Tag Archives: Vale

TOMRA on achieving mining’s ‘circular economy’

TOMRA, a global leader in sensor-based technologies, says it understands that technology alone is not enough to create a closed-loop circular economy, with public policy, consumer engagement and collaboration across the value chain are necessary too.

Making the shift from “linear to circular” to build thriving economies requires radically lessening the environmental impact of extracting raw materials, reducing the use of primary resources, designing waste-free products, harnessing materials to keep them in use and implementing technologies to ensure the system is regenerative.

ReSociety

TOMRA says it is well positioned to contribute to the transition to a circular economy by collaborating with key players across the value chain to develop new methods, processes, technologies and business models.

To this end, it has created ReSociety, a global collaborative initiative to re-think, re-act and re-start our world for a more sustainable future.

“It is a place for industry, policy makers, companies and consumers to share ideas, increase awareness, collaborate with solution enablers and drive impactful change,” the company says. “It is also a hub in which TOMRA proactively shares its vast research and multi-national studies on holistic waste management systems, which have been indispensable in developing the circular value chains.”

Dr Volker Rehrmann, Head of Circular Economy, TOMRA, says: “Our commitment to the circular economy is unequivocal. Until recently, it was unheard of having players from the entire value chain at one table. From chemical companies to converters, retailers and brand owners, waste management companies and recyclers – there’s true dedication in finding solutions. We take pride in doing our part: sharing our know-how, developing new solutions and striving to make our planet more sustainable every day.”

Dr Volker Rehrmann, Head of Circular Economy, TOMRA

Dr Rehrmann says the company is aiming to build on the experience it developed in recycling and collaborate with the mining industry to reduce the environmental impact of its operations.

“This means finding green mining solutions that use less energy and water to recover resources – with a consequent reduction in CO2 emissions – and ways to turn waste into value,” he says.

“With the recycling sector, we are working on reducing the mountains of plastic waste; we want to do the same in mining and address the dumps and tailings building up in mines.”

Advanced mining tech with a small environmental footprint

As the world addresses the environmental challenges of our time, the mining industry has an important contribution to make. Mining companies need to find ways to maximise the efficiency of their operations to cut back on the use of water and other resources, while reducing waste and the total impact on the environment as much as possible. Amongst other challenges, they need to effectively address the storage and handling of tailings which pose a potential physical and chemical environmental risk.

TOMRA’s advanced sensor-based sorting technologies can not only significantly reduce the environmental impact of mining operations and, at completion, fully rehabilitate the site. They also enable a much more efficient use of resources. These solutions bring the dual benefits of greater sustainability and better profitability for the mining company.

TOMRA’s sensor-based sorting technology has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of energy and water used compared with traditional methods like DMS (Dense Media Separation), while maximising the efficiency and recovery of valuable ores. An extensive study conducted by Alchemy Process Plants (AlcPro) comparing these processing methods concluded that TOMRA’s solution also brings multiple cost benefits.

AlcPro’s Erik Bruggink explains: “Although capital costs of the separation circuits are similar, with DMS, the additional cost of handling the resultant water from the circuit needs to be taken into consideration together with the associated water use licensing and tailings facilities. In addition, TOMRA’s sensor-based sorting technology requires no reagents, and maintenance costs are limited to the sorting unit and the associated conveyors, screens and chutes.”

Water consumption is a key consideration when assessing the environmental impact of a mine, as it can severely affect local supply. Water management strategies are integral to reducing the mine’s usage and ensure future water security for the communities in the mine’s surrounding areas. The Water Research Commission in South Africa commissioned a project to compile a compendium of best practices and technological innovations in the mining industry with regards to Water Conservation and Water Demand Management, with the study identifying TOMRA’s X-Ray Transmission (XRT) sorting technology as a solution that would lead to substantial improvements in water use efficiency.

José Guilherme Valadares, Project Coordinator of Exploration and Mineral Projects at Vale, says: “By reducing the mine’s water usage and fine-grained wastes, TOMRA’s sensor-based sorting technologies also contribute to improving the issue of wet tailings management and, with that, mitigate the risks associated with tailings dams.”

