Tag Archives: Victoria

LDO Group’s Rokion battery-electric light vehicle refocus starts to pay off

LDO Group is making serious headway in deploying Rokion’s ground-up-design electric light vehicles across Australia, with the New South Wales-based distributor hoping to have three machine trials in place before the end of the year.

LDO is focused on the underground mining and tunnelling industries, specialising in systems, processes, mine planning and training. It has been the exclusive distributor of Canada-made Rokion battery-powered vehicles in Australasia since 2018, having deployed vehicles across the soft- and hard-rock space.

The latest Rokion deployment LDO Group is celebrating is at Agnico Eagle Mines’ Fosterville gold operation in Victoria where a Rokion R400 was recently shown off alongside a Sandvik LH518B at a launch ceremony at the gold operation.

Alan Ross, General Manager of LDO Group, said the R400 vehicle – a platform able to accommodate three passengers in a utility vehicle setup or up to 12 in a passenger crew variant – has been deployed as part of a six-month trial at the operation.

“They (the Fosterville team) plan to use this in a people carrier configuration,” Ross told IM. “It will transport people to and from the operation.”

Considering the ramp-supported Fosterville operation goes below 800-m depth, this will present a good test for the R400’s re-generation capacity and uphill performance.

Rokion says the vehicle, which has 100 kWh of battery capacity, was engineered for the demands of underground mining and is its most adaptive platform design, capable of transporting a large crew in mine applications. Like all Rokion vehicles, it incorporates lithium iron phosphate battery chemistry, which, the company says, is the safest battery chemistry currently available.

The vehicle heading underground at Fosterville was previously deployed at a coal mining operation in Queensland, yet Ross says LDO Group is now re-focusing its efforts on the hard-rock mining space.

This has already seen the company partner with Newmont on an R400 deployment at its Tanami underground operation in the Northern Territory of Australia where it was initially used to transport team members up and down the mine.

Newmont said last year that early indicators had shown the vehicle had the capability to complete several trips to and from the bottom of the Tanami mine without requiring recharging.

Ross agreed with the Newmont assessment, explaining that the company was expected to re-deploy the same unit to the Tanami operation with an additional battery cooling module later this year.

“The ambient temperatures can reach 50°C in the Tanami desert, so we have equipped the vehicle with this new module to cope with such extremes,” he explained.

The company also has two R200 units – which include a four-passenger crew truck and a two-passenger utility truck – in Australia awaiting redeployment. One of these vehicles recently completed a successful stint at a tunnelling operation in the country.

LDO is also engaged with another mining company with an operation in New South Wales seeking to trial Rokion’s smallest battery-electric platform, the R100.

The R100 series includes a four-passenger crew truck and a two-passenger utility truck, with both models built on the same frame dimensions and available in ramp-ready configurations.

“We’re currently focused on these three key customers and supporting them in terms of the deployments and on-going operations,” Ross said.

In addition to regular site visits from LDO personnel to support maintenance and operations staff at the underground mines, LDO staff are able to remotely download data logs for these machines on a daily basis, assessing if there is potential for optimising the operation or if maintenance work may need to be conducted.

With many companies in the battery-electric light vehicle conversion space in Australia struggling to get hold of donor diesel vehicles, Ross says mining companies are increasingly appreciating Rokion’s ground-up approach.

“We have a fantastic OEM partner to rely on for these vehicles and we at LDO are able to support them in the best possible way,” he said. “We don’t have to rely on a different vendor to obtain the base machine; the design, engineering, manufacturing and testing are all performed under the Rokion roof, ensuring quality from concept to delivery.”

Ross said Rokion is continually working on design improvements and new machines based on industry feedback, with a newly-designed R200 vehicle set to bridge the gap between the existing R200 and the larger R400.

