Tag Archives: Yeristovo

Ferrexpo confirms trolley assist scoping studies at Poltava

Ferrexpo, as part of its efforts towards integrating into a ‘Green Steel’ supply chain, is embarking on scoping studies looking at installing trolley assist technology at its Poltava mine in Ukraine.

The iron ore miner produced 11.2 Mt of iron ore pellets in 2020 from its Yeristovo and Poltava mines, up from 10.5 Mt in 2019. With iron ore prices on the rise and costs down during the 12-month period, the company recorded underlying EBITDA of $859 million, 46% higher than 2019.

During 2020, the company achieved material reductions in its carbon footprint per tonne for both Scope 1 (8%) and Scope 2 (21%) emissions, with a similar trajectory expected in 2021, Lucio Genovese, Non-executive Chair of Ferrexpo, said.

In the future growth investment program of its 2020 annual results statement, the company unveiled several projects to boost production, operating efficiency and sustainability.

The first one up was its mining fleet automation project.

In December 2020, the company commenced Phase 1 deployment of autonomous trucks at its Yeristovo iron ore mine, also in Ukraine. This project saw Caterpillar 793 haul trucks retrofitted with autonomous haulage capabilities through an agreement with ASI Mining.

The company said: “Phase 1 deployment of autonomous trucks commenced in December 2020, with an expectation to deploy additional autonomous Cat 793 haul trucks to production areas throughout 2021 (Phase 1), delivering gains in both safety and productivity.”

The autonomous truck deployment represents a significant milestone, with Yeristovo becoming the first mine in Europe to successfully invest in this modern technology, Ferrexpo said.

Deployment of autonomous haul trucks follows Ferrexpo’s investment in semi-autonomous/autonomous drill rigs (with Epiroc) and drone surveys since 2017 and 2018, respectively, which have brought significant safety improvements, it said.

“We expect to see similar benefits throughout our mining department as further automation investments are realised,” the company added.

On the trolley assist project at Poltava, Ferrexpo said scoping studies were underway to install a pantograph network of overhead cables in the group’s mines, which would enable haul trucks to ascend the open pit using electricity rather than diesel. It noted benefits were expected in its C1 cost base and Scope 1 carbon footprint.

In December, Ferrexpo Acting CEO, Jim North, told IM that the company planned to move to electric drive haul trucks in the next few years as a precursor to applying trolley assist at the operation.

Power infrastructure is already available in the pits energising most of its electric-hydraulic shovels and backhoes, and the intention is for these new electric drive trucks to go on trolley line infrastructure to eradicate some of the operation’s diesel use.

“Initially we would still need to rely on diesel engines at the end of ramps and the bottom of pits, but our intention is to utilise some alternative powerpack on these trucks as the technology becomes available,” North said at the time.

He expected that alternative powerpack to be battery-based, but he and the company were keeping their options open during conversations with OEMs about its fleet replacement plans.

With around 15% of the company’s carbon footprint tied to diesel use, this could have a big impact on Ferrexpo’s ‘green’ credentials, yet North said the transition to trolley assist made sense even without this sustainability benefit.

“The advantages in terms of mining productivity are huge,” North said. “You go from 15 km/h on ramp to just under 30 km/h on ramp.”

Another carbon-reduction project the company is pursuing is the development of a 5 MW pilot solar plant positioned at its concentrator. In its 2020 results statement, the company said procurement for this project was expected in the second half of the year.

There was $4 million of capital outstanding associated with this project in 2021, with the pilot looking to investigate the potential for industrial-scale generation of solar power at the company’s operations, commencing with the 5 MW pilot plant.

Ferrexpo said: “Electricity consumption accounted for 55% of the group’s Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions in 2020, with solar power offering significant potential for cutting the group’s carbon footprint.

“Should this trial be successful, we will look to significantly expand this particular project.”