Vale is now investigating the implementation of sensor-based sorting in several mines and processes in Brazil, TOMRA says

Turning waste into value

TOMRA’s sensor-based sorting technology can contribute to circular economy practices at the mine and processing plant, turning marginal waste into value with a positive impact on both the sustainability and profitability of the operation. This is the case at Wolfram’s tungsten mine in Mittersill, Austria, where TOMRA has installed two COM Tertiary XRT sorters.

Alexander Mosser, Manager Ore Dressing Plant, explains: “The sorting system in the scheelite processing in Mittersill sorts out waste material with a size range of 16-60 mm. This eliminates the grinding and flotation that would otherwise be required for this material. This results in the following savings for the coarse waste material compared to grinding and flotation: 75% lower power consumption and no water and no flotation reagents are required. Another resource conservation: the separated waste is a saleable product to the local construction industry. The sewage ponds are relieved and the impact on nature through local gravel pits is reduced. The sorting system thus not only reduces the footprint of the mine but also of the surrounding gravel pits.”

Sustainability as a facilitator

The proven environmental benefits of TOMRA’s sensor-based sorting solutions bring mining operations additional advantages. They can facilitate obtaining the licences needed to start a mining project by proving the efficient use of water and energy, the significantly reduced amount of waste materials, chemicals/reagents, and lower environmental risks such as tailings dam collapse.

Rare earths mining company Cheetah Resources has obtained a loan from the Canadian Federal Government to purchase a TOMRA sorter for its Nechalacho Demonstration Project in Yellowknife, Canada, on the strength of the sustainable performance of its XRT technology, TOMRA says.

(Left to right) Jeremy Catholique, Mathew Edler and Clarance Pikes from the Nechalacho Demonstration Project team in Yellowknife

The sorting solution will significantly reduce the amount of water and fuel used and eliminate chemicals and tailings from the mining process. Leftover waste rock can be stockpiled for future use or used on infrastructure projects, such as road construction. The aim of the project is to create a low-impact facility for the production of rare earth minerals used in green technologies, which will generate employment and economic benefits in the region.

“We anticipate that, with this project, we will demonstrate the economic feasibility as well as the technical and environmental advantages of sensor-based sorting of rare earths to produce a value-added mixed rare earth concentrate in the Northwest Territories,” David Connelly, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Strategy at Cheetah Resources, says.

The path to a more sustainable future starts today

Overcoming environmental pollution by enabling the transition to a circular economy is one of the central challenges of the 21st century. Mining has a key role to play as the supplier of the raw materials, but a holistic approach is necessary. Beyond efficient operation and waste management in extracting the primary resources, it is necessary to curtail excessive consumption and ensure products are designed to be reused, and, once at the end of life, easily recycled. Such a holistic approach also includes raising global awareness within the industries and with consumers.

Dr Mathilde Robben, Key Account Manager at TOMRA Sorting Mining, explains: “The raw materials supplied by mining are vital for our modern way of living and are critical for the energy transition technologies. With mining as the entry point for these necessary materials, the circle will never be closed completely. However, this should be seen as an opportunity for the mining industry to re-think the way it fulfils this essential role with minimal impact on the environment, and for sectors downstream to shift focus from the core business to the chain around it, without losing sight of profitability. Re-using can be prioritised by the use of certain metals that are infinitely recyclable and whose inherent durability and anti-corrosive properties contribute to the longevity of the products they are used in.”

Komatsu’s MC51 hard-rock cutting tech up and running at Vale’s Garson mine

Vale and Komatsu’s mechanical rock excavation (MRE) collaboration has moved into another gear, with the Komatsu MC51 machine featuring DynaCut mechanical cutting technology now operating underground at Vale’s Garson nickel mine in Sudbury, Canada, Vale’s Dino Otranto confirmed at MINExpo 2021, in Las Vegas, today.

