Tag Archives: Tasmania

Tasmania drill core library receives investment boost

The Tasmania Government says it is expanding its geotechnical testing capabilities, with a A$2.4 million ($1.9 million) upgrade to its Mineral Resources Tasmania Core Library at Mornington.

The upgrade, expected to be completed by the middle of the year, will help the Australian island state both retain and grow its natural resources work, Guy Barnett, Minister for Resources in the Tasmania Government, expects.

Local construction company Fairbrother has been awarded the contract to upgrade the library, which will combine laboratory facilities, currently spread across two sites, and provide an upgraded and expanded state-of-the-art facility for geoscientific and analytical functions, which will better serve both government and industry needs, Barnett said. It will also provide an up-to-date interface for Mineral Resources Tasmania’s engagement with industry.

“This is a significant investment in a sector that supports more than 5,100 direct job, contributes more than 51% of our state’s exports, and produces product with a value of more than A$2 billion each year,” he said. “When our resources sector is strong, our economy thrives, and that is why we are making a significant investment into the scientific capability available right here in Tasmania.”

This is the first major upgrade since the library was first opened some 30 years ago, according to Barnett. The Core Library already stores more than 770 km of drill core and around 70,000 rock samples from across the state.

“This facility is a vital resource for our mining, exploration, research and education, and broader industrial sectors, and the upgrade will make it more efficient, effective and accessible to industry,” Barnett added. “This upgrade will play a significant role in realising our mineral potential and supports our collaborative efforts in working with industry through our existing scientific and exploration support packages.”

GFG Alliance, South32 and Anglo American complete TEMCO transaction

GFG Alliance says it has finalised the purchase of the hydro energy-powered Tasmanian Electro Metallurgical Company (TEMCO) smelter in Bell Bay in northern Tasmania, Australia.

After entering a binding sale and purchase agreement with South32 and Anglo American in August, today’s finalisation sees TEMCO join LIBERTY Steel Group as part of the GFG Alliance family, it said.

The smelter, in Tasmania, Australia, was run by the Samancor Manganese joint venture, owned 60% by South32 and 40% by Anglo American.

GFG Alliance Executive Chairman, Sanjeev Gupta, said the acquisition not only secured the jobs of the smelter’s 250 workers but would also play a key role in enhancing LIBERTY’s drive to be self-sufficient in the supply chain.

“When we entered into the agreement in August, I flagged that our investment in key inputs such as ferromanganese and silicomanganese would generate supply chain value to ensure a sustainable and globally competitive steel manufacturing sector,” Gupta said. “This acquisition is an upstream integration for Whyalla and all our steel plants globally.

“The Bell Bay precinct and nearby George Town is a long-standing industrial community with a proud heritage, and we are committed to seeing this facility continue to play an important role in the future of the Australian steel industry.”

The TEMCO facility, which is powered by Hydro Tasmania, has four submerged arc furnaces, including a sinter plant, and has the capacity to produce around 150,000 t/y of high carbon ferromanganese and 120,000 t/y of silicomanganese used in the production of steel, the company said.

“GFG Alliance already produces the lowest carbon aluminium in the world in both the UK and France and I’m proud to add one of the world’s greenest ferro alloy producers to our portfolio,” Gupta said. “Our goal is to be carbon neutral by 2030 and I am proud to invest in a state like Tasmania, which has a plentiful supply of renewable energy resources.”

Fortescue considers investment in Tasmania ‘green hydrogen’ plant

Fortescue Metals Group has confirmed it is investigating the development of a green ammonia plant in Bell Bay, Tasmania, that could have a 250 MW green hydrogen capacity.

The plant, which has been announced as a successful participant in the Tasmanian Government’s Renewable Hydrogen Industry Development Funding program, would be constructed at the Bell Bay Industrial Precinct, with green ammonia production capacity of 250,000 tonnes per year for domestic and international export.

“It has the capacity to be one of the world’s largest green hydrogen plants, powered entirely by Tasmanian renewable energy,” the company said, adding that the project is targeted for an investment decision by the Fortescue Board in 2021.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines (left), said: “Working with our wholly-owned subsidiary, Fortescue Future Industries, we are assessing clean energy opportunities locally and internationally to capitalise on the important role that green hydrogen will play to ensure the world can meet the Paris 2050 targets.

