Tag Archives: USA

Piedmont looks at IPCC, Metso Outotec alkaline pressure leach for lithium project

Piedmont Lithium’s plan to build out an integrated lithium hydroxide business from a base in North Carolina, USA, has advanced with the release of a scoping study that, it says, confirms that Carolina Lithium will be one of the world’s largest and lowest-cost producers of lithium hydroxide with a “superior” sustainability footprint.

Piedmont Carolina Lithium contemplates a single, integrated site, comprising quarrying, spodumene concentration, by-products processing, and spodumene conversion to lithium hydroxide at its site in Gaston County. There are currently no such integrated sites operating anywhere in the world, with the company saying the economic and environmental advantages of this strategy are compelling.

The latest study outlined a production target of around 4.96 Mt of 6% Li2O spodumene concentrate (SC6), averaging approximately 248,000 t/y of SC6 over the 20-year mine life. This equates to an average of 1.95 Mt/y of ore processed, totalling some 37.4 Mt of run-of-mine ore at an average grade of 1.09% Li2O (undiluted) over the 20-year mine life.

Of the total production target of 4.96 Mt of SC6, some 1.19 Mt will be sold to third parties during the operational life and approximately 3.77 Mt will be supplied to Piedmont’s chemical plant operations for conversion into lithium hydroxide. This results in a total production target of about 582,000 t of lithium hydroxide, averaging approximately 29,095 t/y of lithium hydroxide over 20 years, the company said. The study also assumes production targets of 4.83 Mt of quartz concentrate, 7.51 Mt of feldspar concentrate, and 1.34 Mt of mica concentrate over the life of operations.

Piedmont envisages a total initial capital cost of $838.6 million for the project and an after-tax net present value (8% discount) of $1.92 billion.

While still very much preliminary, the flowsheet and mining process for this planned operation is of interest to any lithium developer looking for a ‘sustainable’ mining footprint.

The company currently envisages using a Metso Outotec alkaline pressure leach process as part of its plan. This will reduce emissions, eliminate sulphuric acid roasting and reduce solid waste, it said.

At the same time, in-pit crushing and conveyor systems are on the agenda, eliminating mining trucks in the study to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Piedmont has also been working with a solar developer to build and operate a solar farm on Piedmont property capable of producing electricity to supply up to 100% of Piedmont needs.

The company will also co-locate all operations on the same proposed site in Gaston County to minimise any transit and allow unused by-product streams to be repurposed for site redevelopment, it said. This adds up, Piedmont says, to highly efficient land and water use compared with South American lithium brine production.

Keith D Phillips, President and Chief Executive Officer of Piedmont, said: “We are exceedingly pleased with the results of our updated scoping study. The economics of our project continue to impress, but I am particularly proud of the project’s sustainability profile.

“As we move forward to complete a definitive feasibility study for Carolina Lithium later in 2021, Piedmont has engaged Evercore and JPMorgan as financial advisors to evaluate potential strategic partnering and financing options for its North Carolina project. Given the project’s unique position as the only American spodumene project, with world-class scale, economics, and sustainability, we expect strategic interest to be robust.

NioCorp working with Weir Minerals, NRRI on Elk Creek HPGR test work

NioCorp Developments Ltd is to initiate testing of Elk Creek project ore using high pressure grinding rolls (HPGR) technology from Weir Minerals.

HPGR technology is considered an energy efficient and low-emission alternative to conventional processing for reducing the size of the ore to enable the recovery of niobium, scandium, titanium, and potential rare earth products, NioCorp said.

The use of this technology in the project reinforces the company’s commitment to the environment and designing a sustainable operation, it added.

The testing is being conducted at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, in partnership with Weir Minerals. During the testing, which is expected to take several weeks, around 3 t of Elk Creek drill core will be reduced to the 1-mm size needed for hydrometallurgical test work.