Speaking at the ‘Creating value together: Special one-time presentation with Vale’ event on Monday, Otranto, Chief Operating Officer of North Atlantic Operations and Asian Refineries for Vale, said the machine was in operation, 2.5 km underground at Garson after recently being assembled.

The machine is scheduled to carry out a 1,400 m initial test run at the mine, according to Komatsu, with the exercise seen as a way to bring the technology to market quicker for Vale and other customers, Rudie Boshoff, Director of Hard Rock Cutting systems at Komatsu, said during the presentation.

Andy Charsley, a Principal Mining Engineer at Vale, says this trial is the largest hard-rock cutting trial Vale has ever committed to.

Through more than 10 years of research and development, Komatsu says it has determined how to break rock continuously and precisely through a fully electric system that outputs zero emissions. By automating and controlling processes so the machine can be operated remotely via line of site, Komatsu customers have the opportunity to move their operators further from the cutting face and from harm’s way leveraging DynaCut technology and the MC51 machine. DynaCut technology, which has previously been tested at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia underground mine in Australia, is billed as offering cutting accuracy of within 50 mm to plan.

Otranto says the partnership with Komatsu is the first step to “really prove and understand the technology, while meeting our high standards for safety”.

Last year, Charsley and colleague Luke Mahoney spoke to IM about this partnership, which is part of the mechanical cutting demonstration within the CMIC (Canada Mining Innovation Council) Continuous Underground Mining project.

Vale said back then that the trial planned to demonstrate the ability to cut rock in excess of 250 MPa; cut at a commercial rate of more than 3.5 m/shift; quantify the cost per metre of operation and start to look at the potential comparison with conventional drill and blast development; assess the health, safety and environmental suitability of the MRE process; and gain insight into the potential of an optimised MRE process.

Charsley says the integration of the MC51 with bolters, trucks, scoops and other equipment at the operating mine will be included within the company’s assessment of the technology.

Since announcing this collaboration, the South Australian Government has awarded a A$2 million grant to Hillgrove Resources to trial the new underground mining technology being progressed by Komatsu.

Komatsu and Vale’s DynaCut Garson collaboration to be highlighted at MINExpo

Komatsu and Vale are set to reveal more about their underground hard-rock mechanised cutting technology collaboration at the upcoming MINExpo 2021 event next month.

The companies, through the Canada Mining Innovation Council, have been engaged on a project to advance the future of underground hard rock excavation through optimising use of Komatsu’s DynaCut mechanical cutting technology.

The technology was previously tested at the Cadia underground mine in New South Wales, Australia, operated by Newcrest Mining, which IM revealed last year as part of an exclusive interview with Vale’s Luke Mahony, Head of Geology, Mine Engineering, Geotechnical and Technology & Innovation for the Global Base Metals Business; and Andy Charsley, Project Lead and Principal Mining Engineer, Technology & Innovation.

Vale and Komatsu will start trialling DynaCut’s capabilities on Komatsu’s new MC51 machine at Vale’s Garson Mine in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, shortly, working together to increase the pace at which the innovative technology will be available to the larger market.

The machine is set up at Garson and expected to start cutting in the next month, IM understands.

“True innovation requires effective collaboration between the end user and suppliers to ensure the technology meets the needs of the industry,” Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer of North Atlantic Operations and Asian Refineries for Vale, said. “This partnership is that first step to really prove and understand the technology, while meeting our high standards for safety.”

Through more than 10 years of research and development, Komatsu says it has determined how to break rock continuously and precisely through a fully-electric system that outputs zero emissions. By automating and controlling processes so the machine can be operated remotely via line of site, Komatsu customers can move their operators further from the cutting face and from harm’s way leveraging DynaCut technology and the MC51 machine, it said.

Rudie Boshoff, Director of Hard Rock Cutting Systems at Komatsu, said: “We’re excited to be trialling this new machine and technology because it offers the potential to really change the way our customers mine. Not only does the DynaCut technology provide a very controllable way of cutting rock – within 50 mm accuracy to plan – the machine itself, the MC51, is designed to advance more sustainable mining methods by reducing the amount of equipment required to get to the orebody.”