“Subject to detailed feasibility analysis, the Tasmania project will be an important step in demonstrating our intention to position Australia at the forefront of the establishment of a bulk export market for green hydrogen.

“Fortescue has a successful track record of identifying and assessing opportunities and by building on our expertise and supply chain capabilities, we will ensure that the financial and project execution discipline that Fortescue is renowned for is applied to projects developed by Fortescue Future Industries.”

She concluded: “Partnering with the Tasmanian Government to harness the abundant renewable energy in Tasmania, we see potential to create a significant new green industry.”

The project supports Fortescue’s operational target to be “net zero” by 2040 and builds on the company’s investment in green hydrogen production and technologies.

This includes a partnership with the CSIRO for the development of new hydrogen technologies; a A$32 million ($23 million) hydrogen mobility project at Christmas Creek; a partnership with ATCO Australia to build and operate the first combined green hydrogen production and refuelling facility in Western Australia; and a memorandum of understanding with Hyundai Motor Co and CSIRO to advance renewable hydrogen technology for domestic transport.

Venture Minerals takes ‘one-stop shop’ approach at Riley with Qube agreement

Venture Minerals has awarded bulk material handling services company, Qube, with preferred road haulage tenderer status for the Riley iron mine, in Tasmania, Australia.

Alongside this, Venture has also engaged Qube to provide the necessary Burnie Port Services to complete the logistics solution of delivering iron ore from Riley to on board the ship.

Venture said: “Securing Qube as the complete ore transport provider for the Riley iron ore mine will increase the efficiencies for one of the project’s key cost centres as the company progresses towards becoming the next Australian iron ore producer.”

Recently, Venture Minerals commenced dry screening operations at Riley as part of the ramp-up phase of the project. Full production is expected to occur upon successful commissioning of the wet processing plant, which is subject to financing, the company said.

At a $90/t 62% iron ore price, an August 2019 feasibility study on the project returned a post-tax cash surplus of A$31 million ($23 million) over the two-year production life of the mine.

Andrew Radonjic, Venture Minerals’ Managing Director, said: “Venture is fortunate to be working with Australia’s leading provider of bulk material handling services to provide a complete logistics solution in delivering Riley iron ore from the mine gate to the port and then on board ship. This one-stop shop approach will increase efficiencies and reduce costs which is all important when mining bulk commodities.”

He added: “Qube is a professional logistics company with modern, well managed vehicles and trained, professional drivers. Qube’s safety record was also an important part of our selection criteria and their real-time monitoring of vehicle movements is impressive.”

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.”

GFG Alliance to take over TEMCO manganese alloy smelter following South32 pact

South32’s association with the Tasmanian Electro Metallurgical Company (TEMCO) is set to come to an end after it agreed to sell its stake in the manganese alloy smelter to an entity within the GFG Alliance.

The announcement from South32’s Groote Eylandt Mining Company (GEMCO) said completion of the transaction was subject to approval from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board. Upon satisfaction of this condition, GFG will make a nominal payment to GEMCO to acquire 100% of the shares in TEMCO, it said, without naming an acquisition price.

As a condition to the completion of the transaction, the parties have entered into an ore supply agreement from GEMCO to TEMCO.

The smelter, in Tasmania, Australia, is run by the Samancor Manganese joint venture, owned 60% by South32 and 40% by Anglo American.

South32 says TEMCO uses ore shipped from its GEMCO operations in the Northern Territory of Australia and produces ferromanganese for steelmaking. Most of the alloy produced is exported to customers in Asia and North America, with the remaining sold to steel producers in Australia and New Zealand.

South32 CEO Graham Kerr said the agreement represented another milestone for South32 as it continues to reshape its portfolio.

“Today’s agreement follows an extensive review of options regarding the future of our manganese alloy business,” he said.

“The transaction and our ongoing supply of ore to TEMCO will see the smelter, first established in 1962, continue to operate into the future.

“Looking forward, we are confident that GFG, a current TEMCO customer, is well placed to operate the smelter, with the acquisition representing an opportunity to further vertically integrate its steel business.”

