Tag Archives: Western Australia

New Ishigaki filter press starts up at Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora operation

Pilbara Minerals Ltd says it has commenced concentrate production from its newly installed filter press at the Pilgan Plant. The development is part of the Plant Improvements Project being undertaken at its 100%-owned Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum operation in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The filter press in question is provided by Ishigaki and will handle approximately 1,500 t/d of concentrate, Pilbara Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, Ken Brinsden, confirmed.

The Pilgan Plant Improvements Project is expected to de-bottleneck the facility to increase plant operating time and throughput, reduce final product moisture (minimising solar drying) and further manage product recovery performance. These improvements are ultimately expected to realise additional production capacity from the facility, and particularly from the fines flotation circuit.

A total of approximately A$22 million ($16 million) of capital will be invested, with the project expected to be fully ramped-up during the December quarter 2021 to 360,000-380,000 t (dry) of spodumene concentrate. When combined with Ngungaju Plant’s ramped-up capacity of 180,000-200,000 t (dry), which is expected from mid-2022, the total annual production capacity across the entire Pilgangoora operation is expected to increase to circa-560,000-580,000 t/y.

Brinsden said the commencement of production from the Pilgan Plant Improvements Project marked another significant and exciting milestone in the rapid growth of the Pilgangoora project.

“The team has done another amazing job in delivering this project on time and in line with budget,” he said. “Keeping it on track, in combination with the restart of the Ngungaju Plant, is testament to the delivery capability of our team – particularly considering that these works were achieved during a period when the resources industry is under considerable pressure in terms of securing people, resources and equipment.”

Aquirian buoyed by Collar Keeper System blasthole results in Western Australia

Aquirian Ltd says it has successfully completed the Stage II prototype trial of its Collar Keeper® System (patent pending), a technology designed to improve blasthole quality control across the mining sector.

The Stage II prototype unit was deployed on an existing drill rig operating in a hard-rock gold mining environment in the mid-west of Western Australia, according to Aquirian. The trial successfully tested fitment to existing drill rigs and delivered marked improvements to drilling rates and drill hole quality.

Drilling rates were improved by approximately two minutes per drill hole on a 5 m blast bench during testing, which equates to an improvement of more than 20% over conventional drill methods, the company claims. Further benefit in time savings as compared with a traditional collar piping process is expected to be realised during Stage III testing in December 2021, it added.

The prototype testing was conducted over numerous blast holes, testing system functionality and speed of deployment.

The Collar Keeper System is a combination of Aquirian-developed, retrofittable drilling apparatus combined with its existing Collar Keeper. The technology represents a step change in managing blasthole quality and is targeted to provide a unique solution to a range of different blasting environments with global applications, the company said.

The initial focus for the technology will be on mines operating in Western Australia with smaller-diameter holes in challenging ground conditions, where high-cost collar piping is traditionally used.

“The traditional method of collar piping has not changed in over 40 years and introduces significant hazards as well as cost, time and quality issues, and poor blast outcomes for clients,” the company said. “In addition, the poor blasting outcomes lead to further downstream costs in load and haul, and the processing of mined material.”

The current development focus is targeting around 200 operating drill rigs in Western Australia alone, pending the commercialisation of the technology intended for the 2022 financial year.

Aquirian Managing Director, David Kelly said: “We are excited by the successful trial of our Stage ll prototype last week. The system can be quickly and easily retrofitted to existing drill rigs and the improvements to drilling rates and blasthole quality exceeded our expectations. We will continue trialling the Collar Keeper System in alternate conditions with the aim of commercialisation over the current financial year.”

Mammoet delivers the goods at BHP’s South Flank iron ore mine

Mammoet has helped BHP deliver on its goals for the South Flank iron ore project in the Pilbara of Western Australia, using its expertise to transport over 1,000 oversized items to site safely and on time.

These components needed to be transported to site safely, on schedule and in the right sequence. With a cumulative weight in excess of 29,500 t, they needed to be transported 340 km across the state’s barren interior. This had to be done within a demanding timeframe to keep the construction schedule on track, according to Mammoet, a feat achieved and confirmed with the first ore milestone at South Flank in May of this year.

The cargo would be taken from the ship’s hook at Port Hedland and across a route largely consisting of public highways. Transporting these modules in the largest possible pieces would reduce the time spent integrating them on site – but the maximum transport size is always limited by the width and condition of the route, Mammoet says.

