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First Quantum board signs off development of Kansanshi S3 Expansion, Enterprise nickel project

The First Quantum Minerals Ltd Board of Directors has signed off on the S3 Expansion at the Kansanshi mine and the Enterprise nickel project, both in Zambia.

The approval will lead to work on both projects starting immediately, with the company re-commencing detailed engineering works for the S3 Expansion to determine purchase orders for key long-lead items, including the SAG mill, ball mill and in-pit crushing station; and a mining contractor being mobilised for the Enterprise nickel project in order to commence pre-stripping of the pit in June 2022.

This could see Kansanshi’s life pushed out to 2044 with the introduction of new electrical loading and drilling equipment along with the extension of the current electric trolley assist infrastructure, with Enterprise contributing some 30,000 t/y of nickel concentrate in upcoming years.

“First Quantum has been working constructively with the Government of Zambia’s New Dawn administration as part of their efforts to reform the mining sector, attract investment and increase Zambia’s copper production,” Tristan Pascall, Chief Executive Officer, said. “The approval of the projects reflects First Quantum’s increased confidence in the investment climate in Zambia.”

The S3 Expansion and the Enterprise nickel project are a key part of the company’s brownfield growth strategy, according to Pascall.

“The Kansanshi mine has been a cornerstone asset for First Quantum for 15 years and the S3 Expansion will expand production and extend the mine life for another two decades,” he said. “The low-cost, high-grade Enterprise nickel project is well placed to supply the rapidly growing electric vehicle battery sector.

“The approval of these two projects is an important milestone for the company’s path towards responsible production growth of the metals needed for the global green energy transition.”

The approval of the projects follows the efforts of the New Dawn administration to enhance both the investment climate for mining and to seek commitments from the mining sector to contribute to the national economy and to corporate social responsibility, First Quantum says. These initiatives will help establish a platform for more stable, durable and responsible mining in Zambia.

The Government of Zambia’s commitments address the ease of doing business in Zambia, covering areas such as expediting immigration procedures in exchange for commitments for local employment levels, competitive pricing of power transmission and power procurement from independent sources which in turn will support renewable energy projects, and measures to ensure the ease of importing and exporting goods.

The approvals follow the re-introduction of the deductibility of mineral royalties for corporate income tax assessment purposes that became effective in January. This measure realigned Zambia with international best practice, according to First Quantum. The government’s commitment to improve the predictability of the mining fiscal regime also provides the certainty needed to support large capital investments in Zambia.

“Furthermore, First Quantum and the government have successfully resolved all points of contention that have been stumbling blocks to progress on the S3 Expansion and Enterprise nickel project,” it said. “This includes reaching agreement in respect to the outstanding value-added tax receivable sum and an approach for repayment based on offsets against future mining taxes and royalties.”

The S3 Expansion is expected to transition the current selective high-grade, medium-scale operation to a medium-grade, larger-scale mining operation that will be more appropriate for the higher proportion of primary, lower-grade sulphide ores at depth, First Quantum said. As outlined in the NI 43-101 Technical Report filed in September 2020, the S3 Expansion, when completed, will comprise of a standalone 25 Mt/y processing plant with a new larger mining fleet that will increase Kansanshi’s total annual throughput to 53 Mt/y.

Once the expansion is completed, copper production from Kansanshi is expected to average approximately 250,000 t/y for the remaining life of mine to 2044.

A significant portion of the initial construction works for the S3 Expansion have been previously undertaken with much of the civil and structural work on-site completed, First Quantum said. The remaining work includes completion of the remaining engineering design works, procurement and installation of equipment, electrics, controls and infrastructure. The S3 processing train will comprise of a 28 MW SAG mill and a 22 MW ball mill. The open-pit mine will be expanded to increase the supply of sulphide ore from the Main Pit and extend into the South East Dome deposit. The expanded mining fleet will use similar ultra-class equipment as First Quantum’s other key mines and will benefit from new electrical loading and drilling equipment along with the extension of the current electric trolley assist infrastructure, First Quantum said.

In parallel with the expansion of the mine and processing facilities, the company plans to increase the throughput capacity of the Kansanshi smelter from 1.38 Mt/y to 1.65 Mt/y of concentrate. This will enable the smelter to produce over 400,000 t/y of copper anode.

The total capital expenditures associated with the S3 Expansion is expected to be $1.25 billion, which includes $900 million on the S3 plant and mine fleet and $350 million for pre-stripping of the South East Dome pit. Approximately $800 million of this spending is included in the company’s current three-year guidance released on January 17, 2022, with the balance falling beyond the guidance period. First production from the S3 Expansion is expected in 2025.

The Enterprise nickel sulphide deposit is located 12 km northwest of the Sentinel copper mine. As outlined in the NI 43-101 Technical Report, filed in March 2020, proven and probable reserves at Enterprise total 34.7 Mt of ore at 0.99% Ni.

The Enterprise nickel project will consist of a single, main open pit and one extension to the southwest. It will use the existing 4 Mt/y nickel circuit that was previously built as part of the original Sentinel processing complex. The main workstream to bring the project online will be the pre-strip of waste. The development timeline for Enterprise is expected to be approximately 12 months. At full production, Enterprise is expected to produce an average of 30,000 t/y of nickel in high-grade concentrate.

The total capital expenditures associated with the Enterprise nickel project is expected to be approximately $100 million. Pre-stripping of the Enterprise pit of $60 million is included in the three-year guidance provided earlier this year along with $40 million related to infrastructure and plant commissioning. Expected first nickel production of 5,000-10,000 t of nickel in 2023 is included in the company’s three-year guidance.

