Tag Archives: Ukraine

Ukraine iron ore miner cuts electricity consumption, process water use with DELKOR thickeners

As part of its modernisation drive, a mining and processing plant recently installed 3 x 62 m diameter DELKOR high-rate thickeners with a view to reducing electricity consumption by one and a half times for the pumping of tails, as well as rationalising the use of process water.

The project concerns the design, engineering and supply of three DELKOR 62 m high-rate thickeners for the dewatering of iron ore tailings as part of the processing plant’s modernised slurry thickening complex.

This modern complex, of which construction was completed in 2020, has now done away with outdated slurry pump stations, adopting, instead, the efficient process of thickening, hydraulic transport and storage of slurries.

Employing DELKOR’s latest generation feedwell design that comes with improved flocculation together with improved flocculant and slurry kinetics, these elevated thickeners boast large feedwells, which rank as some of the largest ever built, DELKOR says.

Ramesh Mahadevan, Regional Managing Director – DELKOR, had this to say upon successful commissioning of the thickeners: “This project is a very important reference for us in Ukraine. Given current global conditions, working with a new end user is a noteworthy achievement and one for which our entire DELKOR team must be commended.”

TAKRAF, the owner of DELKOR, meanwhile, says there has been strong demand for DELKOR technology in Latin America, noting a recent order for TAKRAF Peru for the supply of 2 x 38 m paste tailings thickeners with a capacity of 455-623 t/h.

The order, placed by a Peruvian entity processing tailings from a nearby iron ore mine, forms part of an expansion to develop a second plant. This will enable the entity to handle more tailings from the mine, according to TAKRAF.

Design requirements for the thickeners include accommodating the process demands for a paste application with a target of 65% +/- 3% solids content for the underflow. This required an equipment configuration that allowed it to operate under an expected yield stress of 200 Pa in the underflow material, the company noted.

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.”

Austin truck bodies, buckets on their way to Egypt, Ukraine, Argentina and Dominican Republic

Austin Engineering’s growth initiative to expand the company’s presence into new markets appears to be working, with the company having recently won contracts to deliver products to Africa (Egypt), Eastern Europe (Ukraine), and South and Central America (Argentina and the Dominican Republic).

This is the first time in the company’s history that product has been supplied to these countries, it said.

The total value of orders, consisting of truck bodies and buckets, received is in excess of A$6 million ($4.3 million) and is anticipated to provide a springboard for further sales into these markets, the company said. The majority of the orders received by value have been provided from subsidiary companies of large global miners, it noted.

The order received in Egypt was made possible by the Austin ETT joint venture partnership entered into earlier this year. Prior to this partnership, Austin would not have been in the running for this opportunity, further cementing the value in collaborating with the right strategic partners in territories that Austin does not currently have a physical presence, the company said.

In line with this strategy, Austin Engineering has also recently signed a contract with a representative in South America to work with potential clients in Brazil and is in the process of finalising a representative to support Austin in Eastern Europe.

“Both of these markets have a large field population of mining trucks and shovels and could be important markets for Austin in the medium term,” the company said.

Austin Engineering Managing Director, Peter Forsyth, said: “These new territories are important to Austin’s growth aspirations, as there are a number of mining regions around the world that are still largely operating with standard OEM products for truck bodies and excavator buckets. Adoption of Austin’s innovative replacement products in these regions would enhance production metrics significantly.

“Partnerships are proving key to our success in entering these new regions and allow us to leverage our experience with our partners’ commercial contacts to achieve great outcomes for Austin, our clients and our partners.”

UMCC banks Mineral Technologies’ MD Spiral Separators at Irshansk

United Mining and Chemical Company (UMCC), in Ukraine, has recently commissioned eight banks of Mineral Technologies’ MD Spiral Separators (models MG6.3 and HG10i) as part of the refurbishment of its Irshansk mineral sands operation, the Australia-based company reports.

Business Development Manager, Dale Henderson, said Mineral Technologies had worked with UMCC for several years and during this time had developed a solid understanding of the unique requirements of the Ukrainian site.

“We were delighted to welcome UMCC leaders to our head office earlier this year to inspect our spiral production facilities and discuss future plans for the mine site,” he said.

As a follow-up to delivery of the spirals, Henderson and Craig Vadeikis, Principal Process Consultant, visited the Irshansk site in September this year to review the equipment installation and commissioning.

General Manager, Metallurgy, Equipment and Technology, Alex de Andrade, said that by developing a deep understanding of customer operations and process objectives Mineral Technologies is well placed to identify the best process, equipment selection and key know-how to assist project success.

de Andrade said: “We congratulate UMCC on achieving final commissioning for their new mineral sands plant. It has been a pleasure working with UMCC throughout this process and we look forward to assisting in future operations.”

Ferrexpo brings autonomous drilling to Yeristovo iron ore operation

Ferrexpo says it has started using autonomous drilling as part of a push to increase mining and production efficiencies at its FYM iron ore operation in Ukraine.

Among $32 million of investment at the Ferrexpo Yeristovo Mining (FYM) operation in 2018 was a project to commence drill automation, the company confirmed in its delayed 2018 results today.

This investment is part of the company’s plan to hit its medium-term production target of 12 Mt/y, up from 10.6 Mt produced in 2018. Ferrexpo’s longer-term intention is to move to annual output of 20 Mt/y.

Outside of the automation development, Ferrexpo said: “The group has several projects under way which contribute to cost savings, efficiency improvements and enhanced health and safety standards.”

These include efficiency gains in shovel and dragline dig rates as well as a transition to 100% liquid emulsion blasting media. On the latter, the company said: “The transition to emulsion blasting media has resulted in increased rock fragmentation. This has improved excavator and shovel dig rates and reduces equipment wear and tear. It also yields power savings and reduced maintenance costs in the crushing plant.

