Tag Archives: Western Australia

Rio Tinto to partner with Founders Factory on commercialising breakthrough mining tech

Rio Tinto is teaming up with a leading global venture studio and start-up investor to back the development and commercialisation of breakthrough technologies in the mining industry, supporting the company’s efforts to find better ways to provide the materials the world needs.

The company will partner with Founders Factory and invest A$14.4 million ($9.5 million) in global pre-seed and seed stage start-ups over the next three years. The focus will be on technologies in the fields of safe mine operations, decarbonisation, exploration processing and automation.

Each start-up will receive a cash investment and participate in a four-month accelerator program run by Founders Factory to support product development and commercialisation.

The Western Australian Government has also partnered with Founders Factory to invest in nature-tech start-ups that preserve and restore nature and biodiversity.

The partnerships with Rio Tinto and the Western Australian Government will support the first Australian hub of Founders Factory in Perth, Western Australia, boosting the state’s innovation credentials. Founders Factory successfully operates in London, Johannesburg, Milan, Berlin, Bratislava, New York and Singapore.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, said, “Technology has always been at the forefront of our industry and Western Australia can be the Silicon Valley of the global mining industry.

“Our iron ore operations in the Pilbara are among the most technologically advanced in the world. This exciting new partnership gives us the opportunity to build on our innovative legacy to unlock new technologies and help our business find better ways to provide the materials the world needs.

“With the backing of industry and the State Government, local and international start-ups will receive investment opportunities and access to real-world testing and scaling support, helping Western Australia’s innovation economy to grow.”

Western Australian Premier, Roger Cook, said, “Securing the internationally renowned Founders Factory for Perth is a major coup for our state.

“This is the first time the tech accelerator has operated in Australia, providing a springboard for innovative local businesses to reach an international audience and maximise their chances of success.

“My government is committed to decarbonising our economy by 2050 and it’s vital that we support local startups developing the technology to reach this goal.

“This three-year partnership will further cement WA’s position as a global leader in research and the development, helping to diversify the economy and create the jobs of the future.”

Founders Factory CEO, Henry Lane, said: “We are excited to be partnering with Rio Tinto and launching operations in Western Australia. Startups can drive further productivity, safety and automation in the mining sector, whilst accelerating the industry’s transition to net zero.

“This program can help international and local founders test their technologies with the global leader in the sector and find pathways to commercial scale and impact.”

MMS to carry out load and haul services at Silverlake Mount Monger

In what it says is a significant win, MMS has secured a A$200 million ($130 million) load and haul contract with gold producer Silver Lake Resources, in Western Australia.

The contract marks a significant milestone for both parties, signalling the next stage of expansion in the Silverlake Mount Monger operation, southeast of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, MMS says.

The 49-month contract is scheduled to commence on April 1, 2024, with MMS operating alongside Silver Lake Resources and Dynamic Drill and Blast in the Santa open pit and Flora Dora deposit.

MMS has already commenced mobilising its fleet onto the site, with early works and site establishment in progress, it says. The fleet consists of new and low-hour heavy machinery, including 120-200-t excavators and 100-t dump trucks. As the operation progresses, it will peak at a workforce of 106 employees and 48 heavy machines operating on site.

Lynas Rare Earths to switch to continuous mining mode at Mt Weld with help of Carey Group

Lynas Rare Earths Ltd has awarded Western Australia-based company Carey Group Holdings a five-year contract for mining services at Lynas’ Mt Weld rare earths mine near Laverton.

The contract will draw on Carey’s nearly 30 years of experience as an open-pit mining contractor and leading 100% First Nations-owned business, including as a service provider to neighbouring mines near Laverton.

Carey will commence on site at the high-grade Mt Weld mine in April 2024. On commencement of the contract, Lynas will transition from campaign mining to continuous mining over the five-year period to supply ores to the expanded Mt Weld process plant.

Under the contract, Carey will mobilise a mining fleet comprising production drilling, excavation, hauling and auxiliary equipment. Carey will provide new haul trucks as part of the contract, with a focus on technologies designed to improve efficiency, productivity and precision for extracting ores, Lynas says.

A signing ceremony for the contract with Carey was held in Perth today and Amanda Lacaze, CEO & Managing Director, Lynas Rare Earths (pictured on the left), said: “Lynas is delighted to award the Mt Weld mining contract to Carey. Carey has almost 30 years of experience working with open-pit mine environments and is a leading contractor in its field. Significantly for Lynas, Carey’s founder and Managing Director, Daniel Tucker AM, grew up in the Laverton area. Daniel and his team have a strong connection to country and this is evident in their approach to sustainability and to providing opportunities for First Nations people to build and develop skills and expertise.

