Tag Archives: Western Australia

New Kalgoorlie metals research lab to pave the way for mining’s greener future

Curtin University is to open a new research lab geared towards carbon-neutral metal production paths at its Kalgoorlie campus in Western Australia.

Curtin’s WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering Head of School, Professor Michael Hitch, said the Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory would explore cleaner alternatives through teaching and research that would pave the way for a greener future for the industry.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will provide undergraduate students with practical education in carbon-neutral metal production paths, which is particularly important given they are the generation that will help decarbonise the mining industry in the most challenging area of pyrometallurgy,” Professor Hitch said.

Iron ore processing expert, Dr John Clout, has been appointed the Professor of Practice in Pyrometallurgy at the lab with Curtin’s WA School of Mines Kalgoorlie Director, Sabina Shugg, saying he would oversee a high-tech laboratory, fitted with experimental high temperature furnace equipment, capable of simulating the complete industrial process to test renewable energy and green hydrogen sources in the metal extraction process of pyrometallurgy, which currently require fossil fuels.

“Highly respected in the field of pyrometallurgy, Professor Clout will bring real-world experience to the laboratory’s teaching and research, ensuring we contribute to a sustainable future for the Western Australia resources industry,” Shugg said.

Professor Clout said he was thrilled to support the new research hub’s development as an internationally-recognised laboratory and pilot-scale pyrometallurgical research facility for undergraduate teaching and applied research.

“The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory will aim to develop end-to-end production paths that set new standards for efficiency, value and carbon neutral management, which will ultimately support a cleaner future,” he said.

“After working in the gold, iron ore and nickel industries for more than four decades, I am especially excited to be working with the future leaders of the resources sector to find the most efficient renewable energy sources and processes for pyrometallurgy.

“There is significant potential for industry to be extracting and producing critical metals right here in Western Australia, especially in the Goldfields where there is significant scope for renewal energy production, untapped critical mineral resources, an existing infrastructure network and workforce.”

The Kalgoorlie Metals Research Laboratory has been established as the result of a A$600,000 ($443,697) grant from Curtin University.

The new research facility is also seeking support from industry and private donors for the purchase of additional equipment and ongoing industry-funded projects.

GR Engineering to help double processing capacity at NSR’s Thunderbox

GR Engineering Services says it has executed an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with Northern Star Resources in relation to the Thunderbox 6 Mt/y expansion project in Western Australia.

Located 45 km south of Leinster, the Thunderbox operations currently have a 3 Mt/y processing capacity. The asset was owned by Saracen Mineral Holdings prior to a merger with Northern Star.

The works will involve the design, engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of the project, with the contract sum amounting to A$101 million ($74.3 million) and work is expected to start immediately.

GR Engineering has carried out several projects on the Thunderbox operations, including EPC work on the Thunderbox paste plant work, which has seen a new 150 cu.m paste backfill plant built.

Commenting on the recent award, Geoff Jones, GR Engineering Managing Director, said: “GR Engineering is excited to continue working with Northern Star, one of the world’s leading gold producers, to safely deliver the Thunderbox Expansion project. We have worked with the Northern Star team over many years and see this award as a strong endorsement of our proven EPC delivery capability.”

On award of Northern Star’s largest infrastructure project to date, Northern Star’s General Manager Processing, Simon Tyrrell, said: “The Thunderbox expansion increases the operation’s hard-rock processing capacity to 6 Mt/y from the current 3 Mt/y, and decreases processing costs as outlined in the 2021 Investor Day Presentation. Northern Star is pleased to be working with GR Engineering again, a local company with vast project delivery experience in the Australian mining industry.”

In this same presentation, the company said the processing capacity boost would involve the addition of a new 18 MW mill and classification circuit; new leach tanks, elution and gold room upgrades; and new tailing thickener and tailings pumping. The plant would be designed for 100% fresh ore, NSR said.

NRW’s METS business takes flight with Primero’s latest contract awards

The first build own operate (BOO) contract initiatives, and the first major engineering, procurement, site support and commissioning contract in West Africa are some of the highlights from Primero Group’s latest contract awards.

The company, acquired by NRW Holdings earlier this year, has recently been awarded new contracts totalling circa-A$155 million ($114 million) with key clients. It has also progressed strategic initiatives that provide further strength to the group offering within the newly formed Minerals, Energy and Technology (METS) business under the NRW Holdings banner, NRW said. RCR Mining Technologies and DIAB Engineering also feature under the METS business.