“Other efficiency projects include the use of automatic pit drills, drones for surveys of the pit area and the commencement of the creation of a centralised mining control hub for all mining operations.”

The centralisation effort follows the consolidation of FPM and FYM’s maintenance centre for mobile equipment, Ferrexpo said.

Metso and Ferrexpo Poltava Mining’s iron ore pellet evolution

Ferrexpo’s Poltava Mining subsidiary has been on a journey to both stimulate demand for iron ore pellets and increase the Fe content of its product. The crushing and flotation technology of Metso has played a key role in this evolution, according to Alexey Strikha*.

In 1960, the exploration of Kremenchug magnetic anomaly started on the left bank of the Dnieper River, Ukraine. At that time, the foundation of the future Poltava Mining refinery was laid, and, 10 years later, the plant produced its first batch of concentrate.

There were several phases of plant construction: in 1980, after launching the pelletising plant, the company presented a new type of product to the market – iron ore pellets. To stimulate the demand for this product, the company needed to improve the product’s quality, ie increase the iron content in the concentrate.

Keeping this in mind, the company’s managers decided to upgrade the ore pre-treatment operations: reduce the fragmentation size to cut the costs of further ore degradation. Due to space constraints at the crushing plant, the company was in need of new equipment with the exact dimensions of the current foundation structures. At that time, Svedala (acquired by Metso in 2001) engineers suggested testing the Barmac vertical shaft impact crusher.

“The conventional crusher-based closed cycle of check screening was not an option for us, so we were offered inertial crushers for coarse lumps. And this proved to be a good technical solution,” said Vladimir Khovanets, Chief Concentrating Engineer at Poltava Mining.

Alexander Lysenko, Poltava Mining’s Chief Technical Officer said: “Metso always does lots of research and testing to offer us an integrated solution, i.e. technology that gives us exactly what we want.”

After the pilot testing, the middle and small fraction crusher lines were upgraded with Barmac crushers. That project was a success, so both companies decided to expand further joint activities: two double-drum separators were installed instead of eight locally manufactured triple-drum separators with no loss in productivity.

Flotation technology

These earlier projects to upgrade the crushing and magnetic concentration processes laid the foundation for further improvement in the concentrate quality.

Lysenko said: “It’s common knowledge that our ore is quite lean, and the market was in demand of high-quality iron ore pellets containing 62-65% Fe.”

Two methods are used for concentration of lean ores: magnetic and flotation concentration. During the engineering study of these methods, Metso installed a pilot plant with laboratory mills, flotation cells, magnetic separators and hydrocyclones.

Igor Grebeniuk, Regional Sales Manager at Metso, said: “The pilot results proved that 67-68% Fe content in the pellets manufactured from Poltava Mining ores was quite possible after the flotation upgrading.”

In 2002, the company launched Flotation Plant 1 equipped with Metso RCS130. It was the first project in the former Soviet Union to use flotation upgrading in the ferrous industry. Keeping this in mind, the engineers at Poltava Mining ran a detailed preliminary analysis of the new technology, studying the cases of Metso equipment supplied to the concentration plants in the USA and Canada.

Lysenko said: “Metso explained all the benefits and the hidden risks. And we saw that the technology works. It’s friendly to the environment and commercially feasible.”

Reducing grain size

Commissioning of the new flotation plant entailed the modification of the crushing lines, since super-fine grain is required for efficient magnetic upgrading of concentrate.

Khovanets recalled: “While working with Flotation Plant 1, we gained the insight that Flotation Plants 2 and 3 need to be constructed for the strategic development of the company. And conventional drum mills were not so good for that process.”

Lysenko said: “Thanks to flotation, we were able to increase the yield of iron from quite lean ores, but we couldn’t get enough homogeneous product using the conventional crushing line.”

Metso engineers suggested Vertimill for high-quality and fine milling of the product. In coordination with Ferrexpo engineers, a concentration line with vertical mills for all flotation cells was developed.

Khovanets said: “After magnetic concentration, we get about 85-89% of below 44 microns grade. Vertimill machines help to bring up the fineness of grinding, ie up to 90% of ground materials are minus 33 microns.

“Vertimill machines offer a new design. A conventional drum mill operates in the horizontal position, while Vertimill is installed vertically. The space needed of such equipment is much smaller, and it provides proper crushing grade.”

Boosting pellet iron content

Two additional flotation cells were commissioned in 2014. These additional cells gave a step change in the concentration technology. Today, ore from different fields is processed separately at Flotation Plants 1 and 2, while Flotation Plant 3 is used for iron recovery from froth.

Lysenko said: “Before commissioning the plant, we produced pellets with 62% Fe content. Due to flotation upgrading we now have 67% concentrate, and this brings the product’s quality to a new level. I mean pellets with 65% Fe content.”

Introduction of the new iron ore concentration technologies entails upgrading the next downstream process, namely filtration. After the equipment upgrade, it will be possible to reach the maximum dehumidification of concentrate to gain additional quality.

Grebeniuk said about the current projects: “But we go the extra mile. To increase production, we’re now constructing two additional plants, a crushing plant and filtration plant.”

A tough market requires high-grade product rich in iron and with minimum impurities. After the process upgrade, Poltava Mining was able to improve the pellet quality, which also means more investments in the infrastructure of its hometown.

Ruslan Klimenko, Chief Communication Officer of Poltava Mining, said: “We want to offer benefits to as many people in the city as possible.”

*This story was written by Alexey Strikha, one of Metso’s Regional Directors