Working with Weir Minerals, NRRI acquired an industrial-scale Enduron® HPGR to carry out testing on a variety of ores with this process back in 2020. This is the only large scale HPGR dedicated to research in the US, NRRI claims.

“The network is expected to provide key data that will be used to properly size the HPGR unit for the potential ore throughput at the Elk Creek project, once project financing is secured and the project is operational,” NioCorp said.

The company is currently evaluating the next steps in its overall metallurgical test work program, which will focus on optimising and streamlining the existing processing flowsheet as well as establishing process routes for the potential recovery of rare earth products. The rare earth products that are of most interest to the company are, at present, neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) oxide, terbium oxide and dysprosium oxide. As previously announced, the company has launched a review of the economic potential of expanding its currently planned product suite from the project to also include rare earth products.

An April 2019 feasibility study on Elk Creek, in Nebraska, USA, estimated average production of 7,220 t/y of ferroniobium, 95 t/y tpa of scandium trioxide and 11,642 t/y of titanium dioxide over the 36-year mine life.

Scott Honan, NioCorp COO, said: “After witnessing testing at NRRI, I was impressed with how the HPGR was able to handle the Elk Creek ore quickly and efficiently, with minimal noise and dust.

“We look forward to completing this phase of the test work and moving on to look at further improvements to the existing flowsheet, including our new emphasis around the rare earths.”

Rio Tinto investigates Heliogen’s AI-backed solar technology to decarbonise Boron ops

Rio Tinto and renewable energy technology company, Heliogen, have announced an agreement to explore the deployment of Heliogen’s solar technology at Rio Tinto’s borates mine in Boron, California.

Under a memorandum of understanding, Heliogen will deploy its proprietary, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology at the Boron operation, where it will use heat from the sun to generate and store carbon-free energy to power the mine’s industrial processes.

The two companies will begin detailed planning and securing government permits for the project, with the aim of starting operations from 2022. They will also use the Boron installation to begin exploring the potential for deployments of Heliogen’s technology at Rio Tinto’s other operations around the world to supply process heat, which accounted for 14% of Scope 1 & 2 emissions from the group’s managed operations in 2020.

Heliogen’s high-temperature solar technology is designed to cost-effectively replace fossil fuels with sunlight for a range of industrial processes, including those used in mining. At Rio Tinto’s Boron mine, the company’s proprietary technology will use AI to control a network of mirrors that concentrate sunlight to capture energy used to make steam, the companies said. Heliogen’s system will also store the captured energy in the form of heat, allowing it to power night-time operations and provide the same uninterrupted energy stream offered by legacy fuels.

The Boron operation mines and refines borates into products ranging from fertilisers to construction materials and is producing lithium carbonate from a demonstration plant. The site currently generates steam using a natural gas co-generation plant and natural gas fired boilers. Heliogen’s installation will supplement these energy sources by generating up to 35,000 pounds per hour (15.9 t/h) of steam to power operations, with the potential to reduce carbon emissions at the Boron site by around 7% – equivalent to taking more than 5,000 cars off the road. Rio Tinto will also be assessing the potential for larger scale use of the Heliogen technology at Boron to reduce the site’s carbon footprint by up to 24%.

Heliogen’s mission of slashing global carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuels with sunlight, as well as its focus on industrial sectors, made it an ideal partner for Rio Tinto, which is committed to decarbonising its global operations, it said.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive, Jakob Stausholm, said: “This partnership with Heliogen has the potential to significantly reduce our emissions at Boron by using this ground-breaking solar technology, and we look forward to exploring opportunities across our global portfolio.

“Addressing climate change effectively will require businesses, governments and society to work together through partnerships like this one, to explore innovative new solutions throughout the entire value chain. Our work with Heliogen is part of Rio Tinto’s commitment to spend approximately $1 billion on emissions reduction initiatives through to 2025 and our commitment to work with world-leading technology providers to achieve this goal.”