Komatsu and Vale will be co-presenting about their partnership to drive innovation on September 13, 2021, on stage at the Komatsu booth in Las Vegas.

Just this week, Hillgrove Resources said it was set to trial the DynaCut technology on an MC51 machine to develop a portal and underground decline at the Kanmantoo mine in South Australia following a A$2 million grant from the South Australia Government.

Macmahon books A$600m of work with Newcrest, AngloGold and Vale

Macmahon Holdings has bolstered its order book with a number of contract extensions involving the Tropicana and Telfer gold operations, in Western Australia, and the Hu’u copper-gold project, in Indonesia.

At the Tropicana mine, a joint venture between AngloGold Ashanti Australia Ltd (70% and operator) and Regis Resources Ltd (30%), Macmahon has been providing mining services since open-pit mining started in July 2012 under a life of mine alliance contract.

The additional work for Macmahon follows the completion of a detailed final cutback study of the Havana pit and subsequent confirmation of the optimal method to mine the deeper ore in the Havana ore body. Macmahon has now been provided with the scheduling detail for the cutback, which will add 155 Mt to the material to be mined from 2024.

The final cutback of Havana will extend the open-pit mine life by four years, from 2023 to 2027, and is expected to generate additional revenue of approximately A$470 million ($340 million), it said.

Macmahon has also extended its life of mine contract with Newcrest for the Telfer mine.

On August 12, Newcrest announced it will proceed with the West Dome Stage 5 cutback at Telfer. This new scope of work is expected to generate revenue of circa A$138 million and will extend Macmahon’s work on site to September 2024. This new work has been negotiated on updated rates, which are forecast to achieve the company’s internal financial hurdles, Macmahon explained.

In Indonesia, Macmahon has received a letter of award to construct an 11 km access road at the Hu’u copper gold exploration project on Sumbawa island. This work is valued at approximately A$18 million and is a further step in the company’s strategy to increase its revenue from mining support services.

Subject to finalisation of contract documentation, the project is forecast to commence in September 2021 and employ approximately 150 people. The Hu’u project is 80% controlled by Vale SA. Vale has previously said the project could produce more than 250,000 t of copper and more than 200,000 oz of gold.

Macmahon CEO and Managing Director, Michael Finnegan, said: “We are pleased to have secured this additional work which adds approximately A$600 million to our order book. A key highlight is the extension of our long-term alliance contract at Tropicana, which has been a cornerstone of our surface mining business in Western Australia for many years and has recently expanded into underground mining.”

Vale, Glencore, Newcrest and others join BluVein’s next gen trolley charging project

Seven major mining companies have financially backed BluVein and its “next generation trolley-charging technology” for heavy mining vehicles, with the industry collaboration project now moving forward with final system development and construction of a technology demonstration pilot site in Brisbane, Australia.

BluVein can now refer to Northern Star Resources, Newcrest Mining, Vale, Glencore, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and OZ Minerals as project partners.

Some additional mining companies still in the process of joining the BluVein project will be announced as they officially come on board, BluVein said, while four major mining vehicle manufacturers have signed agreements to support BluVein controls and hardware integration into their vehicles.

BluVein, a joint venture between EVIAS and Australia-based Olitek, is intent on laying the groundwork for multiple OEMs and mining companies to play in the mine electrification space without the need to employ battery swapping or acquire larger, heavier batteries customised to cope with the current requirements placed on the heaviest diesel-powered machinery operating in the mining sector.

It is doing this through adapting charging technology originally developed by Sweden-based EVIAS for electrified public highways. The application of this technology in mining could see operations employ smaller, lighter battery-electric vehicles that are connected to the mine site grid via its ingress protection-rated slotted Rail™ system. This system effectively eliminates all exposed high voltage conductors, providing significantly improved safety and ensures compliance with mine electrical regulations, according to BluVein. This is complemented with its Hammer™ technology and a sophisticated power distribution unit to effectively power electric motors and charge a vehicle’s on-board batteries.