The possibilities for what could be transported on this stretch of tarmac were pushed to new limits as Mammoet delivered a 349 t module comprising the train load out bin gate and HPU module. This was the heaviest load ever carried along this stretch of Western Australia’s Great Northern Highway.

Restrictions were also placed on when modules could be transported, which varied depending on their size: those wider than 8.5 m needed to travel at night, so that the transport had the lowest economic impact on the surrounding community and public road users. A rolling roadblock was set up to shut down the highway in sections, minimising the transport’s impact further still.

To achieve this required logistics planning and early engagement with the project’s construction contractors to identify precisely what could be transported and how.

Pete O’Connell, Senior Project Manager at Mammoet, explains: “Engagement at the planning stage with engineering, procurement and construction contractors can help to optimise how our package of work integrates with other workflows. It was particularly critical in this case – given the size and volume of components that needed to be on site in a specific order and timeframe for construction to proceed smoothly.

“We were able to advise the modularisation engineers on how to get maximum benefit from the load sizes possible on the route, in terms of their overall dimensions and the maximum weights to cross structures such as bridges. We were then able to plan from the very start the equipment and expertise we would need to best carry out the work.”

Mammoet used a specially-built trailer type to minimise the weight of the transport equipment itself and, therefore, increase the size of module that could be carried. Overall weight limitations on Australian highways meant a lighter alternative to the traditionally used four-file platform trailer was needed to avoid reducing the size of the modules themselves.

Smaller module sizes, of course, mean more transportation – and, in turn, additional transport and integration costs. Mammoet’s equipment inventory was put to good use in devising a three-file trailer solution. This allowed the desired size of module to be transported within local regulations.

Delivery of such a large scale of transport work was already a significant challenge within the planned 15-month timescale, but, due to delays earlier in the project schedule, this cargo needed to be transported in a shorter timeframe, according to Mammoet.

Despite ongoing travel restrictions due to COVID-19, Mammoet was able to mobilise a team of over 90 people – half of whom came from outside the state or abroad. Before long, crews were working across day and night shifts at Port Hedland, keeping things on schedule.

Another important part of this solution was to increase the number of trailers being used, avoiding the need for them to be reconfigured between journeys, hence achieving a faster turnaround. With the industry’s biggest equipment fleet, Mammoet says it was able to redeploy trailers from across Australia and the wider region.

O’Connell continues: “Flexibility is always key in large projects such as this, as changes in project schedules are to be expected. As the largest supplier in our industry, the talent pool, training capabilities and equipment inventory that we have access to prove invaluable in making sure we can react quickly and adapt to client requirements – avoiding delays even if there is a change to the plan.”

A key development in driving economic growth for the Pilbara region and the State of Western Australia, BHP’s $3.6 billion South Flank mine has created more than 2,500 construction jobs and 600 ongoing operational roles. It is set to provide a profitable asset for BHP and secure employment for the Pilbara population for decades to come, Mammoet says.

Wouter Mink, Managing Director of Mammoet Australia, says: “We are delighted that South Flank delivered first ore during May 2021. This project helps to continue our commitment to the Pilbara region. The transport package was always going to play a key role in achieving this, and we were extremely pleased to have delivered this successfully despite the challenges we faced – including a global pandemic impacting on how, when and where we could source our team.”

Construction of this facility using modern modularised techniques was aided significantly by Mammoet’s expertise in getting over 1,000 oversized items to site safely and on time, and also by providing critical guidance to optimise the size of cargo and ensure the most efficient project.

Heath Tyler, BHP South Flank Area Project Manager, says: “The South Flank project represents a major investment by BHP and a key element in our strategy for the region. With the transport package playing such a critical part in achieving a successful build, we needed a partner that had the proven expertise, equipment and boots on the ground to deliver. Mammoet has proven a great fit for these criteria.”

Western Australia invests in new robotics, automation facility

Work has now started on the Australian Automation and Robotics Precinct (AARP) in Neerabup, Western Australia, which will form, the state government claims, one of the biggest test facilities of its kind in the world.

The 51 ha precinct, around 40 km north of Perth, will be a major hub for testing and research into the latest developments in automation, remote operation and robotic systems.

A broad range of industries including mining and resources, defence, oil and gas, agriculture, space, logistics, construction, advanced manufacturing and the education sector are expected to use AARP.

It will provide suppliers and operators of automation and robotics equipment or systems with access to specialist infrastructure including:

  • Common user test beds, with multiple areas and roadways for physical testing;
  • A common user facility operation building; and
  • Supporting research and development facilities.