“These include the award of the group’s BOO contract initiatives crystalising the strategic direction deployed by the group to enter the market of ownership and operation of processing infrastructure,” it said. “The equipment is designed, fabricated and constructed internally utilising the METS division companies and focuses on enabling the infrastructure to be relocatable, in alignment with other material handling products already being offered by the group.”

Primero has been awarded two key contracts with Mt Gibson Iron. The first is for the upgrade of the Koolan Island crushing circuit under an engineering and construction contract off the coast of Western Australia. The second is a two-year fixed crushing contract at the Shine development project in the Mid-West region of Western Australia under a BOO arrangement, with an option to extend.

Also, in the iron ore space and Western Australia, Primero has been awarded a four-year contract for crushing services at Atlas Iron’s proposed Miralga Creek operation in the Pilbara region. The contract provides crushing services for 2 Mt/y under a BOO scenario and will commence in early 2022.

In West Africa, meanwhile, Primero has secured its first major engineering, procurement, site support and commissioning contract for the Abujar gold project in Côte d’Ivoire, owned by Tietto Minerals. “The project award demonstrates the groups continuing growth and maturity in minerals processing engineering execution and diversity in capability across multiple commodities in the group,” NRW said.

The project is at a 3.5 Mt/y throughput scale with most of the contract revenue to be recognised in NRW’s 2022 financial year.

Back in Western Australia, meanwhile, Primero has been awarded the Mt Holland water supply pipeline construction contract from Covalent Lithium. The project follows on from the design services that Primero was awarded in October 2020 and completed including detailed construction planning and methodology for the 130 km pipeline and associated pumping facilities.

Site construction works have commenced, and the project is scheduled for completion in the March quarter of 2022.

As an updated note, Primero confirms the previously announced letter of intent with Panoramic Resources for the contract operations of the Savannah Nickel project has been finalised into a binding contract with a term of three years, as per Panoramic announcement dated April 6, 2021.

Work has already commenced in the preparation and operational readiness for the recommencement of the concentrator operations in-line with the announced restart plan of the mine in the September quarter with first shipments planned in December.

NRW CEO, Jules Pemberton, said: “The ongoing development of the METS pillar of the NRW Holdings Group is continuing to provide further success and market penetration within key client groups in our sector. Primero, as the newest addition to that group, has added significant capability and these recent contract awards showcase the diversity, capability and the expanding capacity of the group across multiple commodities and services.”

SIMPEC to construct wet process plant at Iron Bridge magnetite project

SIMPEC has been awarded a A$145 million ($107 million) contract for the construction of a wet process plant for the Iron Bridge magnetite project in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The WestStar Industrial subsidiary has been contracted by Iron Bridge Operations Pty Ltd, a company representing the joint venture between Fortescue Metals Group subsidiary FMG Magnetite Pty Ltd and Formosa Steel IB Pty Ltd.

The wet processing plant is a significant part of the new magnetite mine at Iron Bridge, which will be central to the production of 22 Mt/y (wet) of 67% Fe magnetite concentrate product.

SIMPEC is to supply vertical construction services for the contract, with an anticipated workforce of more than 500 personnel. The contract is expected to commence immediately with works due to be completed by the middle of 2022.

SIMPEC’s part of the project consists of major module installation, tank installation, major mechanical installation, large bore piping and a significant portion of supply and installation of electrical and instrumentation works.

Fortescue, in its June quarter results, released today, said the Iron Bridge project was expecting first production by December 2022 and a ramp-up period of 12-18 months before reaching capacity.

WesTrac to rebuild Rio’s Pilbara dozers at Geraldton facility

Rio Tinto, WesTrac and the Western Australia Government have agreed on a project that will see dozers from Rio’s Pilbara operations head to WesTrac’s Geraldton facility for rebuilds, with up to 54 machines committed between 2021 and 2025.

Western Australia Regional Development Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, welcomed the news, saying it would provide a major boost for the Mid-West’s mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.

The project was negotiated between the State Government through the Mid West Development Commission and industry after feasibility studies identified WesTrac’s Perth and Pilbara facilities were at capacity and unable to accommodate the additional repairs and maintenance required by Rio’s mining operations.

The Geraldton facility will receive up to 12 dozer rebuilds annually, from various Pilbara operations, according to the statement.

The project will support two new, localised apprenticeship opportunities in the Mid-West as well as creating new local skilled jobs and providing pathways to employment with Rio Tinto, the government said. The project also reduces transport times and negates logistical difficulties mining companies face getting heavy machinery in and out of the metropolitan area.

“The state will look to expand the initiative into a cross-regional Smart Specialisation project with linkages to the Kimberley and Goldfields regions, using the Mid-West as a demonstration pilot,” it added.