BluVein has been specifically designed for harsh mining environments and is completely agnostic to vehicle manufacturer. This standardisation is crucial, BluVein says, as it allows a mixed fleet of mining vehicle to use the same rail infrastructure.

While underground mining looks like the most immediate application, BluVein says the technology also has applications in open-pit mining and quarrying.

It is this technology to be trialled in a demonstration pilot in a simulated underground environment. BluVein says it plans on starting the trial install early works towards the end of this year for a mid- to late-2022 trial period.

The BluVein project will be managed by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC).

Charge On Innovation Challenge sparks more miner interest

The organisers of the Charge On Innovation Challenge have reported an overwhelming response to the preliminary phase, which closed on July 31, with 21 mining companies joining as patrons, over 350 companies from across 19 industries registering their interest as vendors, and more than 80 organisations submitting expressions of interest (EOI).

The challenge, a global competition, is expected to drive technology innovators across all industries to develop new concepts and solutions for large-scale haul truck electrification systems aimed at significantly cutting emissions from surface mining. It also aims to demonstrate an emerging market for charging solutions in mining, accelerate commercialisation of solutions and integrate innovations from other industries into the mining sector.

BHP, Rio Tinto, and Vale, facilitated by Austmine, launched the Charge On Innovation Challenge in May of this year, initiating the EOI process on May 18. Since the initial launch, Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden, Thiess, Antofagasta Minerals, Codelco, Freeport McMoRan, Gold Fields and Yancoal came forward as patrons by early July.

The latest release has highlighted another nine miners to join as patrons. This includes Barrick Gold, CITIC Pacific Mining, Evolution Mining, Harmony Gold, Mineral Resources Ltd, Newcrest Mining, OZ Minerals, South32 and Syncrude.

The patrons, supported by Austmine, will assess the proposals over the next month and select a shortlist of vendors who will then formally pitch their challenge solutions.

At least one of these proposals has come from ABB, which confirmed earlier this month that it had submitted its ideas for the challenge using its mine electrification, traction and battery system eand charging infrastructure expertise.

At the end of the pitch phase, the challenge patrons will look to select the most desirable charging concepts identified as having broad industry appeal and application, as well as providing a standard geometry that enables chargers to service trucks from different manufacturers. The first concepts could be ready for site trials in the next few years, according to the organisers.

BHP’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project Lead, Scott Davis, said: “The Charge On Innovation Challenge is a great example of the current collaborative work being done by the mining industry in seeking solutions to decarbonise mining fleets. The challenge received interest from companies based in over 20 countries, showing the truly global reach of the opportunity to help reduce haul truck emissions.”

John Mulcahy, Rio Tinto’s lead for the Charge On Innovation Challenge, said: “Twenty-one mining companies, all focused on lowering carbon emissions, have joined as patrons. Together we’re encouraging technology innovators to help us introduce large-scale haul truck electrification solutions. The sooner we bring these technologies to market, the sooner we can introduce them to our fleet, and reduce emissions.”

Vale’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project lead, Mauricio Duarte, said: “We are very happy with the results of the first phase of the project. It´s still early to talk about the success of the challenge, but it is clear that the industry has reached a new level: we worked together on a common sustainability agenda and we will work collectively to reach our goals, gaining safety and speed on our way to low carbon mining.”

Antofagasta becomes latest Charge on Innovation Challenge patron

Antofagasta, as part of its sustainability efforts, has joined the Charge On Innovation Challenge as a patron.

The initiative, which counts BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale as founding patrons, seeks to develop solutions to charge the batteries of electric mining trucks safely, quickly and sustainably. This is essential in order to replace the use of diesel in these trucks and the emissions it produces, the challenge organisers say.