The McGowan Government committed A$20 million ($14.5 million) towards the precinct as part of its WA Recovery Plan announced last year with the aim of creating jobs and diversifying the economy.

Development of the facility will generate at least 70 construction jobs as the precinct is built over the next three years, and up to 5,000 ongoing jobs in the fields of robotics, automation and remote operations, according to the government.

The facilities will enable companies and researchers the opportunity to accelerate technology and analytics testing and scaling without interrupting on-site production and activities, it says.

The site has the potential to expand to 94 ha to accommodate future growth and will not be sub-divided – remaining a long-term common user facility asset for Western Australia.

An Industry Advisory Group has also been established, while the AARP will collaborate with university and industry research sectors by offering doctoral top-up scholarships for projects that support the Western AustraLIA economy and the precinct’s objectives.

The precinct will also support the resources industry’s bid to transition to net zero carbon status by providing facilities for the testing of new technologies, it says.

Western Australia Innovation and ICT Minister, Don Punch, said: “This exciting precinct represents a A$20 million investment by the McGowan Government in further enhancing Western Australia’s position as a world leader in the growing fields of robotics and automation, and puts us in the best possible position to meet the opportunities and challenges of the future.

“Western Australia is a recognised world leader in the field of automation for the mining sector, and this new facility will see this same success mirrored across a range of industries.

“This builds on the A$100 million Investment Attraction and New Industries Fund announced in the recent State Budget to support and accelerate a range of emerging industries to diversify our economy and deliver the Western Australia jobs of the future.”

Rio Tinto to roll out K2fly’s Ground Disturbance solution across Pilbara ops

K2fly Ltd says Rio Tinto has signed a five-year contract for its Ground Disturbance solution, with the miner planning to roll it out across its iron ore operations in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The contract will generate annual recurring revenue of A$620,000 ($450,676) over the initial five-year term, the ASX-listed company says.

The addition of Ground Disturbance expands the number of K2fly solutions used by Rio Tinto to five out of K2fly’s nine existing solutions which already include: Resource Inventory & Reconciliation, Dams & Tailings, Community & Heritage and Mine Geology Data Management, K2fly says.

K2fly says its Ground Disturbance solution provides a single source for applying, approving, tracking, reporting and submitting closure of permits and rehabilitation commitments surrounding ground disturbance activities.

Nic Pollock, CEO of K2fly, says: “We are delighted to continue to expand our relationship with Rio Tinto into ground disturbance. Effective ground disturbance systems are the glue for operations that want to ensure technical assurance around land management, maintain licence to operate and ensure high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. We are pleased to be working closely with Rio Tinto across a number of key ESG solutions globally.”

Rio Tinto makes Western Australia Pilbara rail car pledge

Rio Tinto says it is supporting iron ore rail car manufacturing in Western Australia with a commitment to use local suppliers to build ore rail cars for its Pilbara mining operations.

A tender will soon be released to the local market for an initial purchase of 50 ore rail cars, followed by an ongoing commitment of 10 ore cars a year for the next five years.

The tender will be released through the Rio Tinto Buy Local portal, a resource dedicated to making local suppliers aware of opportunities to partner with Rio Tinto and be part of our supply chain, the miner says.

“Western Australia has been an important part of Rio Tinto’s history for more than 50 years as the company built a world-class iron ore business,” it says. “In 2020, the company spent A$7.5 billion ($5.4 billion) with more than 2,000 local businesses based in Western Australia.”

Rio Tinto is also part of the Western Australia Government’s iron ore rail car action group, launched as part of the Western Australia Recovery Plan to develop a competitive iron ore rail car manufacturing industry in Western Australia.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive, Simon Trott, says: “Building Rio Tinto’s ore rail cars here in Western Australia will support local manufacturing and create jobs for West Australians. Rio Tinto is proud to lead the way in building iron ore rail cars in Western Australia, in line with the vision of state government’s iron ore rail car action group. I look forward to partnering with local businesses to support and grow the local manufacturing industry in Western Australia.

“Ore cars are a critical part of our mining operations and building capacity to manufacture ore cars locally in Western Australia will deliver significant benefits for Rio Tinto and the Western Australian economy.”