The latest in Rokion’s R200 Series is an 11-passenger crew truck built on a heavier frame and suspension construction than previous models, Kipp Sakundiak says

Kipp Sakundiak, CEO of Rokion, was happy to provide more details of this to IM: “The latest in our R200 Series is an 11-passenger crew truck built on a heavier frame and suspension construction than our previous models, all the while maintaining the simplicity and performance of dual drive motors.”

Sakundiak said the new model was robust and powerful, at the same time offering a comfortable ride for all crew members.

He added: “There is a lot of adaptability built into the new platform, including configurations for soft- and hard-rock applications. It’s one of our most versatile designs.”

Howden, Agnico Eagle Fosterville to complete Oz mining first with Ventsim CONTROL VoD installation

Howden says it has secured a contract for the upgrade of an existent licence of its Ventsim™ CONTROL ventilation system at the Agnico Eagle-owned Fosterville Gold Mine in Victoria, Australia.

The initial installation of Ventsim CONTROL Level 3 (scheduling and flow control) has already greatly improved the operability and flexibility of the ventilation system, as well as providing efficiency to pay for itself in just six months, Howden claims. Now, in a first for the Australian mining sector, the mine tracking system will be integrated to Ventsim CONTROL Level 4. This will provide real-time feedback on the vehicle locations in Ventsim CONTROL to adjust the ventilation automatically based on demand.

Camille Levy, President of the Asia Pacific Region at Howden, said: “This next stage contract for Fosterville mine is significant for Australian mining and the Howden Ventsim team as it represents the first Ventsim CONTROL Level 4 system that has been commissioned remotely as well as a first in APAC. The success of the operation and the level of power it saves serve as a test case for further installations of Ventsim CONTROL globally. The fact that the system paid for itself within six months is impressive.

“As the system allows the mine to optimise its ventilation based on fully remote vehicle and personnel monitoring, it directly contributes to Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets – something of which the Howden team is very proud.”

Level 4 – Ventilation on Demand (VoD) is the process of adjusting mine air flow in real time based on vehicle and personnel position. Ventsim CONTROL provides an ‘on demand’ solution for mine ventilation. Software connected to hardware devices remotely monitors, controls and automates airflow. The technology provides safer ventilation that is more productive and cost effective, according to the company. The Ventsim CONTROL solution also offers a 3D modelling capability within the software, which helps users to better predict and control air flows based on what is evidenced in the simulation.

Howden recently announced its target to be carbon net zero by 2035 through the purchase of renewable energy and carbon-free energy; efficiency gains from energy conservation measures; and by renewable energy projects at its manufacturing facilities. The largest impact the business will have on global sustainability will be through its partnership with customers to supply equipment that will make a major impact on their carbon emissions and sustainability, it says.

In 2020, Fosterville produced a record 640,467 oz of gold at an average grade of 33.9 g/t Au and average recoveries of 98.9%.

Redpath to carry out raisebore, boxhole services at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine

Redpath Australia says it has commenced a new raisebore contract with Kirkland Lake Gold at the Fosterville gold mine in Bendigo, Victoria.

Under the new contract, Redpath will provide raisebore and boxhole services at the mine through to late 2023.

The contract extends Redpath’s continuous presence at Fosterville to over 10 years.

Fosterville is a high-grade, low-cost underground gold mine, which commenced operation in 2005 and, during its initial years, produced gold from near-surface, low-grade mineralisation. It is now an underground mine with decline access that, last year, produced 509,601 oz of gold.

Redpath’s raiseboring division also has a relationship with the Kirkland Lake team at Macassa. The team completed a 1,010-m-long hole at the mine in Ontario, Canada, in 2021, making it the longest raisebore hole ever accomplished in the Northern Hemisphere and all the Americas when it was carried out.

Kirkland Lake Gold to trial battery-powered Sandvik LH518B at Fosterville

Kirkland Lake Gold, one of the leaders in battery-electric vehicle adoption in mining, is to trial a Sandvik LH518B LHD next year at its Fosterville underground mine, in Victoria, Australia, Rob McLean, the operation’s Chief Mining Engineer, has confirmed.