The goal is to enable trucks of 220 t or more to stop using diesel and run on electric batteries, just like other electric vehicles. In order to achieve this, it is essential to develop a battery charging system that does not use polluting fuels and, at the same time, allows the extraction trucks to operate as they usually do.

Today there are already efforts underway to develop and use electric trucks, but those are for trucks of a smaller tonnage (100 t) which can regenerate their own energy, Charge on Innovation says. The collaborative work with the Charge On Innovation Challenge seeks to develop solutions for larger trucks.

Iván Arriagada, CEO of Antofagasta, said: “As a mining group focused on innovation, we are interested in collaborating and contributing to the development of the industry for the future. That is why we decided to participate in this challenge, which is key to being able to use electric trucks and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

As part of its Climate Change Strategy, from 2022, the electricity supplying Antofagasta companies will come from renewable sources. Antofagasta’s Zaldívar mine has been operating from clean energy sources since July 2020.

Thanks to these advances and other measures adopted by the company, Antofagasta was able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 580,000 t since 2018. Its new goal is to decrease those emissions by an additional 30% between now and 2025.

The Charge On Innovation Challenge was launched by BHP, Vale and Rio Tinto in partnership with Austmine. It has since added Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden and Thiess as additional patrons.

Vale sells New Caledonia nickel-cobalt operations to consortium

Vale confirms that its Vale Canada Limited subsidiary has concluded the sale of its ownership interest in Vale Nouvelle-Calédonie SAS (VNC) to the Prony Resources New Caledonia consortium.

The consortium of investors, including Trafigura, comprises a majority and non-dilutable shareholding for New Caledonian interests, Vale said.

Eduardo Bartolomeo, CEO of Vale, said: “After several months of negotiations, I am pleased that we concluded our divestment of VNC, benefitting employees, New Caledonia and all its stakeholders. Vale is fully committed to this transaction. It meets the guarantees required at the financial, social and environmental levels and offers a sustainable future for the operations.”

Vale’s intent from the beginning of the divestment process was to withdraw from New Caledonia in an orderly and responsible manner, with the company saying the deal accomplishes that.

Vale previously tried to sell the operations to Australia-based New Century Resources, but the two parties failed to reach an agreement.

The deal provides the former VNC operations with a financial package totaling $1.1 billion, of which Vale Canada Limited is contributing $555 million to support the continuity of the operations. The financing of the “Pact for the Sustainable Development of the Deep South” will also be secured by Vale, it said.

The Pact for Sustainable Development of the Deep South was signed on September 27, 2008, between Vale New Caledonia and communities south of the “Grand” for a period of 30 years. It urges the industry to create and implement specific measures to support the development of the Deep South in a sustainable manner.

In addition to its financial commitment to continue operations, Vale will continue to have the right to a long-term nickel supply agreement for a proportion of the operation’s production, allowing it to, the company says, continue addressing the growing demand for nickel by the electric vehicle industry.

Mark Travers, Executive Vice President for Base Metals with Vale, said: “Along with the continuation of the Pact, the deal also allows the Lucy Project for dry storage of tailings to proceed. We want to acknowledge the time and effort of all stakeholders to achieving this deal, including the French State, and especially the employees of VNC for their trust and support through a lengthy and uncertain process.”

VNC is a producer of nickel and cobalt from the Goro mine. It also has a processing plant and a port.

Vale after ‘change agents’ to solve decarbonisation, circular economy, H&S challenges

Vale is teaming up with the MIT Professional Education, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, SENAI CIMATEC and start-up accelerator The Bakery to help solve challenges related to decarbonisation, the circular economy, and health and safety.

The MINE (Mining Innovation for a New Environment) program is offering 30 professionals the opportunity to help develop and build the future of mining – safer, more sustainable, and more efficient – through open innovation, Vale said.

Applications for the MINE Program 2.0 edition are being accepted from February 5.

“The MINE Program seeks to solve Vale’s strategic problems, develop people and generate a positive impact on society,” it said. “For nine months, between April and December, participants will develop solutions to solve 10 current challenges of the company in the areas of decarbonisation, circular economy, and health and safety.”