MacTiernan said: “This is a fantastic initiative that will see more work carried out in our regional centres, rather than shifting to Perth. It confirms that geography is not a barrier to global success for our regionally-based METS facilities, but in fact an advantage.”

Rio Tinto Port, Rail and Core Services Managing Director, Richard Cohen, said: “Rio Tinto is committed to growing regional Western Australia by supporting jobs and training opportunities for local people. Regional investment initiatives like the METS project will deliver ongoing benefits to the local economy.

“By unlocking the capabilities of the Geraldton WesTrac branch, we are significantly reducing transport time by removing the roughly 900-km round trip to Perth. This will lower costs, improve productivity and reduce the risk of driving related incidents that can occur on congested metropolitan roads.”

WesTrac CEO, Jarvas Croome, said the company was committed to developing capacity and capability throughout the state.

“Like many providers in the METS sector, WesTrac is seeing strong demand across all areas of our business due to the level of mining and construction activity,” he said. “That applies to new and used equipment sales, training, maintenance services and equipment rebuilds, and if there are opportunities to expand our offerings in regional centres and provide efficient outcomes for our customers, we’ll happily consider them.”

As well as multiple metropolitan operations, WesTrac currently has branches in eight regional centres including the major Western Australia mining regions. The company also operates as the authorised dealer of Caterpillar equipment in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

BHP and Tesla to collaborate on battery supply chain sustainability

BHP has agreed to supply Tesla Inc with nickel from its Western Australia operations, in addition to looking at how the two companies can collaborate on ways to make the battery supply chain more sustainable.

The supply agreement will see nickel from BHP’s Nickel West asset in Western Australia, one of the most sustainable and lowest carbon emission nickel producers in the world, BHP says, head to Tesla for use in its electric vehicles and battery storage systems.

BHP Chief Commercial Officer, Vandita Pant, said: “Demand for nickel in batteries is estimated to grow by over 500% over the next decade, in large part to support the world’s rising demand for electric vehicles.

“We are delighted to sign this agreement with Tesla Inc and to collaborate with them on ways to make the battery supply chain more sustainable through our shared focus on technology and innovation.”

This latter collaboration will focus on end-to-end raw material traceability using blockchain; technical exchange for battery raw materials production; and promotion of the importance of sustainability in the resources sector, including identifying partners most aligned with BHP and Tesla Inc’s principles and battery value chains, BHP said.

BHP will also collaborate with Tesla Inc on energy storage solutions to identify opportunities to lower carbon emissions in their respective operations through increased use of renewable energy paired with battery storage, it added.

BHP Minerals Australia President, Edgar Basto, said: “BHP produces some of the lowest carbon intensity nickel in the world, and we are on the pathway to net zero at our operations. Sustainable, reliable production of quality nickel will be essential to meeting demand from sustainable energy producers like Tesla Inc.

“The investments we have made in our assets and our pursuit of commodities like nickel will help support global decarbonisation and position us to generate long-term value for our business.”

Macmahon defies labour tightness to bolster contract mining order book

Macmahon Holdings Ltd has added around A$1.35 billion ($988 million) of work to its order book with the signing of three previously flagged contract mining gigs, plus announced the addition of surface mining work at Northern Star Resources’ Julius gold project in Western Australia.

The three projects making up the A$1.35 billion of contract mining works are the 5-year agreement with St Barbara Ltd at the Gwalia gold mine, a three-year pact with Anglo American at Dawson South and a five-year contract with Red 5 Ltd at King of the Hills.

The contract with Northern Star Resources at Julius is expected to deliver revenue of A$25 million over the next 12 months. Production from the Julius deposit is expected to complement output from NSR’s Jundee operations.

In addition to these projects, Macmahon says it is well progressed in finalising the commercial arrangements for Phase 8 of its Batu Hijau copper-gold project in Indonesia, an operation owned by PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara.

Macmahon commented: “While Macmahon has observed a tightening of the labour market in Australia over the past year, it can confirm that the Gwalia, Dawson South and Julius projects have commenced operations by the times required in those contracts.

“Macmahon has existing strategies for responding to challenges in the availability of labour, and believes it is well placed to continue to manage this operational issue into the foreseeable future, and to continue to deliver value for its clients.”

Commenting on today’s announcement, Macmahon CEO and Managing Director, Michael Finnegan, said: “Macmahon is continuing to build on its track record for delivery and to advance its growth strategy.

“It is very satisfying to have secured significant new work during financial year 2021, which provides us with a strong order book and excellent earnings visibility for FY22 and FY23. The underground work at Gwalia and King of the Hills also adds scale to our underground business, which is an important step in our strategy to diversify Macmahon.”