“We share Carey’s values and commitment to providing career opportunities and skills development for First Nations people. We look forward to working with Carey as we continue to enhance our operations, safety and sustainability through this contract.”

Tucker (pictured on the right) said: “We are immensely pleased for the opportunity to work with a global leader such as Lynas, and grateful to receive this contract award which continues to build on our history of the delivery of contract mining services in the Goldfields.

“As a leader of First Nations business in Australia, this long-term contract will allow us to deliver value for Lynas, Carey, other First Nations businesses and local supply chain partners. I look forward to a successful
partnership with Lynas.”

Gold Fields to up the renewable ante at St Ives with A$296 million investment

The Board of Gold Fields Limited has approved the go-ahead for a A$296 million ($195 million) renewables project at the St Ives mine, in Western Australia, in a move that could boost the operation’s renewable input to over 70%.

The project will comprise:

  • 42 MW of wind power delivered via seven wind turbines;
  • 35 MW of solar power delivered via 60,000 solar panels;
  • A 33 kV renewable energy hub substation; and
  • A 132 kV transmission line.

The project, the largest in the Gold Fields portfolio to date, will provide 73% of the mines electricity requirements and is planned to commence construction in May 2024 and will be operational by the end of 2025.

While previous renewables projects of this nature were built and managed by independent power producers, the St Ives project will be built by Gold Fields, the company stated.

Six out of Gold Fields’ 10 mines and projects are already powered partially by renewable electricity, and, in addition to the St Ives project, the company is studying additional renewable energy projects to meet the company’s decarbonisation commitments.

In 2023, renewable electricity accounted for 17% of electricity consumption across the Gold Fields business, compared with 13% a year earlier, leading to a 5% decline in carbon emissions during the year, the company said. Renewables provided 50% of electricity consumed at the Agnew mine in Australia and 15% of South Deep’s electricity consumption. The Cerro Corona mine in Peru is fully supplied by hydroelectricity, which is classified as 100% renewable. The Windfall project in Canada (which is a 50:50 joint venture between Gold Fields and Osisko Mining) is also supplied by hydroelectricity.

Once operational, the St Ives project will boost renewable energy in Gold Fields’ electricity mix further to approximately 24% and will contribute markedly to achieving the group’s 2030 target of reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions by a net 30% against its 2016 baseline. St Ives itself will reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by approximately 50% by 2030. Gold Fields has also committed to Net Zero by 2050.

“The St Ives renewables project is a clear and tangible signal to our stakeholders of our decarbonisation commitments,” Gold Fields CEO, Mike Fraser, said. “Investing in renewables has obvious environmental benefits, but it also provides the business with cheaper electricity and offers an enhanced level of energy supply security.”

The St Ives renewables project will reduce electricity costs to a third of the previously projected costs by 2025.

The project has received the required approvals from Traditional Owners of the land, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Western Australian Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

Gold Fields has also advanced plans on other key renewables projects in its portfolio, which include:

  • A 11 MW expansion to the current 8 MW solar plant at its Granny Smith mine in Australia;
  • A 7.7 MW photovoltaic solar plant at the Salares Norte mine in Chile to be added to the current diesel generator sets about a year after first gold production. The project has already received the required environmental approvals; and
  • Adding up to six wind turbines to provide approximately 40 MW of power to the South Deep mine in South Africa. This project is currently in feasibility phase and awaiting final environmental approval.

Fraser added: “All our operations continue to investigate the possibility of adding further renewable electricity sources where it makes technical and economic sense to do so. We are also exploring the most capital efficient ways to fund these projects as part of our disciplined capital allocation. Gold Fields is committed to playing its part in mitigating the impact climate change is having on the world.”

Red Hawk Mining plots Blacksmith iron ore project haulage path with MGM Bulk

Red Hawk Mining says it has entered into a strategic partnership with MGM Bulk Pty Ltd (MGM Bulk) for the haulage of iron ore from the company’s 100%-owned Blacksmith iron ore project, in Western Australia, to the Utah Point bulk handling facility in Port Hedland.

The haulage agreement enables Red Hawk and MGM Bulk to work collaboratively through the prefeasibility study (PFS) and definitive feasibility study (DFS) phases to develop and optimise the transport and logistics strategy, focusing on maximising productivity and reducing unit operating costs, the company says.