Speaking during a session titled: ‘What are Fosterville’s Current and Future Technology and Innovation Requirements, and Why?’ at the IMARC Online event, McLean said the trial is part of the company’s vision to “have a fully electric mine”, with the immediate goals being to remove diesel emissions and reduce heat at the operation.

Longer-term, electrifying the company’s fleet could result in the need for less ventilation, lower power costs and the elimination of infrastructure upgrades at the high-grade gold operation, he said.

Sandvik launched the 18 t battery-electric LH518B during its Innovation in Mining event in late September.

The loader, a Sandvik and Artisan Vehicle Systems joint development effort, has been designed from the ground up, entirely around the loader’s Artisan™ battery system and electric driveline to best leverage the possibilities the battery technology brings, Sandvik says. It can fit in a 4.5 x 4.5 m tunnel and is equipped with three 2,000 Nm permanent magnet motors and 450 kN of tractive effort. It can operate at speeds of up to 30 km/h and has 560 kW of continuous power output (peak power output of 660 kW).

McLean said the trial of the LH518B would inform the mine’s future electrification direction, but he said the company was also considering the use of battery-electric or trolley assist trucks at the operation, in addition to battery-electric charging/spraying rigs.

Kirkland Lake says its Macassa mine, in Ontario, Canada, is a “world leader in the use of battery-powered equipment” with more than 80% of its fleet made up of battery-powered vehicles from the likes of Artisan, Epiroc and RDH Scharf.

Chrysos PhotonAssay unit delivered to Kirkland Lake’s Fosterville gold mine

Kirkland Lake Gold is to install a Chrysos PhotonAssay unit at its Fosterville mine, in Victoria, Australia, as it looks to simplify, speed up and improve its mineral assaying process.

The agreement with Chrysos has seen the unit delivered to Fosterville, with the installation to be fully operational by early October.

Originally developed at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, PhotonAssay delivers faster, more accurate gold analysis, Chrysos says, being a quantitative, chemistry-free replacement for fire assay on-site and in the laboratory.

“Hitting samples with high-energy X-rays, the technology causes excitation of atomic nuclei allowing enhanced analysis of gold, silver, and complementary elements in as little as two minutes,” the company says. “Importantly, Chrysos PhotonAssay allows large samples of up to 500 g to be measured and provides a true bulk reading independent of the chemical or physical form of the sample. The process is completely non-destructive, and all samples can be retained for further testing or analysis if required.”

Wess Edgar, Chief Geologist for Kirkland Lake Gold in Australia, said: “We believe the PhotonAssay method has potential benefits for our business that include simple sample preparation, fast turnaround times for high-quality results, and improved outcomes related to health, environment, and the community.

“The sample charge used in the PhotonAssay method is approximately 10-20 times larger than existing fire assay, and thus has potential for a more representative assay result of the entire crushed sample, which is considered important for samples containing high gold grades and/or visible gold, as are often found at Fosterville.”

Fosterville is one of the highest grade gold mines operating across the industry, having produced 619,000 oz in 2019 at an average grade of 39.6 g/t.

PhotonAssay’s latest market success has drawn a positive response from CSIRO’s Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, according to Chrysos.

“It’s very rewarding to have a global leader like Kirkland Lake embrace this new Aussie technology, which sees our research continuing to improve the efficiency and environmental sustainability of the industry around the world,” Dr Marshall said.

Highlighting the benefits of PhotonAssay for miners, Chrysos CEO, Dirk Treasure, stated: “Our PhotonAssay installations provide single-touch operation and improved safety outcomes, whilst also reducing labour requirements and the potential for human error. The technology’s fast turnaround on high sample volumes provides customers with time-critical operational data and drives optimisation through their entire value chain.