Monadelphous boosts fabrication design, supply options in Western Australia

Engineering firm Monadelphous is further integrating its supply chain in the south-west region of Western Australia with the acquisition of RTW Steel Fabrication and Construction.

Located in Capel, Western Australia, RTW offers industry-leading steel fabrication, processing and construction services for mining, industrial and commercial projects throughout Western Australia, Monadelphous said. It has been a long-term supplier of these services to Monadelphous and many other leading businesses, it added.

Monadelphous’ South-West Area Manager, Mark Holdman, said the acquisition of a local steel fabrication business in the region contributes to Monadelphous’ further growth in the region.

“RTW, as part of the Monadelphous team, complements our existing operations in the south-west and consolidates our presence in the area,” he said. “But, more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to offer additional services to existing customers including design, estimating, supply/fabrication and installation.”

Fortescue hits new automation milestone in the Pilbara

Fortescue Metals Group’s autonomous haulage (AHS) fleet has marked a significant milestone, moving two billion tonnes of material, doubling the amount hauled since reaching the one billion tonne milestone in September 2019.

In 2012, Fortescue was the first in the world to deploy Caterpillar’s AHS technology on a commercial scale at its Solomon Hub operations in the Pilbara of Western Australia and the multi-class fleet has since expanded across the company’s operations with a total of 193 autonomous trucks now in operation.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Fortescue is a leader in the implementation of autonomous haulage across our iron ore operations. Our fleet represents one of the largest in the world, with 79 trucks currently in operation at Solomon, 74 at Christmas Creek and 40 at Cloudbreak. Moving over two billion tonnes of material without a driver at the wheel is a significant milestone and a reflection of Fortescue’s ongoing commitment to increasing operational efficiency through technology and innovation.

“Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology has led to significant safety improvements for our team members, with our fleet safely travelling over 70 million kilometres to date – the equivalent of 91 return trips to the moon.”

The continued expansion of autonomous capability across the business has demonstrated that autonomy doesn’t need to be at the expense of jobs, with the transition to autonomous haulage providing significant new opportunities for Fortescue’s workforce through the provision of training and redeployment to new roles, Fortescue said.

Gaines added: “Significantly, the adoption of autonomous haulage has allowed us to relocate many traditional site-based roles to our integrated operations centre in Perth, providing opportunities for parents and women in particular to remain engaged in our workforce. Today, almost 50% of our workforce in the Fortescue Hive are women.”

Perenti’s Barminco seals Savannah nickel project contract

Perenti Global’s hard-rock underground mining subsidiary, Barminco, has finalised a contract with Panoramic Resources for development and production works at the Savannah nickel project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The finalised contract represents a value of around A$280 million ($208 million) over a four-year contract term, Perenti said.

Under the terms of the initial letter of intent, announced on the April 6, 2021, Barminco commenced mobilisation and early mining works ahead of the schedule. With finalisation of the contract, Barminco expects development and production works will ramp-up over the coming six months to achieve full run rate of revenue early in the March quarter of 2022.

The contract will be serviced by new underground mining equipment including the use of tele-remote mining equipment, expected to deliver both safety and productivity benefits, Panoramic said.

Ore processing at Savannah is scheduled to begin in November with first concentrate shipment from Savannah targeted for the following month, Panoramic said. The building of an ore stockpile on the surface has already commenced and the company plans for this to reach 100,000 t prior to turning on the processing plant.

Perenti’s Managing Director and CEO, Mark Norwell, said: “We look forward to working together with the team at Panoramic to develop what we all expect will be Australia’s next long-life nickel producing mine. Despite the challenging labour market conditions in Western Australia, we have been successful in mobilising a labour force of approximately 110 highly skilled underground employees. We expect this to increase to 170 as the project ramps up. Securing this labour force has enabled us to commence early works ahead of schedule.”

Savannah has outlined a 12-year mine life with an average annual production target of 9,072 t of nickel, 4,683 t of copper and 676 t cobalt in concentrate. The mine is set to operate at average site all-in costs of A$6.36/lb of payable nickel, net of copper and cobalt by-product credits and royalty payments. This equates to roughly $4.86/Ib or $10,714/t.

The operation, with more than A$100 million already invested, has been maintained since the suspension of operations in April 2020 with a view towards operational readiness and project optimisation. This includes the recent completion of the FAR#3 ventilation raise, underground capital development on four mining levels at Savannah North and ancillary capital works on surface and underground infrastructure, which are currently being completed, Panoramic says.