These topics were chosen due to their importance to Vale’s strategy of being recognised as a reference in safety, a leader in low-carbon mining and a company that creates and shares value. Fostering development in these fields has the potential to generate a positive impact for society, as they are relevant for everyone and not just for the company, Vale said.

Alexandre Salomão, Manager of PowerShift, a decarbonisation program at Vale, said: “MINE Program was designed to make us rethink the way we work, combining talent, technology and knowledge to solve the biggest mining challenges.”

Marcos Calderon, from Vale’s Open Innovation team, added: “Our goal is to invite the external public to contribute to overcoming global obstacles, forming agents of change capable of helping us to build the mining of the future.”

Vale is responsible for selecting the challenges, mentoring and technical monitoring of the proposed solutions, opening its operations to collaboration from external participants and financing scholarships. Faculty and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed and developed the program content; SENAI CIMATEC will support and tutor the participants, while the Bakery will be responsible for accelerating the challenges.

To apply for the program it is necessary to have an agile and entrepreneurial mindset, technical knowledge in the area of the challenge, be fluent in English and have a college degree in any subject, Vale said.

“The program is looking for innovative people who know how to work collaboratively to solve problems based on new ideas and approaches,” it added. “The participants must not have any employment commitments, since they will be receiving scholarships in order to be dedicated exclusively to the program.”

The first edition of the MINE Program (pictured before the COVID-19 pandemic) was held between November 2019 and June 2020. Ten challenges were solved in the areas of digital transformation and decarbonisation. Solutions that prove to be viable in the 2.0 edition may be implemented in Vale’s operation.

Komatsu’s new MC51 hard rock mining machine will be ready to cut rock at Vale Garson by April

More news on Vale’s Komatsu MC51 hard rock cutting machine…a photo of the machine in the flesh has been shared on Vale Canada’s employee news hub, valenews.ca, including some updated information to that covered in the in-depth November exclusive published by IM, which featured an interview with Vale’s Luke Mahony, Head of Geology, Mine Engineering, Geotechnical and Technology & Innovation for the Global Base Metals Business; and Andy Charsley, Project Lead and Principal Mining Engineer, Technology & Innovation.

The Vale News update states that, in February 2020, Charsley and his team chose to work with Komatsu, one of the world’s biggest industrial equipment manufacturers, to supply a machine and operators for a 400 m trial run at Garson. “Komatsu had been building a series of prototypes, and completed its first two commercial mechanical rock mechanical rock excavators (MREs). The Komatsu machines were built in Wollongong, a coastal city in Australia and then tested successfully underground at a nearby Australian mine [this was revealed as Newcrest Cadia in the IM story] in late 2020. Each machine, which can be operated by one person, allows for continuous rock excavation, and is equipped with a conveyor belt through its centre that carries the broken rock pieces to a scoop behind it. The scoop, controlled by a second operator, is tasked with taking away the rock pieces. Technical and engineering support will be on standby to troubleshoot throughout this prototype trial.”

The Vale News story adds that with the success of the test in Australia, Komatsu’s second machine was shipped in sections to Garson Mine in early 2021. Currently, it is being assembled and will be ready to cut rock by April, Charsley said.

“Although progress is expected to be slower at first as production is ramped up, the MRE is expected to eventually cut through about 3.5 m of rock per shift. At that rate, the 400 m trial should take about nine to 12 months, and continue into 2022.” Charsley, who has been with Vale for 20 years, starting in the Mines Research Department, will work with the Garson Operations Team to assess the success of the project during the trial. “We want to see if we can improve our commercial rate of cutting. We will be able to quantify the cost per metre of cut rock, as well to compare it to the drill and blast method, and of course we’ll examine the safety and sustainability of the new process.”

The statement says the results of the trial project will inform the business as to whether to continue using the MRE at Garson, and to determine if the advantages of using MREs allow hard-rock mining operations to complement the century-old drill and blast method. “We want to find out what this looks like for the future of mining,” he said.