Heliogen CEO and Founder, Bill Gross, said: “Since its founding, Heliogen has been laser-focused on decarbonising industrial sectors, including mining. As a result, this agreement with Rio Tinto is incredibly gratifying.

“We’re pleased to find a partner committed to cutting its contributions to climate change. We’re also pleased that Rio Tinto is exploring our technology to play an important role in helping reach its sustainability goals while dramatically reducing its energy costs. More broadly, we’re excited to take this important step as we pursue Heliogen’s goal of avoiding more than 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions – 5% of the world’s annual total – from the global economy by turning sunlight into an industrial energy source.”

Sandvik on the growth path with Artisan as mine electrification takes hold

Sandvik’s Artisan business unit is continuing to ride the battery-electric vehicle wave in mining, having just moved premises in California, USA, to expand its production and testing capabilities.

Based in Camarillo, Artisan has been on a steep growth trajectory since it was established just over a decade ago. Having initially manufactured machines for several OEMs in the mining sector, the company was acquired by Sandvik in 2019. It had revenues of $12.3 million and approximately 60 employees back in 2017.

Both of these numbers have accelerated in line with increased take-up – and an expansion – of its battery-electric solutions for mining since it became a business unit of Sandvik.

Artisan’s 4-t (A4) and 10-t (A10) battery-electric underground loaders have found their way into mines in Canada and the US, while its 50-t Z50 haul truck has found a home in mines in Canada, the US and Australia. One of the bigger deployments has been at the Barrick Gold majority-owned Turquoise Ridge underground mine in Nevada, USA.

More recently, the portfolio was broadened with an 18 t LHD called the LH518B. This machine is the first true collaborative design effort between Sandvik and Artisan, marrying Sandvik’s underground mining engineering expertise with the Artisan™ battery system and electric driveline to “best leverage the possibilities that the battery technology brings”, the companies say.

This machine’s first deployment will be at a gold mine in British Columbia, Canada, but Artisan has also booked several orders for it in Australia, one of these being for Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville gold mine, in Victoria.

With a range of new battery-powered equipment in the pipeline, Artisan has moved into a larger facility in California that will help it build these new vehicles from the ground up.

“We’re definitely growing in Camarillo,” Artisan’s Vice President of Technology, Brian Huff, told IM recently. “The move to a larger facility comes at the same time we are ramping up a lot of hiring in terms of engineering and manufacturing personnel.”

Artisan’s new facility comes with a test ramp with a 20% grade and a whole area for mucking on the property (pictured above).

“This will allow us to do a lot more development testing in a short period of time, giving us an advantage in terms of validation testing and trials of new designs and tools,” Huff said.

The potential for speeding up Artisan’s time to market will be increasingly important as more mines replenish fleets with battery-electric equipment.

As COVID-19-related restrictions ease, expect the new testing facility – and the manufacturing plant – to be regularly frequented by mining companies eyeing these new solutions.

Perenti plants roots in USA on North America contract mining potential

Perenti Group has targeted the North America market for further contract mining growth, establishing a US office in the first half of its 2021 financial year.

The office, thought to be in Denver, Colorado, will help the company make the most of the substantial pipeline it has identified in North America.

The news came during the company’s first half results to the end of December 2020, which showed off revenue of A$1.01 billion ($799 million) and EBITDA of A$201 million.

Noting strong growth in its underground business and a contraction in its Africa surface business (most of which is tied to its AMS subsidiary), the company said it had won A$1.1 billion of new work and extensions since July 1, 2020, while its orderbook was around A$5.5 billion and its pipeline was circa-A$9.2 billion.

Within this global pipeline, A$2.1 billion was in the North America region, Perenti said. This was made up of 14 projects, three of which were at the tendering stage. Overall, 14% of the pipeline was from the US and 9% was in Canada.

The company, through its Barminco subsidiary, won its first “significant” North America contract last year when it signed on to an underground contract mining agreement at Barrick Gold’s Hemlo mine in Ontario, Canada (pictured).

