Tag Archives: The University of Western Australia

Australia’s FBI CRC backs Mine Electrification project

Experts led by the University of Adelaide are looking to help the mining industry find a pathway to more efficient, green, sustainable and safer mining operations by transitioning to battery-supported electric vehicles (BEVs).

In a new project funded by the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBI CRC), researchers are providing the Australian mining industry with a suite of decision-making tools and guidelines that will aid their transition towards BEVs and associated stationary machinery in their mining operations, the FBI CRC said.

“About 30-50% of the total mine site energy usage is related to diesel-powered mining vehicles,” Dr Ali Pourmousavi Kani, the University of Adelaide’s, Lecturer, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said. “This represents a significant proportion of current mining operational costs, and the prevalence of diesel fuel usage presents significant health and safety concerns.

“Mining is a critical industry in Australia. It is great to see a growing movement in this industry to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the global transition to renewable energy and electric transportation. Electric vehicles and machinery, combined with partial or standalone renewable energy powered microgrids, will provide a pathway to more efficient, sustainable and safer mining operations.”

Dr Pourmousavi Kani will work on the project, named ‘Assessment, Design and Operation of Battery-Supported Electric Mining Vehicles and Machinery’, or Mine Electrification for short, with Associate Professor, Wen Soong, and Associate Professor, Nesimi Ertugrul, who are also from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

The project was developed in conjunction with and funded by the FBI CRC and its participants which are: BHP Nickel West, IGO Limited, Energetics Pty Ltd, Galaxy Resources Limited, Multicom Resources Limited, the South Australian Department for Energy and Mining, Queensland’s Department of Energy and Public Works, the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia and the University of Western Australia.

The project, which has a budget of approximately A$2.76 million ($2.02 million), of which A$1.16 million is in cash and the remainder in-kind support, and lasts for 3.5 years, will, the FBI CRC says, enable the resources sector to:

  • Reduce the costs and improve the reliability of energy;
  • Improve occupational health and safety; and
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of production.

“The project will allow mining companies to understand the benefits and technical risks and costs of implementation,” Dr Pourmousavi Kani said.

“It will also assist equipment, technology and service providers to service mining companies during the transition to BEVs. End users will benefit from a de-risked strategy to transition, reduced production costs, reduced energy costs, reduced emissions and an upskilled work force.

“Overall, this project will help the Australian mining industry to remain competitive globally by greening their production and lowering their operational costs.”

Dr Jacques Eksteen, a Research Director of the FBICRC, said: “This project is highly significant for the FBI CRC as it serves as an important development and demonstration project of the uptake of battery technologies in mining vehicles and mobile equipment.

“This application of battery technology offers significant potential benefits to industry, and we are keen to invest in developing and enhancing capability in the field of mobile mine electrification.”

South Australia’s Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, added: “Sustainable mining operations is a focus for South Australia, and the Mine Electrification project demonstrates our leadership and ability to collaborate as we work towards reducing our carbon emissions.”

Rio, BHP and UWA establish tailings management learning platform

BHP and Rio Tinto have agreed to jointly fund a new initiative at the University of Western Australia that aims to improve global tailings management.

Over five years, the companies will invest A$4 million (($2.7 million) A$2 million each) in training, research, education and practice to support tailings and waste management facilities as part of the Future Tails program.

The initiative includes leading-edge training programs to build talent and capability; publications that summarise state-of-the-art tailings analysis, design, operation and management; and new research collaborations with industry to drive further innovation, according to UWA.

“Future Tails will provide education, training, and professional development to senior executives, senior technical personnel, junior engineers and operational staff in Australia and internationally,” the university explained.

Program Director, Professor Andy Fourie, from UWA’s School of Engineering, said there was a clear imperative to improve tailings management.

“Future Tails represents a step change in education, training and accreditation,” Professor Fourie said. “Moreover, it will drive cutting-edge research and innovation that will feed into future training.”

Program participants will be awarded micro-credentials from UWA and there will be opportunities to follow a postgraduate pathway, which will include a Masters in Tailings Management.

The Global Tailings Standard being developed by the Global Tailings Review will underscore industry management of tailings and waste, UWA said. Just last week, the partners of the Global Tailings Review said it expected to publish the standard in the coming weeks.

Matt Currie, Vice President of BHP’s Tailings Taskforce, said there was an increasing demand for tailings expertise and for qualified people and methods to train these new professionals.

“The program will provide essential training and development to people at all levels of their career and help reinforce the different career paths within the tailings discipline,” Currie said.

Rio Tinto’s Head of Group Technical Mining, Santi Pal, said it was clear the industry needed to improve operational management and engineering practices.

