Tag Archives: Vale

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.

Samarco iron ore pellet operations restart five years after Fundão tailings dam spill

BHP and Vale have confirmed their joint venture Samarco iron ore business has restarted operations in Brazil, more than five years after the failure of the Fundão dam led to its suspension.

Samarco’s gradual restart of operations incorporates concentrator 3 at the Germano complex in Minas Gerais and pelletising plant 4 at Ubu in Espírito Santo, as well as a new system of tailings disposal combining a confined pit and tailings filtering system for dry stacking, BHP said.

With the new filtration process, Samarco expects to be able to substantially dewater sand tailings, which represent 80% of total tailings by volume, and safely stack these filtered sand tailings in piles, Vale said. The remaining 20% of tailings are planned to be deposited in the Alegria Sul pit, a bedrock self-contained structure. Additionally, Samarco is progressing in the decommissioning of the Germano tailings dam to improve safety standards.

“Independent tests have been carried out on Samarco’s preparations for a safe restart of operations,” BHP added.

Samarco expects initially to produce around 7-8 Mt/y of iron ore pellets from the use of one of three concentrators to beneficiate iron ore from the Germano complex and one of four pellet plants in the Ubu complex, representing 26% of Samarco’s productive capacity.

Vale explained: “The integrated restart of operations occurs after an extensive commissioning test, ensuring a safe resumption after five years.”

Following the Corrective Operation Licence received in October 2019, Samarco expects to be able to restart a second concentrator in around five years to reach a range of production of some 14-16 Mt/y. The restart of the third concentrator could happen in around nine years, Vale said, when Samarco expects to reach a production volume of around 22-24 Mt/y.

The extensive work undertaken by the Renova Foundation, a collaboration between Vale, BHP Billiton Brasil Ltda and Samarco, to remediate and compensate for the damages of the failure of the Fundão dam in November 2015 continues, BHP said. The foundation is responsible for carrying out programs to repair the social and environmental impacts.

By November 2020, Renova had spent approximately $2.1 billion on its remediation and compensation programs. By November 2020, around $620 million had been paid in indemnities and emergency financial aid to approximately 325,000 people.

Vale given the go ahead to start Capanema iron ore construction

Vale says it has received the required licences to start construction of the Capanema iron ore project in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The project involves the development of the Capanema mine, acquisiion of new equipment, implementation of a long-distance 2.4 km conveyor belt (TCLD, pictured) and adjustments in the Timbopeba stockyards. This is expected to amount to multi-year investments of $495 million.

With the start-up expected for the second half of 2023, the project will have a production capacity by natural moisture (without tailings generation) of 18 Mt/y and, in the first years, will bring a net addition of 14 Mt/y of capacity to Vale with the “expedition” through the Timbopeba site, Vale said.

The start of the construction works of Capanema marks another important step in productive capacity buffers creation, ensuring greater operational flexibility with low capital intensity, Vale said.

Vale has previously identified that Capanema could be one of its new operations to use “dry processing” techniques.

EXPOSIBRAM expo and congress moves online

One of the most relevant and well-attended business-promoting events for the Latin America mineral sector will be going 100% online this year.

EXPOSIBRAM – Expo & Congresso Brasileiro de Mineração 2020 will be held from November 24-26, with free registration available for the virtual event.

In addition to its renowned Brazilian Mining Congress, another attraction of the event will be the online business meeting function, which will enable large mining companies and suppliers from various sectors to connnect.

EXPOSIBRAM will also hold space for technical lectures and short courses, all guided by the Brazilian Mining Institute (IBRAM).

Mining companies already confirmed to attend the event include sponsors Vale, Mosaic Fertilizantes, Anglo American, Kinross Paracatu, CMOC Brasil, Horizonte Minerals, Mineração Usiminas and Serabi Gold.

To find out more information on the event and register, click here.

International Mining is a media sponsor of EXPOSIBRAM 2020

Vale teams with Komatsu and CMIC on ‘revolutionary’ hard-rock cutting project

Vale, in 2021, is due to embark on a major hard-rock cutting project at its Garson mine, in Sudbury, Canada.

Part of the mechanical cutting demonstration within the CMIC (Canada Mining Innovation Council) Continuous Underground Mining project, it will see the company test out a Komatsu hard-rock cutting machine equipped with Komatsu DynaCut Technology at the mine.