Western Australia Premier, Mark McGowan, says: “This is a pleasing outcome and I commend Rio Tinto for taking the first step and committing to our local steel manufacturing industry which will support more jobs for Western Australians. Rio Tinto’s commitment is a positive result off the back of the state government’s independent prefeasibility study, which identified initiatives for the manufacture, refurbishment and maintenance of iron ore railcar wagons.

“This was about securing an ongoing pipeline of work for the long-term manufacture of iron ore wagons and critical rail wagon parts, which will deliver jobs and economic benefit for the state into the future. Rio Tinto’s purchase of Western Australian made railcars that will be used right here in our state is something I encourage other iron ore companies operating in Western Australia to get on board with and increase local content and local jobs.”

Redpath on board with Red 5’s Darlot, King of the Hills plan

Red 5 Ltd has awarded a mine development contract for its Darlot gold mine in Western Australia to Redpath Australia.

The contract, which has been awarded following the completion of a competitive tender process, is for 12 months with an option to extend at six-monthly intervals. The initial contract value is A$13 million ($9 million) and will be funded by cash flow from the Darlot operations.

The Redpath mining team and equipment have mobilised at site and underground mine development commenced on October 1, 2021.

Consistent with the revised Darlot mine plan and King of the Hills processing hub strategy announced on August 2, 2021 – which will see Darlot ore processed at the King of the Hills processing plant – Redpath will be undertaking 3 km of rapid underground mine development at Darlot, separate from the mining activities being conducted by Red 5’s existing mining teams. This will provide access to new mine areas in Burswood, Pedersen, Middle Waters South and Thompson that underpin Darlot’s current mine plan to June 2023, Red 5 says.

The option to extend the mine development contract would open further additional mining areas within Darlot’s 1.2 Moz underground mineral resource, the company says.

The recently announced transition strategy for Darlot will see it become an underground satellite mine to the King of the Hills Processing Hub, with the new processing plant expected to produce first gold in the June Quarter 2022. It will also see the processing capacity rise from the previously envisaged 4 Mt/y (for solely King of the Hills ore) to 4.7 Mt/y.

The investment in mine development at Darlot is a key aspect of the transition strategy at Darlot, reducing dependence on remnant mining and opening up new mine areas, the company says.

“The lower cost base of the King of the Hills processing hub has the potential to extend the Darlot underground mine life for several years,” it added.

Austin to supply NRW Civil & Mining with 16 ULTIMA truck bodies

Austin Engineering says it has secured a A$7 million ($5 million) agreement to supply 16 locally-made truck bodies to Australia-based mining contractor NRW Civil & Mining, a unit of NRW Holdings.

Austin and NRW marked the award with a steel plate cutting ceremony for the first of the ULTIMA truck bodies to be manufactured on site at Austin’s Kewdale facility, which is co-located with the company’s new corporate headquarters in Western Australia.

In addition to representatives from Austin, the ceremony was attended by NRW CEO, Jules Pemberton, and other NRW representatives, along with Chamber of Minerals and Energy Western Australia Chief Executive Officer, Paul Everingham.

NRW is an arm of Australian diversified contract services provider NRW Holdings, which services the resources and infrastructure sectors in Australia. Its services include civil construction, bulk earthworks, road and rail construction and concrete installation, contract mining and drill and blast services.

NRW has ordered 16 ULTIMA high performance truck bodies and two 6060 Face Shovel buckets from Austin, which will be manufactured at Austin’s Kewdale site over the coming months.

Austin’s Kewdale facility is one of two of the company’s major manufacturing sites in the Asia Pacific region, the other being in Indonesia. The company is investing A$6.5 million to implement advanced manufacturing processes and capabilities at these sites, including increased automation and the use of custom jigs, fixtures, workstations and a standardised manufacturing approach to building product.

The Kewdale facility will receive the first manufacturing upgrade, which will benefit customers, such as NRW, and enhance the company’s supply of Western Australian-made dump truck bodies and other hauling and loading products, Austin says.

Austin Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, David Singleton, said: “We are extremely pleased to sign this contract with NRW, one of Australia’s leading mining contractors. The contract adds to a solid order book for Austin. Our recent strategic review demonstrated the opportunity to upgrade our manufacturing facilities to increase production efficiency while enhancing product quality and operator safety. We are the leading designer of truck bodies in the world, and intend to be the most efficient too.”

CR and KBSS collaborate on conveyor system deployments in the Pilbara

CR has announced a new partnership with KBSS to bring CR’s custom-made conveyor systems to the Pilbara of Western Australia.