Etteplan on board Epiroc’s Minetruck MT42 battery-trolley project

Finland-based engineering firm, Etteplan says it is collaborating with Epiroc to enable fossil free underground heavy transportation without interruptions and, more specifically, helping redesign its Minetruck MT42 Battery into an electric trolley system.

As part of a strategic partnership project that started in 2021, Etteplan’s offices in Finland and Sweden are providing what it says are crucial resources and expertise in the development, helping secure a timely progress of the project. It is providing technical expertise for battery technology, machine electrification, electrical design, system requirements and safety risk assessment.

Last year, Epiroc, for its part, announced a collaboration with ABB and Boliden to develop an all electric battery trolley truck system based on the MT42 Battery truck for underground mining, with the trio planning to demonstrate the system on a test track in the underground polymetallic Kristineberg mine in Sweden.

For Epiroc, the trolley truck project is one of the initiatives to meet its ambitious sustainability targets and forms part of its electrification journey, Etteplan said. The new battery-electric Minetruck MT42 trolley will still be equipped with a battery and, in addition, it will be recharged on the fly via an overhead catenary wire through a pantograph, similar to a trolley bus.

Anders Svensson, Director, Service Solutions at Etteplan’s Engineering Solutions, said: “Globally, electrification of equipment is a major trend in mining, where most vehicles are currently powered by diesel engines. Therefore, the industry needs new types of competences and skill sets that we are ready to cater for. Jointly developed procedures together with major manufacturers such as Epiroc ensure that we address strategically important electrification challenges in a competitive way.”

Etteplan has worked with Epiroc, previously part of Atlas Copco, for over 20 years, and the project aligns with Etteplan’s electrification vision while showcasing how it works closely with customers to enhance their battery performance and functionality in different industries.

Ferrexpo sets decarbonisation course to 2030 and 2050

Iron ore pellet producer Ferrexpo has announced inaugural decarbonisation targets that includes a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions from its operations by 2050.

In addition, the group has undertaken an initial commitment to achieve a minimum of a 30% reduction in combined Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, against the group’s baseline year for emissions (2019), in line with its peer group.

The company is engaging with climate change specialists Ricardo Plc to help develop science-based decarbonisation targets as a second-phase of publishing carbon commitments.

Ricardo has also been hired to enhance the group’s existing climate change scenario reporting and review the role of Ferrexpo’s iron ore pellets within the circular economy. Results of this analysis is expected to enhance the group’s carbon reduction targets and to further develop climate change reporting in 2022, it says.

In the 18 months to June 2021, the group has recorded a carbon reduction in excess of 20%, according to Jim North, Interim Group Chief Executive Officer. This, he said, is a demonstration of the company’s commitment to the environment.

“Through working with Ricardo, it is our intention to engage with stakeholders in 2022 with a clear, science-based understanding of our carbon journey that lies ahead,” he said.

Tim Curtis – Energy & Environment Managing Director, Ricardo Plc, added: “In setting targets to decarbonise the manufacturing of their iron ore pellets, Ferrexpo is driving change in the industry which will contribute to a low carbon transition and benefit organisations using Ferrexpo products in their supply chain.”

Some of the carbon reduction targets the company has pursued to this point include plans for a 5 MW pilot solar plant, use of sunflower husks in its pelletiser, and the potential use of a trolley line at its iron ore operations.

Komatsu teams with Rio, BHP, Codelco and Boliden on zero-emission mining solutions

Working together to rapidly innovate in support of carbon reduction targets, Komatsu has teamed up with several of its customers to form the Komatsu Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Alliance.

The founding members of the alliance are Rio Tinto, BHP, Codelco and Boliden.

Through the alliance framework, Komatsu’s GHG partners will work directly with Komatsu to actively collaborate on product planning, development, testing and deployment of the next generation of zero-emission mining equipment and infrastructure, the OEM said. The alliance’s initial target is advancing Komatsu’s power-agnostic truck concept for a haulage vehicle that can run on a variety of power sources including diesel-electric, electric, trolley (wired), battery power and even hydrogen fuel cells.

“We are honoured that our customers, several of the largest mining companies in the world, have agreed to participate in the Komatsu GHG Alliance and work in partnership with us to develop sustainable solutions for mining,” Masayuki Moriyama, President of Komatsu’s Mining Business Division, said. “We look forward to close collaboration with these industry leaders to accelerate development and deployment of the next level of equipment designed to reduce greenhouse gases from mining operations and ultimately achieve the goal of zero-emission mining.”

The formation of the alliance brings together mining leaders willing to share time, resources and information to deliver zero-emissions equipment solutions, Komatsu said. The company intends to expand the alliance to additional mining companies to enhance industry-wide collaboration on solutions to decarbonisation.

In a separate release, Rio Tinto said it will conduct a pre-production trial of the new equipment at a site and has the option to purchase some of the first trucks from Komatsu once they are commercially viable.

Alf Barrios, Rio Tinto’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Rio Tinto and Komatsu have a shared history of partnership on innovation going back to when we built the world’s largest Komatsu autonomous haulage fleet in 2008.

“Our support of a trial, and the option to buy some of the first trucks from Komatsu, underscores our shared commitment to actively collaborate on product planning, development, testing and deployment of the next generation of zero-emission mining equipment and infrastructure as we look to decarbonise our business.”

As a company, Komatsu, meanwhile, says it is committed to minimising environmental impact through its business, targeting a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from use of its products and production of its equipment by 2030 (compared with 2010 levels) and a challenge target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Komatsu has worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for customers through product development for decades in many areas including electric diesel dump trucks, electric power shovels, regenerative energy storage capabilities and fuel saver programs, it said.

The company’s initial concept for a haulage vehicle that can run on a variety of power sources, part of the power-agnostic development, is set to make its official debut at MINExpo 2021 on September 13-15 in Las Vegas, USA.