With an aim to access the McConnell orebody, as well as provide a primary case study for CMIC members to learn from, all eyes will be on this Sudbury mine in the June quarter of 2021.

Vale plans 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 mechanical rock excavation (MRE) process; and gain insight into the potential of an optimised MRE process.

Another Komatsu unit has already been assembled and (by now) is most likely operating at the Cadia underground mine in New South Wales, Australia, operated by Newcrest Mining. Vale will be watching developments here, where a three-month “pre-trial” cutting hard rock will take place.

Vale has laid out a testing plan for its own machine, with the unit set to cut around 400 m for the trial period.

IM had to find out more about this.

Fortunately 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, were happy to talk.

IM: Why do you think industry collaboration is key in the underground hard-rock cutting space, in particular? Why has it been harder to develop and apply this technology in mining compared with other solutions such as automation, electrification and digitalisation?

LM: There are many various OEMs entering the market with hard-rock cutting equipment. All of them approach the problem a little bit differently, so it is difficult for one company to trial all of the options. At the same time, we are trying to leverage these new technologies and processes across the industry for a mechanical cutting type of future. For me, this is essential if we are to get the safety, cost and productivity benefits we need to make some of these new underground mines viable.

Comparing it to automation and electrification shows it is a ‘revolutionary’ concept as opposed to an ‘evolutionary’ one. Automation and electrification are more evolutionary concepts – automating an existing scoop or truck or electrifying it – whereas hard-rock cutting is more revolutionary and transformational in the sector, so industry collaboration is even more important.

IM: Since the project was presented at CMIC’s ReThinkMining Webinar, in June, have you had a lot more partnership interest in the project?

LM: We have seen a few other industry members ask questions and connect regarding this project. Some mining companies, while interested, are a little unsure of how they can get on-board with a project like this. What we have done is to utilise the CMIC consortium to make it the foundation of this collaboration, ensuring it is as easy and efficient as possible to join. Also, we want to cover the key concerns that mining companies have when it comes to collaboration, which CMIC is well aware of and can address.

CMIC is well connected with underground professionals and like-minded companies, and is able to pull in interest and facilitate the collaboration framework.

IM: What has happened to the MRE project timeline since June? Are you still on for receiving the machine in early 2021 to start testing later in the year?

AC: The machine has been assembled and we will mobilise it to Canada in early 2021. All of the underground cutting, in Canada, is scheduled to start in April 2021.

Komatsu have assembled two units – the first unit has come off the assembly line and is about to start trials at Cadia any day now. The second machine has just completed final assembly and will undergo Factory Acceptance Testing in the next few months, while we monitor the initial performance of the first machine. The second machine will come to Canada early next year and, if there are any modifications required, we can carry them out, prior to it going underground.

IM: How has the machine changed from the prototype that was initially deployed at Cadia and shown at MINExpo 2016?

AC: In 2016 and 2018, Komatsu implemented a proof of concept and, after that proof of concept, there was interest from miners to build a full commercial unit – which has happened now.

The prototype was ultimately to test the enabling cutting technology, whereby this element was retrofitted to a medium-sized roadheader for manoeuvrability. What Komatsu has done now is fully embed it into a system more like a continuous miner, which has the cutting arm, ground handling shovel & collector and the rest of the body to put it into a full production, continuous operation. It is now going to be part of the production process, as opposed to just testing the cutting aspect.

IM: Considering the end goal of this project is to evaluate the type and number of applications for which hard-rock cutting is suitable across industry (not just at Garson and the McConnell orebody), why did you select the Komatsu HRCM?

LM: It’s really about the Komatsu DynaCut Technology, which, for us, is an extremely low energy process for cutting the hard rock compared with, say, a TBM.

At the same time, what attracts us is the ability to integrate it with existing infrastructure within our current process at the mine – bolters, trucks, LHDs, etc. It is not about fully redesigning the mine to implement this technology.

This trial is that first step to really prove and understand the Komatsu DynaCut Technology in terms of dealing with cutting our relative hard rock in Sudbury. In that regard, the Komatsu technology provided the best technical opportunities for the conditions at hand.

IM: When the machine gets going in Australia, what hardness of rock will it be cutting in the hard-rock stage? How does this compare with Garson?

LM: Cadia is a rock ranging around 200 MPa, whereas in Sudbury we would be looking around 250 MPa. That’s when you talk about Uniaxial Compressive Strength (UCS) of the rock.