“We are seeing increasing interest in Chrysos PhotonAssay from both laboratories and miners. Recent developments across the sector are driving a desire for technological solutions that deliver measurable productivity gains and true competitive advantage. This is an exciting time, not just for us, but for the entire industry.”

On Site Laboratory Services, a company based in Bendigo, will staff and operate the unit at Fosterville on behalf of Kirkland Lake Gold, Chrysos said.

Australia METS sector receives government boost

Australia’s mining equipment and technology services (METS) sector is set to benefit from further funding from the government’s SME Export Hubs Initiative after being named in the Australia Government’s recent financial support program.

Karen Andrews, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, and Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, said the funding would allow small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Australia to tap into new markets around the world.

In the METS sector, specifically, the SME METS Export Hub Initiative will be expanded into Victoria and Western Australia through the A$1.025 million grant, according to industry-led, Australia government-funded, growth centre for the METS sector, METS Ignited.

The growth centre said the news was a boost for Western Australia METS where the Digital Mining Export Hub aims to build a digital mining capability network. In Victoria, meanwhile, the Export Hub will focus on METS capability acceleration, with both programs linking SMEs to international growth opportunities.

METS Ignited CEO, Adrian Beer, said the expansion of the initiative was great news for METS exporters across the country, providing growth and capability development opportunities and increased international market access.

“METS Ignited is very supportive of the SME Export Hub funding announcement which highlights the importance of the METS sector to the national economy,” he said. “The expansion of the program to include Austmine to lead the Export Hubs for Western Australia and Victoria will not only provide growth and capability development opportunities for METS exporters but also an opportunity to enhance Australian METS’ reputation internationally.

“We look forward to seeing the growth outcomes for the sector.”

The SME Export Hubs Initiative is supported by Industry Growth Centres to advance the establishment of local and regional hubs to assist Australia businesses to take their products and services to the global market, according to METS Ignited.

McLanahan and Mincore collaborate on gold processing plant upgrade

McLanahan recently helped process consultancy firm, Mincore, come up with a solution for managing the gold leach tailings at one of Australia’s oldest gold operations near Bendigo, Victoria.

With the gold processing plant recently undergoing a series of process upgrades, several technology partners were engaged by Mincore. McLanahan was one, with its 10M Elevated Thickener coming into play.

Richard Williams, McLanahan Global Product Manager, said: “Mincore and McLanahan have worked on a number of project studies previously. Having local engineering capability and support on both sides made the engagement much more efficient in being able to review process data and confirm the specific thickener operation and construction requirements.”

Williams said a local manufacture and relatively low overall delivered cost solution would be the best fit for the client. “Modular design provides the flexibility to manufacture in more locations and provides more certainty around time-sensitive projects,” he explained.

Due to the nature of the processing plant, Mincore specified material and design aspects to account for the highly acidic and corrosive process streams, according to McLanahan. A specific sealant was procured for the thickener flanges to perform at the correct duty, as well as stringent paint quality assurance including DFT, WFT, pinhole and holiday testing specified by Mincore to confirm coating integrity.

The thickener was designed in-house at McLanahan’s New South Wales location and included several process instruments, including bed pressure, bed level, rake torque and overflow clarity. The tank, support structures and bridge were all manufactured locally for a faster delivery time, taking only 14 weeks for final delivery to the customer’s site, according to the company.

Mincore’s site team was able to support installation by using four experienced technicians and one small mobile crane to place the thickener onto a prepared concrete-bunded hardstand. The modular nature of the tank and bridge allowed for safe, fast and efficient site installation, McLanahan remarked.

Dry commissioning includes checking for correct tank assembly, along with the installation and application of protective treatments, the company said. “During this time, the drive and instrumentation are wired, and the mechanism is checked for correct alignment.”

Once successfully completed, a wet commissioning will be conducted, where the feed to the thickener is introduced and the process outcomes are evaluated for consistency. The process will ensure the instrumentation is operating correctly, and that the data received, and process outcomes, meet the design requirements and overall client specifications.