Following completion of the studies, MGM Bulk has the exclusive right to enter into a haulage services agreement on terms equivalent to those contained in the DFS. MGM Bulk will be responsible for providing a fleet of 150 t ultra-quad trucks and drivers plus associated loading and other equipment and infrastructure.

In a February presentation deck, Red Hawk Mining claimed over 200,000 m of drilling has defined the largest direct shipping ore (DSO) resource of any ASX-listed junior iron ore company (excluding magnetite) at Blacksmith with 174 Mt at 60% Fe. It said there was potential for thee project to be a long-term supplier of at least 3 Mt/y of 60.5% Fe DSO for over 20 years.

Red Hawk’s Managing Director, Steven Michael, said: “We are excited to work with the team at MGM Bulk to establish a haulage strategy optimised for the Blacksmith project. MGM Bulk’s operations in the Pilbara, centred around delivering iron ore into the Utah Point, are second to none. Their fleet size, quality, operational performance and safety record are critical factors in ensuring the success of the Blacksmith project.

“Our PFS team is working closely with MGM Bulk’s commercial and operations team to deliver operating and capital cost estimates with a high degree of certainty, which can easily be translated into an operational haulage contract.”

MGM Bulk’s CEO, Michael Giacci, added: “We are immensely proud to be forging a long-term partnership with Red Hawk Mining on the mine-to-port haulage solutions for their Blacksmith iron ore project.”

BME to become ‘first local manufacturer’ of electronic detonators in Western Australia

Having actively built its foundation in the Australian mining market over the past decade, global blasting and explosives specialist BME says it is ramping up its footprint and capability with facilities in the west of the country.

These expansions represent a key aspect of the company’s strategic direction, according to BME Managing Director, Ralf Hennecke. Australia is among the high-potential markets in which BME is further expanding its existing operations, he said, leveraging the country’s status as the fourth largest mining country globally after China, the US and Russia. Australia also boasts high mineral exploration rates, which bode well for the industry’s future.

“Our first decade in Australia has been focused on importing and marketing our premium AXXIS™ electronic initiation system,” he explained. “The next exciting steps, however, go well beyond that into local manufacturing of detonators and other products and equipment in our own certified, state-of-the-art automated facilities. We also have our mobile manufacturing units (MMUs) in the country to fully integrate with our other products.”

The licensing processes have been completed for a site that BME Australia has secured in the Kalgoorlie area of Western Australia, a region strategically positioned to best supply the miners of iron ore, gold, nickel, lithium and other strategic mineral resources. This will allow the company to become the first local manufacturer of electronic detonators in the state, providing significant supply chain security and logistical benefits to mining customers, it says. The plan is to begin production by May 2024.

“Manufacturing in-country removes considerable supply chain risk for the industry, which the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted for every sector,” Hennecke said.

A similar facility has already been established in Canada as part of BME’s globalisation drive. The Western Australia plant will be able to draw on equipment that has been tried and tested in the company’s South African operations, include a semi-automated line from BME’s Losberg plant.

BME has built on its strong relationships with global blue chip mining companies in the planning of its new plant, and has reported a high degree of interest from the sector’s leading players. The AXXIS detonator has been well accepted through its multiple upgrades – and has been successfully deployed across eastern Australia for over a decade. With BME’s expansion into Western Australia, trials have been conducted with AXXIS electronic detonators at various mines in the state, and the results were extremely positive.

Emphasising the market demand, Hennecke noted that there has been a significant shift away from shock tubes and towards electronic detonators in Australia’s mining sector – as mines look to safer, automated solutions to reduce the number of ‘boots on the bench’.

“This aligns importantly with the very strict safety policies and regulations that the country has in place,” he explained. “The technology contributes to industry’s risk mitigation efforts, but also holds performance benefits in terms of facilitating large, accurate and reliable blasts which support mines’ sustainability and productivity.”

He said that BME’s progress in Australia was an expression of the company’s global ambitions, which are now turning from plans to action in the country through its commitment of capital investments and infrastructure.

Western Australia to incentivise METS technology developments with new funding program

In one of his first actions in office, Western Australia’s new Mines and Petroleum Minister, David Michael, has launched a funding program to help mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies to develop and commercialise new technologies for use in the WA mining sector.

Applications now open for up to A$250,000 ($169,838) in co-funded METS innovation and commercialisation of research outcomes, with the A$3 million program aimed at supporting industry-led METS research advancing low-emissions technologies, precision and low-impact mining, critical minerals, and the alternative use of tailings and waste

Michael was appointed Mines and Petroleum Minister earlier this month after Bill Johnston retired.