When you start looking at this undercutting technology, there are a few other aspects you need to consider. This includes rock toughness – the ability to resist a crack when a tensile force is applied, sort of like a jackhammer – and brittleness – how much energy that rock can absorb before it breaks.

Ultimately, we are working with Komatsu to understand how we should adapt an undercutting technology for our mines, and what the key parameters to consider are. At this stage, UCS seems to be the benchmark in the industry, but I think there will be a lot more considerations to come out of this project.

IM: What are the reasons for applying the technology at Garson? Were other areas in Sudbury considered?

AC: The priority for us was to have a shallow, low stress ground environment to start off with. At the same time, these are significant machines that would have to be disassembled if you were going down a shaft, which would be complicated. We have ramp access at Garson which makes things easier.

The other point is that Garson is an operating mine so we have got the facilities that can support the project; everything from removing the rock to ground support, service installation and surface infrastructure.

IM: How widespread do you think hard-rock cutting could be across the underground industry? Could it eventually become a mainstream method to compete with drill and blast?

LM: This is the ultimate question. I would like to say yes, it will become mainstream. It is our intention to really develop and prove that it can not only compete with drill and blast, but ultimately improve on it. This will see, in the future, an application for both mechanised hard-rock cutting and drill and blast.

You are going to need to look at fundamental KPIs such as safety, productivity and the cost associated with that productivity.

The focus now is to mature the cutting technology and start to develop the production or the process that goes with underground development beyond just cutting rock.

When developing around sensitive areas where you require low disturbance, hard-rock cutting will be important, as it will be in highly seismic ground. Then, if the unit cost of operating these machines gets low enough, you can start to assess orebodies that were previously not viable. At the same time, it is an electrified process so enables the industry to accelerate some of the decarbonisation plans for underground mining.

IM: Anything else to add on the subject?

LM: I think it’s fair to say, there will be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to hard-rock cutting. Different OEMs are going to develop and mature solutions and there will be applications for each of them, but we have got a long way to go to really understand that as an industry.

The ultimate goal is to get that industry collaboration between OEMs and industry going to ensure solutions are developed that show a way forward for the sector.

This Q&A will feature in the annual continuous cutting and rapid development focus, soon to be published in the IM November-December 2020 issue. Photo courtesy of Komatsu Mining

UQ-led geotechnical project targets open pit mine of the future roadmap

A A$4-million ($2.8 million) cash injection from industry has marked the beginning of the next phase of research for a large-scale geotechnical project headed up by University of Queensland (UQ) experts.

Professor David Williams (right) and Dr Mehdi Serati (left) have managed the Large Open Pit Project (LOP) from UQ’s civil engineering home base, since 2017, and they recently secured the management of further funding to begin phase three of the project, which will run until 2022.

“The LOP links innovative mining geomechanics and geotechnical engineering research with best practice in open-pit mining,” Professor Williams said. “Australia is a leader in open-pit mining, driven by a forward-thinking industry.

“The LOP has provided a focus for research for the past 15 years and, since 2017, allowed us to collaborate and advance the safety and risk components of open-pit mines.

“The project also ensures that the industry can maintain its immensely valuable contribution to the Australian economy into the future, with mining generating around A$250 billion annually and employing about 15% of the Australian workforce.”

The primary focus for researchers during this three-year term will be to create a roadmap for ‘The Open Pit of the Future’.

Together with international industry partners and research colleagues, the team will bring together cutting-edge knowledge around large open-pit design, operation and closure, supporting future trends, including the interaction with underground mines, and deeper and even more technology-driven unmanned and automated operations.

Dr Serati said the team aimed to produce a new generation of pit slope design guidelines that incorporated everything from the fundamentals of slope design and rock mass characterisation, through to 3D geotechnical modelling, slope monitoring techniques, controlled blasting and open-pit closure.

“In open-pit mining, the design of the slopes is one of the major challenges at every stage of planning, through operation to closure, and requires specialised knowledge of the geology and material geotechnical parameters, which is often complex,” Dr Serati said. “Good open-pit design also requires an understanding of the practical aspects of design implementation, so we need to work collaboratively to cover all of these elements and produce industry-wide best practice guidelines.

“Australia has some of the largest open-pit mines in the world, which are reaching ever greater depths, and the LOP Guidelines are vital in ensuring coverage of all of the important design aspects.”