For this thickener, McLanahan’s customised approach included minimising the number of different fastener sizes and increasing assembly speed by minimising tooling and guesswork on site.
Additionally, McLanahan designed in the following aspects:

  • Integrated lifting attachment points preventing damage to paint and eliminating the need for the customer to source specialised lifting equipment;
  • A completely match-marked assembly system using large weld metal as marking to increase assembly speed;
  • Integrated electrical cable trays and conduits that reduce site work and damage to paint coating;
  • Local marshalling panel readout of all instruments complete with trending and status providing operator feedback in real time without needing to return to the control room;
  • Maximised space and clearance under the tank, facilitating pump and instrument access and maintenance; and
  • Integrated product sampling points at multiple locations around the tank to confirm process outcomes.

Costerfield gold-antimony mine firing on all cylinders thanks to RCT solution

Removing personnel from underground loading operations at Mandalay Resources’ Costerfield gold-antimony mine in Victoria, Australia, through RCT’s ControlMaster® Teleremote and Guidance Automation, has led to time and cost savings, as well as maintenance and safety benefits, according to a recent case study from the automation specialist.

Costerfield produces ore via a single portal underground mine with narrow vein mining carried out to extract vertical veins of ore. The mine produces up to 80,000 gold-antimony-equivalent ounces per year in a concentrate comprising around 54% antimony and 60 g/t gold.

The nature of narrow vein mining dictates that ore drives are quite thin to reduce the amount of waste material that is captured, with Costerfield’s drilling and blasting program designed to maximise ore recovery by throwing the ore towards the draw point. Historically, however, the site could only recover 75% of the ore, according to RCT, due to the remaining ore sitting in the stope void out of reach of the underground LHD as manually operated loaders could not exceed the stope brow.

Looking to increase productivity, Mandalay investigated implementing a loader that could be managed remotely to extract additional ore and to safeguard equipment operators from hazardous situations at the mine face. This led to it, in 2015, engaging RCT to implement its ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation product on a Sandvik LH203 LHD.

The automated loader enabled Mandalay Resources to retrieve significant amounts of ore that were previously unreachable, RCT said.

In recent years RCT has increased the autonomous fleet at Costerfield by commissioning ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation on a second Sandvik LH203 as well as a Sandvik LH151D.

The machines are managed from Fibre Optic Control Stations at secure locations in the underground mine protected by Laser Guard Containment Units as well as stations on the mine’s surface.

Jayson Guzzo, Major Projects and Innovation Manager – Costerfield, Mandalay Resources, said removing operators from the machine is the “best outcome” as it eliminates their exposure from one of the highest risk jobs, which is working at a stope brow.

“The small loaders we use are very rigid which has the potential for repetitive strain injuries,” he said. “They also have open cabs and, in this environment, dust, machine exhaust and debris can be an added safety concern.”

In mid-2019, Mandalay made the decision to implement a digital mine communications network to accommodate future technological growth.

Guzzo said: “Given that we are a narrow vein operation we may have to access ore a significant distance from the mine access point so we are looking at going to a digital platform so we can run a fibre backbone and autonomously operate machines over a vast distance.

“In a traditional mine, you might spend a whole week bogging a single stope before moving, but at Costerfield we might bog three or four headings in one shift, so the number of sites that we have to have set up at any one time are multiple, hence a digital system will significantly speed up the process of commissioning new drives.”

Mandalay has reported that ControlMaster Guidance Automation enabled them to carry out bogging and firing operations simultaneously, saving them substantial time which was previously spent clearing personnel to a safe distance, RCT said.

Guzzo said the solution has enabled the company to reduce shift changeover time by two thirds – which is a significant cost saving – and the site has also experienced less unplanned machine downtime.