Led by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), the METS Innovation Program seeks to broaden support for METS companies servicing the local sector. The aim is to help METS companies replicate the success achieved by the recently named WA Innovator of the Year, Portable PPB.

Supported by MRIWA research funding, Portable PPB’s detectORE™ technology enables quick decision making in the field when exploring for gold. It is made up of a detectORE Widget, proprietary software and portable XRF, with the system involving the sample preparation, sample processing and use of a pXRF to obtain low level gold results in the field.

The new A$3 million funding program to support industry-led METS related research projects features a specific grant scheme with matched-funding of up to A$250,000 for eligible companies, as well as project facilitation assistance for collaborative projects.

David Michael (fourth from the left) said: “Western Australia’s mining sector is world-leading, and continued R&D is critical to ensuring the state is well positioned as global supply chains transition to cleaner and more innovative solutions. The METS sector plays an important part in the mining innovation lifecycle. These companies can translate new knowledge created through research into the required solutions which can be readily adopted by the mining industry.

“This innovation program is intended to assist METS companies to develop products and services to deliver efficiencies, increase productivity and increase the competitiveness of the WA mining sector, as well as open new international markets for their products.”

Schlam to provide specialised maintenance services through new Fixed Plant Maintenance division

On the back of growing demand for specialised maintenance services, Schlam has launched its new Fixed Plant Maintenance division.

This expansion is being spearheaded by Kaze Richardson, an experienced fixed plant professional determined to drive operations in the Pilbara and the Goldfields regions to new heights, Schlam says. Having been involved in multiple fixed plant projects and shutdowns sector since 2010, Richardson developed his skillset from a Leading Hand to Site Manager.

Schlam says: “With a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by industries in the regions, Kaze brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. His vision for the Fixed Plant Maintenance division is to provide exceptional services to Schlam’s valued partners, ensuring that their operations run seamlessly and efficiently.”

Richardson added: “Our goal is to become the go-to provider for all fixed plant maintenance needs in the Pilbara and Goldfields regions. We aim to do simple things well, with an ‘Adapt – Achieve – Repeat’ ethos.”

The establishment of the Fixed Plant Maintenance division reflects Schlam’s commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its clients, it says. By offering expert services, Schlam aims to provide its partners with a comprehensive end-to-end solution for all their fixed plant requirements. Whether it is routine inspections and repairs or complex refurbishments and upgrades, Schlam says its Fixed Plant Maintenance division has the capability to handle projects of any scale or complexity.

One of the key strengths of the new division lies in its team of highly skilled professionals. These individuals possess extensive knowledge and experience in working with a variety of materials, including steel, aluminium and various alloys. Their expertise allows them to fabricate custom components, structures and assemblies that meet the highest industry standards, Schlam says.

The Fixed Plant Maintenance division follows rigorous testing procedures to ensure every project meets the highest standards of precision, durability and compliance with industry regulations. This dedication to quality control reflects Schlam’s commitment to delivering exceptional results to its clients, it says.

Safety is of paramount importance to Schlam, and the Fixed Plant Maintenance division prioritises the implementation and adherence to robust safety protocols and best practices. By creating a secure working environment, Schlam says it ensures the wellbeing of its employees, clients and stakeholders, aligning its values with theirs.

The company concluded: “With the launch of the Fixed Plant Maintenance division, Schlam is poised to revolutionise the maintenance services industry in the Pilbara and Goldfields regions. Through exceptional expertise, unwavering commitment to quality, and a focus on safety, Schlam aims to become the trusted partner for all fixed plant maintenance needs.”


Sandvik loaders, development drills and bolter heading to Byrnecut at Kathleen Valley

Mining contractor Byrnecut has chosen Sandvik to supply automated loaders, underground drills and rock tools as it gears up to deliver underground mining services at the Kathleen Valley lithium project in Western Australia.

Sandvik will supply Byrnecut with seven 21-t-payload Toro™ LH621i loaders with AutoMine®, three Sandvik DD422i development drills with Dual Controls and a Sandvik DS422i cable bolter. The equipment order was primarily booked in the September quarter.

Sandvik will also supply Byrnecut with rock tools for the operation over four years.

The deal follows Liontown Resources awarding Byrnecut with the circa-A$1 billion ($656 million) contract for development and production at the mine in August 2023.

The Kathleen Valley lithium project in Western Australia’s northern Goldfields region is one of the most significant new long-life lithium projects anywhere in the world, owner Liontown Resources says, with a mineral resource estimate of 156 Mt at 1.4% Li2O and 130 ppm Ta2O5. The operations have been optimised for an initial 3 Mt/y, producing approximately 500,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate with a 4 Mt/y expansion planned in Year 6, to deliver approximately 700,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate.