The LOP is recognised as the premier international research and technology transfer body representing the technical disciplines contributing to large open pits and supporting future trends, UQ says. The LOP fosters close collaboration between industry and researchers, which is essential to meeting industry’s need to continuously innovate.

“A key aim of the LOP is to ensure that the mining industry is a safe, prosperous and environmentally friendly contributor to society,” UQ said.

The industry sponsors for LOP III (third phase) include Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, BHP, Debswana, Fortescue Metals Group, McArthur River Mining, Newcrest Mining, Rio Tinto and Vale, with other companies being encouraged to join.

Vale partners with NORCAT for mining innovation challenge

NORCAT and Vale have teamed up to launch the NORCAT Open Innovation Challenge to, they say, facilitate and enhance Vale’s capabilities to bring new, state-of-the-art technologies into its mining operations and accelerate the rate of technology adoption in the global mining industry.

As current global events disrupt regular business operations and the global mining industry continues to undergo a digital transformation, mining companies around the world are looking to become more agile and resilient by embracing digitalisation and investing in technologies related to safety, sustainability and operational efficiency.

The NORCAT Open Innovation Challenge is looking to identify technology-enabled solutions to three common problem areas identified by Vale. Specifically, the NORCAT Open Innovation Challenge is focusing on the issues of smelter acid management, underground operator alertness and excessive water and run of material in underground mines.

“As the global ‘one-stop-shop’ for all that is the future of mining technology, our goal is to facilitate and encourage innovative and disruptive thinking within the mining technology ecosystem,” Don Duval, NORCAT CEO, says. “As the mining industry continues to transform, it requires new levels of openness, innovation and collaboration. Challenge-based initiatives have proven to be effective in uncovering new ideas and different points of view, and we are excited to partner with Vale to further the acceleration, adoption and deployment of emerging technologies that are poised to transform the global mining industry.”

The NORCAT Open Innovation Challenge is open to innovative start-ups, entrepreneurs and problem solvers from across Canada. Successful applications must have the capacity and confidence to develop and deploy a proof-of-concept inside one of Vale’s operations in Sudbury, Ontario, by March 2021. As part of the process, Vale will provide technical oversight and feedback to winning entries over a four-month period to prepare for product development and testing prior to completion.

Anthony Downs, Manager of Digital and Information Technology for Vale’s Base Metal Operations, said: “At Vale, we are obsessed with safety and risk mitigation. Open innovation is a key enabler that allows us to rapidly identify and trial novel risk management solutions. When they prove effective, we move them to implementation within our operations at an accelerated pace.

“Vale is pleased to partner with NORCAT on this challenge and looks forward to reviewing the innovative solutions the challenge inspires.”

As part of its mandate, NORCAT continues to identify and engage with mining technology companies from around the world to support the development and adoption of innovative technologies poised to transform the global mining industry.

This is not the first time NORCAT and Vale have teamed up. Earlier this year, the two announced plans to develop and deploy an innovative blended learning program that, they said, would transform how the global mining industry trains and educates its workforce.

Vale leverages Contour platform for first iron ore blockchain trade

Vale says it has completed its first sale of iron ore using blockchain technology with Nanjing Iron & Steel Group International Trade Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Nanjing Iron and Steel Co Ltd (NISCO).

The transaction, for a cargo of 176,000 t of Brazilian Blend Fines from Teluk Rubiah Maritime Terminal, in Malaysia, to China, is aligned with Vale’s strategy of becoming a more “innovative and customer-centred company” through greater integration with clients and partnering for the development of new solutions, it said.

“It is an important milestone towards the digitalisation of the sales and trade process, bringing innovation to the traditional paper-intensive trade transactions and offering a better service to the clients as well as predictability in the steel value chain,” Vale said.

The Letter of Credit was issued through the Contour blockchain platform while the shipping documents and the electronic Bill of Lading were handled via essDOCS’ CargoDocs solution – with all actions carried out through a single, interfaced platform consolidated in Contour. The transaction also had support from DBS Bank Ltd and Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Berhad.

“The integrated transaction enabled end-to-end security and transparency with real-time visibility of the documentation to all stakeholders, drastically reducing the amount of emails and paperwork exchanged among the parties and providing enhanced user experience through access to a single solution to execute the trade,” Vale said.