“We need to enhance this capability right across the industry,” Pal said. “Future Tails will develop and retrain talent needed to safely and sustainably run mining operations of the future. Over time, it will help support improved global tailings management standards, knowledge-sharing and the transfer of best practice.”

ARC centre on mine asset maintenance receives Australia government backing

Universities and the mining industry are teaming up to tackle asset maintenance in the resources sector through the use of data science.

The new Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre will be led by Curtin University in partnership with The University of Western Australia (UWA), CSIRO and the University of Adelaide, and industry partners Alcoa, BHP and Roy Hill, as well as CORE Innovation Hub and the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia.

Curtin University was awarded A$3.9 million ($2.9 million) in ARC funding for the establishment of the centre, with planning for the new ARC Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science starting immediately.

ARC Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science Director, Professor Andrew Rohl (pictured), from the Curtin Institute for Computation, said: “The effective maintenance of engineering assets underpins the A$205 billion ($151 billion) annual export earnings from Australia’s resources sector.

“However, maintenance management practices have changed little in the last 20 years and are ripe for a digital overhaul that will bring developments in computational methods, statistics, applied mathematics and artificial intelligence to determine how, when and why maintenance is conducted.”

The new centre will enable the development and adoption of new practices to improve productivity and asset reliability for industry and to foster a new maintenance technology service sector for national and international markets, according to Professor Rohl.

UWA Professor Michael Small, CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Engineering Systems, said being able to effectively use data to create better systems, develop new technology and transform the way maintenance is carried out across the resources sector is critical and the creation of the new centre will allow industry to take huge steps towards this.

METS firms receive Australia government backing

Eight METS (mining equipment, technology and services) companies will receive A$7.14 million (US$5.3 million), combined, to “launch collaborative industry projects that will deliver highly-advanced solutions to a variety of mining challenges and contribute to the growth and capability of the METS sector”, METS Ignited has confirmed.

The METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds is a government-funded, $15.6 million, four-year initiative to support, encourage and fund sector-wide collaboration. It, like the industry-led, state-backed METS Ignited organisation, was set up to improve productivity, competitiveness and innovative capacity in the country’s METS sector.

The latest announcement represents the second round of government funding, with the first round of recipients being Austmine, Unearthed Solutions, CORE Innovation Hub, Resources and Engineering Skills Alliance, and the Coalition for Energy Efficient Communition.

This round of funding recipients includes:
• IMDEX
• The University of Western Australia (UWA)
• Manufacturing Intelligence
• Emapper
• Energetique Mining Vehicles
• Qtec
• Resolution Systems; and
• Micronised Mineral Systems.

METS Ignited CEO Ric Gros said the funding would spur necessary collaboration in the sector: “Opportunities for the sector to band together and innovate are vital to the growth of the sector. Facilitating such innovation is part of the mandate for METS Ignited, and the recipients of this round will be making invaluable contributions to the mining and METS sectors through their initiatives.”

Recipients of the funds are required to secure equal or greater investment from an industry partner. As a result, the total value of the eight projects is $17.4 million.

The largest share of the funding – $2 million – was awarded to Resolution Systems, a South Australia-based business conducting a project to develop fleet management software to allow different operational areas of mine sites to communicate with one another, increasing truck fleet productivity by 20%.

Resolution is partnering with Barrick Gold, South 32, Macmahon Holdings, Petra Data Science and Manta Controls on this project, which has been able to source $3.5 million of industry investment.

Other projects to receive funding in this round include:

• Technology testing facilities (UWA, partnered with BHP and Core Innovation Hub)
• Battery-powered vehicles for underground mining (Energetique Mining Vehicles, partnered with Aeris Resources, Safescape, Minetech Australia and Cougar Mining Group)
• Data acquisition software for environmental rehabilitation and drilling (Emapper, partnered with Roy Hill Iron Ore, Mt Gibson Iron, eagle.io and Astron Environmental Solais Geoinformatics)
• A new water treatment process (Micronised Mineral Systems, partnered with Tronox, Acadis Australia Pacific, Tech Bakery)
• Real-time data collection during blasthole drilling (IMDEX, partnered with Orica, Anglo American and Tech Resources)
• Software for data transfer between different platforms (Manufacturing Intelligence, partnered with Fortescue Metals Group, South 32 and Mining3 Enterprise Transformation Partners); and
• Production of drilling sensors and instrumentation (Qtec, partnered with Wallis Drilling and Gyromax).

METS Ignited said: “Collectively, the projects will benefit the mining sector by optimising the value chain, increasing productivity for mining and mineral processing, supporting and enhancing environmental management, and improving operational safety.”