Byrnecut is investing A$125 million in new equipment for the project, with mobilisation having already commenced and first production is targeted for mid-2024.

Wayne Scrivens, Vice President, Sales Area Australia and New Zealand, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “Byrnecut and Sandvik have a long history of collaboration on projects across the country and we’re delighted that Byrnecut is once again investing significantly in Sandvik equipment and rock tools for this major project. This deal highlights the growing understanding across the Australian mining sector that Sandvik’s advanced solutions help mines run safer, more efficiently and more sustainably.”

Sandvik’s Toro LH621i underground loaders (one pictured above) are engineered for rapid mine development and large-scale underground production, according to the OEM. Smart boom geometry optimises hydraulic power for fast bucket filling and the handling of large rocks.

Under AutoMine Multi-Lite an operator can remotely control and simultaneously supervise multiple Toro LH621i loaders from a comfortable environment, reducing exposure to dust, noise, vibrations and other mine hazards. This creates a safer work environment for both the operator and mine personnel, Sandvik says.

When used in combination with Sandvik’s Dual Controls package, Sandvik DD422i face drills can be used for a wide variety of underground applications, including boring, bolting and meshing. The package improves drill optimisation, versatility and performance and was designed to address needs identified by mining contractors.

Sandvik will also provide Byrnecut premium rock tools as well as a range of added services and digital solutions to support its drilling operations. The deal will also include carbide recycling, with Sandvik’s Carbide Recycling Program helping both the OEM and the wider industry to meet circularity goals and ensure raw materials are used efficiently and sustainably.

BHP, TransAlta solar and battery storage facility set to cut Nickel West Scope 2 emissions

A new solar farm in the Northern Goldfields of Western Australia has been switched online thanks to a collaboration between BHP and renewable energy provider TransAlta, which, BHP says, will reduce Scope 2 emissions at the Nickel West northern operations by 12%.

The Northern Goldfields Solar and Battery Storage Facility is one of the world’s largest off-grid mining solar and battery energy storage systems and features about 70,000 solar panels across 90 ha of land.

The initiative, which will replace power currently generated from diesel and gas, will be a significant step towards BHP’s aim to decarbonise its operations by 30% by the 2030 financial year.

It includes a 27.4 MW solar farm at Mt Keith, and a 10.7 MW solar farm and 10.1 MW battery at Leinster, which is integrated into TransAlta’s Northern Goldfields remote power grid.

Construction on the facility began in 2022, creating more than 100 direct and indirect jobs in the Goldfields and Perth regions, and will support ongoing employment during operations.

BHP Australia President, Geraldine Slattery, said: “Renewables are increasingly powering BHP operations around the globe and this facility – the first we have built on one of our sites – is another step forward in our plans to reduce our operational greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by FY30, from FY20 levels.

“Nickel is in high demand for batteries and electric vehicles, and this progress is part of our commitment to delivering more sustainable, lower carbon product to our customers.”

BHP Nickel West Asset President, Jessica Farrell, said the initiative was one of many ways Nickel West was reducing its operational emissions – it was also considering wind farms in the northern and southern Goldfields.

“It’s fantastic to see the Northern Goldfields Solar and Battery Storage Facility switched on,” she said. “It’s on the back of a team of dedicated engineers, technicians and many others bringing new ideas to the table to support the development and integration of reliable and affordable renewable power to our business.

“The initiative will help Nickel West reduce Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions at our northern operations by 12%. This will result in an estimated reduction of 54,000 t of CO2-e per annum – the equivalent of removing 23,000 combustion engine cars2 from the road each year.”

TransAlta’s President and Chief Executive Officer, John Kousinioris, said the company was excited to flick the switch on what was a ground-breaking project for the organisation.

He said: “We are excited to work together with BHP to realise this innovative solution to meet BHP’s renewable electricity needs. This facility represents a first for both companies – it’s BHP’s first on-site, large-scale renewable project globally, and it’s TransAlta’s first renewable energy facility in Australia. It’s also the first time we have combined solar and battery storage to offer a hybrid solution.

“This unique project enabled us to apply the extensive capability and technical knowledge we have to the development of a large-scale facility in a remote part of Western Australia.

“Working under our longstanding relationship with BHP, we were able to collectively solve challenges and break new ground at the same time as playing a part in WA’s exciting and rapidly accelerating transition to a cleaner energy future.”