The transaction does not include the Samancor Manganese JV’s South African manganese alloy smelter, Metalloys, which has separately been placed under care and maintenance, South32 added.

Venture Minerals takes the dry screening route at Riley iron ore project

Venture Minerals Ltd has decided to start operations at the Riley iron ore project, in Tasmania, Australia, using dry screening as a way of realising early cash flow.

The company’s Board of Directors has delivered a positive final investment decision (FID) for the mine prompting preparations for mining and dry screening operations to commence immediately, the company said. This could see mining occur in the next week.

“The dry screening operations of the Riley mine is part of the ramp-up phase of the project with the full production rate to occur upon successful commissioning of the wet processing plant (which is subject to financing),” Venture Minerals said.

It is another key milestone on the company’s push towards its first shipment of Riley ore.

The company recently signed a Port Access Agreement with TasPorts and signed the Road Access Agreement with Hydro Tasmania, securing the pathway for Riley output from mine gate to shipping.

The Riley mining team has commenced preparations for low cost mining and dry screening activities given the zero strip ratio (iron ore at surface) characteristics of the Riley DSO deposit, it said. “The contracting of a dry screening plant for processing the top layer of the Riley deposit affords the company the opportunity to accelerate production and capture the current iron ore prices before the wet screening plant has been built and commissioned, and also reduce the capital cost requirements,” it added.

Venture is now finalising discussions on financing options including a debt facility to fund capital to complete construction of the wet screening plant at Riley. It is also focused on concluding the road haulage tender process as well as achieving more efficient ore handling logistics, including finalising negotiations on gaining access to other on-wharf storage.

The current Riley mine economics are well above the August 2019 feasibility numbers, which were based on a $90/t 62% Fe price, according to Venture. This is due primarily to higher iron ore prices (>$120/t 62% Fe price) and lower fuel prices, and further supported by a strong iron ore market outlook, it said.

At the $90/tonne 62% Fe price, the August 2019 feasibility study returned a post-tax cash surplus of A$31 million ($22 million) over the two-year production life of the mine.

NQ Minerals acquires Beaconsfield mine, plots new underground decline

NQ Minerals has added the historic Beaconsfield gold mine, in Tasmania, Australia, to its growing portfolio, with the London-listed company saying it plans to recommission the processing plant and re-develop the underground mine with a new decline.

The company announced this week that it had signed all necessary agreements and made the necessary payments to purchase and take immediate possession of the Beaconsfield mine.

The mine has historic production of circa-1.8 Moz of gold averaging around 15 g/t to its name, and was closed in 2012 due to the low gold price at that time.

“The gold price has since increased by over 100% and the company plans to re-open the mine as soon as practicably possible,” NQ Minerals said.

The 350,000 t/y processing plant, which is currently under care and maintenance, will be recommissioned as part of this plan.

NQ Minerals strategy for re-opening the underground mine, meanwhile, involves developing new modern mine decline access into the existing Beaconsfield mine from surface to reconnect into the existing mine workings at the lower section of the orebody, which comprises all of the current stated gold resources, the company said.

“This new decline will be capable of running large modern mining equipment and men/materials/rock from surface to anywhere in the mine underground workings and will allow for the most efficient low-cost operations possible,” it said.

The main decline currently in the mine is a 5 m x 5 m access way (running down at an angle of 1 m for every 7 m in horizontal length, pictured) that starts 400 m from surface all the way to the bottom of the mine at 1,200 m from surface, according to a NQ Minerals spokesperson.

“The main shaft that accesses that decline is now out of use and is part of the Beaconsfield Heritage Museum,” the spokesperson clarified.

The plan is to run a new 6 m x 6 m decline from surface (popping out near the processing plant) and connect it to the old decline at 400 m depth at the bottom of the Hart Shaft, according to the spokesperson.

“This way, we can run very large diesel trucks (50 t capacity), large front-end loaders and big drill and blast equipment from surface to anywhere in the mine,” the spokesperson added.

Up until 2012, all the big mining equipment had to be dismantled and taken down the old shaft in pieces and re-assembled at the 400 m depth level before it could get used. This big equipment is still down the mine, according to the spokesperson.

“This old way of getting mining equipment down the mine was very slow and very expensive,” the spokesperson explained.