“At Costerfield, the drives are roughly 2 m wide so Guidance Automation keeps the machines off the walls and stops them bouncing around the tunnels, so the damage to the machines is a lot less and results in significantly reduced unplanned maintenance time,” he said.

Guzzo concluded: “Relocating operators from the cab of our loaders to safer environments on the mine’s surface is essential and being able to continue bogging during firing as well as significantly reducing shift changeover time is critical to improving site productivity.

“Plant automation is definitely the way of the future in the mining industry and RCT are the leaders in that area, which is why they are our preferred supplier with this equipment.”

Victoria brown coal to hydrogen pilot project takes off

Construction has started on a A$500 million ($353 million) pilot project looking at the feasibility of turning brown coal from the Latrobe Valley, in Victoria, Australia, into hydrogen for liquefaction and export to Japan.

Works have begun on liquefaction facilities linked to the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project at Port Hastings, Victoria, which the government says has the potential to create A$2 billion in exports for Australia.

On the other side of Australia, Fortescue Metals recently partnered with CSIRO on hydrogen technologies to support the development of new industries, create jobs and pave the way for low emissions export opportunities for the country.

Hydrogen production operations for the pilot phase of HSEC have been established at the AGL Loy Yang mine, with operations leveraging existing coal gasification technologies adapted specifically for Victorian brown coal. Hydrogen will then be transported to a liquefaction and loading terminal at the Port of Hastings Victoria, Australia.

“Once converted to liquid, hydrogen will be shipped to Japan using a world-first, innovative liquefied hydrogen carrier, purpose built for hydrogen transport,” the HESC said.

Australia’s Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, said today’s sod turn symbolised new job and investment opportunities for the region, as well as the nation.

“Australia is well placed to become a global leader in hydrogen production and this pilot project is a crucial step towards making this vision a reality. The Australian and Victorian Governments have committed A$50 million each to the A$500 million project, which is also supported by the Japanese Government and Japanese industry,” he said.

“This project promises to be of huge benefit to both nations and particularly the state of Victoria, which has the opportunity to develop an alternative and value-adding use of its abundant brown coal reserves in the Latrobe Valley.

“The use of hydrogen is part of Japan’s vision of a clean energy future and any emissions from the pilot project will be fully offset, with commercial scale operations required to use carbon capture and storage to ensure a low emission source of hydrogen.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, said the project was the first of its kind in Australia and was built on the strong and long-standing trade partnership between Australia and Japan.

“This pilot project is the first step in creating a commercial scale hydrogen supply chain which could lead to billions of dollars in export earnings for Australia and help Japan meet its strategic energy targets for 2030 and beyond,” he said.

“As global demand for hydrogen continues to grow, strategic investments such as this one have the potential to turn Australia into a major global exporter of hydrogen, particularly to countries such as Japan and South Korea.

“Australia has long been a reliable supplier of energy needs and there is no doubt that we are uniquely placed to continue to meet those global needs by becoming a leader in hydrogen energy. Future commercial scale operations in the Latrobe Valley and around the country will help transform Australia into a hydrogen powerhouse, delivering significant economic benefits and thousands of extra jobs for Australians.”

For funding purposes, the pilot phase is split into different delivery portions – a Japanese funded portion and an Australia funded portion.

The Australia funded portion is coordinated by Hydrogen Engineering Australia (HEA), a consortium comprised of project partners including Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), J-POWER, Iwatani Corporation, Marubeni Corporation and AGL. This portion involves refining the hydrogen gas in the Latrobe Valley, transporting it to the Port of Hastings, converting it to liquid and then loading it onto the marine carrier.

The Japan funded portion of the HESC pilot phase is coordinated by the CO2-Free Hydrogen Supply Chain Technology Association (HySTRA), acting on behalf of KHI, J-POWER, Iwatani Corporation and Shell. The Japanese funded portion includes converting brown coal to gas in the Latrobe Valley, transporting liquid hydrogen by sea and then unloading it in Japan.

