps at a 3D scale, helping engineers and technicians envision geology models with greater precision,” Newmont said.

“With virtual reality, we are better equipped to identify potential problem areas and make smarter planning decisions.”

Newmont says it makes investments in these technologies only after asking – and answering – this question: “Does it add value or reduce risk to the business?”

“To help us answer this question, we partner with academic and industry experts to develop, source and test tools for driving mine optimisation. Only after rigorous trials result in proven value creation can teams then consider a wider rollout across sites,” it said.

One example of Newmont’s technology research and development work is its partnership with Montreal’s McGill University to launch the COSMO Laboratory – a global consortium dedicated to advancing the mine of the future.