In other news, the company said increased demand for its MinAnalytical mineral sample processing had been registered in the six months to the end of December, with record PhotonAssay processing recorded in December 2020.

The company also said it was “progressing alternative service offerings” during 2021.

Taseko Mines starts commercial construction move at Florence ISR copper project

Taseko Mines, having just completed a $400 million bond refinancing and fundraising program, is moving forward with developing a commercial operation at its Florence in-situ recovery (ISR) copper project in Arizona, USA.

Capital requirements for the commercial production facility at Florence, which followed an ISR pilot project, are estimated at $230 million.

Pending final regulatory approvals and financing, Taseko has previously stated it could start construction of the commercial operation this year, with first production in late 2022.

Stuart McDonald, President of Taseko, said: “With the majority of the required funding for our Florence Copper project now in hand, we are moving forward with final design engineering of the commercial production facility as well as procurement of certain critical components.”

McDonald said the company is continuing to advance discussions with potential joint venture partners at Florence, but its strong cash balance and improved Gibraltar mine cash flows from copper prices currently over $3.70/Ib ($8,159/t) means it has “numerous options available” to obtain the remaining funding.

Russell Hallbauer, CEO of Taseko, added on Florence: “Florence is one of the least capital-intensive copper production facilities in the world and, when fully ramped up, will produce 40,000 t of high-quality cathode copper annually for the US domestic market.

“It is a green project, with carbon emissions and water and energy consumption all dramatically lower than a conventional mine, and, with C1 operating costs of $0.90/Ib of copper, it will also be in the lowest quartile of the global cost curve.”

Matrix to construct first phase of American Pacific Borates’ Fort Cady mine

American Pacific Borates Ltd has appointed Matrix Service Company to complete the construction of Phase 1A of the Fort Cady borate mine, in USA.

Matrix, as the prime contractor, has already begun integration with the company’s Fort Cady borate mine office and engineering consultants to ensure completion of the initial borate operation in the September quarter of 2021.

American Pacific Borates CEO and Managing Director, Mike Schlumpberger, said: “We are delighted with the appointment of Matrix to complete the construction of Phase 1A of our Fort Cady Borate Mine. Matrix is a leading North American industrial engineering and constructor contractor headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Matrix’s core values of safety and community involvement align perfectly with American Pacific’s core values and intention to ensure the mine is delivered safely and with positive community involvement. This is another important step in the fulfilment of our aspiration to become a globally significant producer of borates and specialty fertilisers.”

The company says its current intention is to retain Matrix for the balance of the three production phases of the Fort Cady borate mine.

The enhanced DFS for Fort Cady, released in April 2020, outlined sulphate of potash production (in full production) of 363,000 t/y and boric acid production of 408,000 t/y. Phase One A production is scheduled to be 8,200 t/y of boric acid, alongside 36,287 t/y of sulphate of potash.

MBU Capital acquires Ben’s Creek Carbon mine

MBU Capital says it has completed the aquisition of the Ben’s Creek Carbon mine, in West Virginia, USA, and has plans to extract the estimated 22 Mt of metallurgical coal reserves through highwall mining.

Set over approximately 4,047 ha in Wharncliffe, West Virginia, the mine is serviced by an 8-km dedicated railway loadout, which gives the mine direct access to the Norfolk Southern Railway network. The mine has a long history of supplying Hi-Vol B+ metallurgical coal to US and international customers, MBU Capital says. In addition, Eagle and Lower War Eagle seams produce a Hi-Vol A+ seam with a reflectance of 0.8-0.9.

“Government expenditure in large-scale national infrastructure projects, combined with growth in the construction and the automotive sectors, has spurred the high strength steel market, which is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% between 2020-2027 globally,” MBU Capital said. “This, in turn, has created opportunities for asset-backed investments in metallurgical coal mining and steel production, a core pillar of MBU Capital’s investment strategy.”