KBSS is now CR’s Pilbara-based partner for mining conveyor systems, a company fully ISO accredited to Quality Management Systems, with, CR says, a reputation for delivering safe, reliable and cost-effective outcomes.

As part of the partnership, CR will be providing engineering and technical support, including on-site support, while KBSS will be looking after installation and maintenance services.

CR Business Development Manager, Paul Shankley, said: “When CR was searching for partners to bring our mining conveyor systems to the Pilbara, KBSS was the obvious pick. We both continually strive for Zero Harm whilst taking pride in bringing high-quality solutions to the global mining industry. CR are excited to collaborate with KBSS.”

CR’s mining conveyor systems are designed to maximise performance, minimise maintenance requirements and reduce total cost of ownership. Its range of conveyor components and accessories includes belt cleaning systems; belt stabilising kits; conveyor pulley lagging; conveyor skirting systems; and conveyor belt trackers.

The company said: “Our conveyor systems are designed for mines. They decrease lost product, reduce carry back, and minimise dust and spillage.”

Steinert XRT ore sorter testing shows promise at Northern Minerals rare earth project

Northern Minerals Ltd has progressed its ore sorting project enhancement initiative with the commissioning and testing of the Steinert sorter system, and is now producing ore sorted material and converting this to a 30% total rare earth oxide (TREO) concentrate in its’ Browns Range beneficiation plant in Western Australia.

Northern Minerals’ CEO, Mark Tory, said: “The construction, commissioning and testing of the ore sorter circuit marks another milestone in the development of the Browns Range project.

“The positive bulk sample tests confirm the effectiveness of the ore sorting circuit on the Wolverine ore to significantly increase the head grade to the mill which is expected to result in higher production rates and lower operating costs for a full-scale operation at Browns Range.

“It’s also pleasing to see the initial ore sorting tests the Banshee ore showing promise which, if shown to be effective in future tests, has potential to significantly increase the Browns Range mineral resource estimate.”

He added: “Being able to test and operate the ore sorting circuit in conjunction with the pilot beneficiation plant is providing extremely valuable data that you just can’t get from small bench-scale tests and this will feed into our feasibility study for a potential commercial scale heavy rare earth operation at Browns Range.”

The ore sorter system was constructed during 2020 and 2021 and commissioned in June 2021. The sorter that was installed is a 2-m wide Steinert sorter that uses X-ray Transmission (XRT) and laser detectors to identify rare earth mineralisation.

The sorter has been run over two test campaigns, which included 41 test runs processing 5,300 t of ore from the run of mine stockpiles largely coming from Wolverine ore, and five test runs on Banshee ore that was bulk sampled from a surface costean that provided 285 t of Banshee ore.

The tests have confirmed that simultaneous sorting of two size fractions is possible on the sorter, allowing a single machine to sort both sortable size fractions (10 mm-25 mm and 25 mm-75 mm), Northern Minerals says. The sortable fraction (>10 mm material) of Wolverine ore can be successfully sorted (90% TREO recovery in 50% of the mass) and, when combined with non-sortable fines, achieves a 45% grade increase to the mill and over 95% TREO recovery when feeding a 0.9% TREO ore.

The sorter system is now being run to produce feed for the beneficiation plant and 4,479 t of Wolverine ore have been processed through the ore sorter circuit to the end of August. Processing of the Wolverine ore sorted material in the beneficiation plant has resulted in better recoveries in the magnetic separation plant and flotation plant compared with feeding unsorted ore, the company says. A bulk sample of 50 t of 30% TREO rare earth concentrate has being produced for test work by facilities identified with likely future capability and capacity to process the heavy rare earth xenotime concentrate produced at Browns Range.

Bulks sample tests have highlighted some key factors to consider for ore sorting that cannot be determined at bench scale using vendor equipment in laboratory settings. Understanding the impact of these factors is critical to including an ore sorting circuit in a full-scale processing facility.

Initial sorting tests of the Banshee ore have shown that the highly oxidised surface material contains a large fines fraction and that the grade of the sortable fraction (ie >10 mm) can be doubled recovering more than 60% of the TREO in 25% of the mass. An additional bulk sample is being extracted from deeper in the costean and three diamond drill holes are being drilled for further test work.

The bulk ore sorting test work is a key input for the full-scale beneficiation plant feasibility study currently underway, which will also leverage off the substantial technical, operational and economic data from the R&D test work at the Browns Range Pilot Plant since 2018, the company says.