“The other good thing about a new access to surface is the mine can also have smaller-sized equipment easily moved around the mine for mining of the gold orebody, ie equipment suitably sized for the job it has to do,” the spokesperson said.

“The combination of the above is that this will enable economies of scale and economies of suitability.”

NQ, which is currently increasing production at its flagship Hellyer gold mine in Tasmania, Australia, announced a new JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate of the lower section of the Beaconsfield gold mine of 1.454 Mt grading 10.3 g/t for 483,000 oz of gold, earlier this year.

David Lenigas, NQ’s Chairman, said: “Beaconsfield is an exceptional high-grade gold asset and will provide a solid platform to bring the company’s second mine in Australia into production.

“The company is now focused on bringing the Beaconsfield gold processing plant back into operational status as soon as practicable. The mine has a long and rich history in northern Tasmania, and we understand the importance of this heritage. We are looking forward to bringing jobs and economic activity back to Beaconsfield.”

Shaw Contracting returns to Riley iron ore project

Venture Minerals’ plan to restart mining at the Riley iron ore project in Tasmania, Australia, is accelerating with the announcement that the ASX-listed company has awarded Shaw Contracting the preferred tenderer status for mining and processing works at the operation.

One of Tasmania’s most experienced civil and mining contractors, Shaw previously worked with Venture when it commenced mining the Riley iron ore deposit, in 2014. The company also carried out several major overburden and mining contracts for Savage River Mines (pictured) and Bluestone Mine in Tasmania.

The Riley project is on a granted mining lease, where reserves of 1.8 Mt at 57% Fe with low impurities have been outlined. Venture says around 90% of the equipment previously purchased for mining the orebody is still on hand and there is potential for producing a direct shipping ore product. The deposit is also all at surface, Venture says, and is less than 2 km from a sealed road that accesses existing rail and port facilities.

Venture has had the former operating mine on care and maintenance since August 2014 shortly after it suspended operations.

The company says it continues to work on updating the previous feasibility study at Riley so a decision to recommence mining can be made at the earliest opportunity. Following a favourable study outcome, its goal is to commence iron ore production in the December quarter of this year.

On the contract award to Shaw, Venture said: “In the awarding of preferred tenderer status to Shaw, Venture did receive strong interest from other service providers in relation to the mining and processing tender packages sought by the company. Venture is now well progressed in the process of collating this and other necessary information to form a robust view of potential project economics as it finalises the Decision to Mine study.”

The company has already undertaken extensive pre-production works at the Riley project to recommence operations, making the project a ‘quick to market’ opportunity for the company, it said.

Venture’s Managing Director, Andrew Radonjic, said: “Venture is glad to welcome back the experience and knowledge of Shaw Contracting to the Riley iron ore project. The advantages of getting Shaw to pick up from where they left off will be a huge advantage to the recommencement timeline of the mine.”

AusTin’s Granville East mine waste to lay ground for wind farm

AusTin Mining says it has entered into a non-binding heads of agreement with Lucas Total Contract Solutions to supply non-acid forming (NAF) waste rock from the Granville East mine, in Tasmania, Australia, for construction purposes at the Granville Harbour Wind Farm.

The A$280 million wind farm will comprise 31 turbines with a 112‐MW capacity and is expected to be operational in late-2019, according to AusTin.

AusTin commenced tin mining at the Tasmania operation in February.

The wind farm is around 5.5 km from the Granville East mine and, subject to obtaining all regulatory permits, the agreement contemplates the sale of up to 120,000 t of NAF waster from the existing waste rock emplacement area, immediately east of the open-pit mine.

“The proposed sale of NAF waste rock provides two key benefits to AusTin Mining, being an additional revenue stream and reduced provision for future site rehabilitation,” the company said.

“The financial benefits of the agreement will be analysed upon receipt of all regulatory permitting conditions but are expected to equate to four or five months of owner mining operating costs, with a commensurate reduction in the previously announced forecast cash costs.”

AusTin Mining said it had commenced the process to obtain all necessary approvals and would work with Lucas to complete the process as soon as possible, noting “the potential environmental benefits of reduced ground disturbance at both the GranvilleEast mine and the wind farm”.

In the interim, the company said processing of ore production in concentrate continued at the processing plant.