The HSEC project will be developed in two phases:

  • The pilot phase will demonstrate a fully integrated supply chain between Australia and Japan over one year by 2021;
  • The decision to proceed to a commercial phase will be made in the 2020s with operations targeted in the 2030s, depending on the successful completion of the pilot phase, regulatory approvals, social licence to operate and hydrogen demand.

CSIRO’s Swirl Flow in the mix at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine

Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville gold mine, in Victoria, Australia, has employed one of CSIRO’s innovative gold processing solutions to improve safety for workers maintaining the slurry mixing tanks at the operation.

CSIRO’s Swirl Flow offered Fosterville workers superior mixing and suspension, while minimising problems associated with dead zones and sedimentation, according to Australia’s national science agency.

Slurry mixing is an integral part of the Fosterville operation, CSIRO said. “Due to their configuration, conventional agitators tend to create dead zones in which there is little movement in the mixture, resulting in the precipitation and build-up of unwanted scale.

“Fosterville Gold Mine was managing scale build-up through frequent tank wall cleaning and ‘dropping’ (ie draining) tanks,” CSIRO said.

However, the possibility of pieces of scale breaking off and falling when the tank is drained, or when the agitator is removed for maintenance, creates a health and safety risk for employees cleaning and maintaining the tanks.

A meeting between technical teams from CSIRO and Fosterville identified Swirl Flow as a possible option to reduce the amount of maintenance required, according to CSIRO.

“Swirl Flow offered Fosterville Gold Mine superior mixing and suspension, while minimising problems associated with dead zones and sedimentation, and has since been installed at their operation,” CSIRO said.

With an innovative, yet simple, impeller design, Swirl Flow creates a vortex, or tornado-like motion, in the tank, which prevents stagnant flow, while creating higher wall velocities to help cleanse the walls to reduce scale and build up in the tank,” CSIRO said.

Fosterville Gold Mine’s Technical Process Superintendent, Susan Mills, said: “For us, the driving benefit of Swirl Flow was the health and safety aspect. The safety of our people is paramount and the benefit of reducing the hazards of falling scale during maintenance made the decision simple.”

Mills said there other benefits.

“The actual conversion process is very straightforward and not costly to retrofit from a maintenance perspective, plus the reduction in scale build-up is anticipated to reduce operational costs incurred for cleaning,” she said.

A comparison suggests that, for a greenfields installation in the gold industry, Swirl Flow has the potential to be more cost effective than traditional systems, according to CSIRO. “It is cheaper due to its simple, light engineering design, and because steel baffle structures are not required. This lightweight design also means that retrofit costs are low to replace failed conventional agitators,” the agency said.

CSIRO Lead Scientist, Jie Wu, said: “Currently, companies tend to buy a complete processing system and not look at the individual components within that system to see if there are better alternatives.

“Processes and mixing applications vary from industry to industry, so we design a Swirl Flow system for the process or requirements of a producer’s particular processing, mixing or tank requirements.

“We look at the process, we model it and then we work with the manufacturer and the client company to optimise the performance of the Swirl Flow installation.”

CSIRO is looking to expand the applications of Swirl Flow and is interested in working with both producers and mining equipment technology and services supplier companies to help resolve operational mixing problems.

“We started in the alumina industry and are now making inroads with applications and plant trials in gold processing, uranium leaching and other minerals sectors,” Dr Wu said.

“We hope that Swirl Flow will become a mainstream alternative mixing technology for a number of applications in the minerals sector.”

Swirl Flow technology was developed with CSIRO partners at Queensland Alumina. The technology enhances the agitation process by mixing liquids and suspended solids to create a tornado-like vortex in a tank. It uses a motor, gearbox and a specially-designed radial impeller with a short shaft near the top of the tank. The system improves agitator reliability, resulting in reduced maintenance and shutdowns. Due to higher and more uniform wall veolcities, the scale formation rate is also reduced, according to CSIRO.