Adam Wilson, Head of Natural Resources at MBU Capital, said: “We forecast strong demand for high strength steel over the coming decade, and this acquisition will significantly add to MBU Capital’s portfolio of precious metals and compound materials.”

Once Ben’s Creek Carbon becomes fully operational in July 2021, MBU Capital anticipates the acquisition will directly create and sustain jobs and will also contribute to the economic development of the region in other meaningful ways.

Metso Outotec to supply SAG mill to Jervois Mining’s ICO operations

Jervois Mining has appointed Metso Outotec to undertake engineering and fabrication of a SAG mill for its Idaho Cobalt Operations (ICO) in Idaho, USA, which remains on track for first production from mid-2022.

Jervois awarded a contract for the design, fabrication and delivery of a 4.7-m-diameter and 2.5-m-long 750 kW SAG mill. The mill design will comfortably accommodate the nameplate 1,200 short tons/d (1,089 t/d) of ore Jervois applied in its recent ICO bankable feasibility study, the company said, adding that the mill will be delivered to site prior to end of 2021.

As part of the order, Metso Outotec will provide mill layout drawings to Jervois’s appointed engineering firm at ICO, M3 Engineering, so final site layout for upcoming site construction reactivation can be detailed and awarded in the June quarter of this year.

Jervois says it is working through a detailed design phase of ICO and will continue to award long-lead item packages in the coming weeks to schedule delivery to site of all major equipment by the end of 2021. This will enable it to meet construction schedule requirements and targeted commercial commissioning of mid-2022.

SNC-Lavalin to manage construction of Coeur’s Rochester silver-gold mine expansion

SNC-Lavalin has been awarded a $30 million contract by Coeur Rochester Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Coeur Mining, to provide construction management services for the Plan of Operations, Amendment Number 11 (POA 11) expansion project, at Coeur’s Rochester mine near Lovelock, Nevada, USA.

The contract commenced in the December quarter and is estimated to be completed by the end of 2022. This win is aligned with SNC-Lavalin’s new strategy moving forward in the Services segment, it said.

The POA 11 expansion project includes the construction of a new crushing plant, including a primary, secondary and tertiary crushing circuit (high pressure grinding rolls), a new heap leach pad (272 Mt), a new Merrill-Crowe process plant (62,509 litres/min), and upgrades to existing electrical utility system infrastructure, including a new substation and power distribution lines.

Coeur says this will more than double planned annual crusher throughput capacity from around 12.7 Mt to over 25.4 Mt, post-expansion. This will see average annual silver and gold production total over 8 Moz and some 80,000 oz, respectively, for the initial 10 years, post-expansion

SNC-Lavalin said: “This mandate is well aligned with our expertise in silver, gold and base metal project delivery as well as our commitment to delivering real value to our clients.”

SNC-Lavalin’s offices in Reno, Nevada, and Toronto, Ontario, will continue to support the construction management phase of the project. In addition, a team based locally at the site will manage construction-related activities.

César Inostroza, Senior Vice-President, Mining & Metallurgy, SNC-Lavalin, said: “SNC-Lavalin’s Mining & Metallurgy strategic plan is gaining traction with this mandate. It is an example of the mining services work that our team is winning across our core geographies, including the USA. SNC-Lavalin and Coeur continue to foster a strong relationship that finds and executes services solutions to create world-class operations

“This award is a testament to the continued partnership between SNC-Lavalin and Coeur. It leverages our knowledge of the Rochester mine and engineering expertise from the previous phase of this project and expands our work in the US.”

Terrence FD Smith, Coeur’s Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer, added: “The strong business partnership between Coeur and SNC-Lavalin will help ensure a robust project delivery for Rochester, paving the way for improved performance in the future.”

Since approval of the initial Plan of Operation in 1986, the Rochester mine has undergone periodic mine plan amendments to support development projects and continued operations. The POA 11 proposes another mine life extension, which is expected to maintain the current workforce and support full production activities at Rochester until 2033.