North sets Ferrexpo on a course for ‘carbon neutrality’

Ferrexpo is used to setting trends. It was the first company to launch a new open-pit iron ore mine in the CIS since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 and has recently become the first miner in Ukraine to adopt autonomous open-pit drilling and haulage technology.

It plans to keep up this innovative streak if a conversation with Acting CEO Jim North is anything to go by.

North, former Chief Operating Officer of London Mining and Ferrexpo, has seen the technology shift in mining first-hand. A holder of a variety of senior operational management roles in multiple commodities with Rio Tinto and BHP, he witnessed the take-off of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) in the Pilbara, as well as the productivity and operating cost benefits that came with removing operators from blasthole drills.

He says the rationale for adopting autonomous technology at Ferrexpo’s Yeristovo mine is slightly different to the traditional Pilbara investment case.

“This move was not based on reduction in salaries; it was all based on utilisation of capital,” North told IM. While miners receive comparatively good salaries in Ukraine, they cannot compete with the wages of those Pilbara haul truck drivers.

Ferrexpo Acting CEO, Jim North

North provided a bit of background here: “The focus for the last six years since I came into the company was about driving mining efficiencies and getting benchmark performance out of our mining fleet. This is not rocket science; it is all about carrying out good planning and executing to that plan.”

The company used the same philosophy in its process plant – a philosophy that is likely to see it produce close to 12 Mt of high grade (65% Fe) iron ore pellets and concentrate next year.

Using his industry knowledge, North pitted Ferrexpo’s fleet performance against others on the global stage.

“Mining is a highly capital-intensive business and that equipment you buy has got be moving – either loaded or empty – throughout the day,” North said. “24 hours-a-day operation is impossible as you must put fuel in vehicles and you need to change operators, so, in the beginning, we focused on increasing the utilised hours. After a couple of years, I noticed we were getting very close to the benchmark performance globally set by the majors.

“If you are looking at pushing your utilisation further, it inevitably leads you to automation.”

Ferrexpo was up for pushing it further and, four years ago, started the process of going autonomous, with its Yeristovo iron ore mine, opened in 2011, the first candidate for an operational shakeup.

“Yeristovo is a far simpler configuration from a mining point of view,” North explained. “It is basically just a large box cut. Poltava, on the other hand (its other iron ore producing mine currently), has been around for 50 years; it is a very deep and complex operation.

“We thought the place to dip our toe into the water and get good at autonomy was Yeristovo.”

This started off in 2017 with deployment of teleremote operation on its Epiroc Pit Viper 275 blasthole drill rigs. The company has gradually increased the level of autonomy, progressing to remotely operating these rigs from a central control room. In 2021-2022, these rigs will move to fully-autonomous mode, North says.

Ferrexpo has also been leveraging remotely-operated technology for mine site surveying, employing drones to speed up and improve the accuracy of the process. The miner has invested in three of these drones to carry out not only site surveys, but stockpile mapping and – perhaps next year – engineering inspections.

“The productivity benefits from these drones are huge,” North said. “In just two days of drone operation, you can carry out the same amount of work it would take three or four surveyors to do in one or two weeks!”

OEM-agnostic solution

It is the haul truck segment of the mine automation project at Yeristovo that has caught the most industry attention, with Ferrexpo one of the first to choose an OEM-agnostic solution from a company outside of the big four open-pit mining haul truck manufacturers.

The company settled on a solution from ASI Mining, owned 34% by Epiroc, after the completion of a trial of the Mobius® Haulage A.I. system on a Cat 793D last year.

The first phase of the commercial project is already kicking off, with the first of six Cat 793s converted to autonomous mode now up and running at Yeristovo. On completion of this first phase of six trucks, consideration will be given to timing of further deployment for the remainder of the Yeristovo truck fleet.

This trial and rollout may appear fairly routine, but behind the scenes was an 18-month process to settle on ASI’s solution.

“For us, as a business, we have about 86 trucks deployed on site,” North said. “We simply couldn’t take the same route BHP or Rio took three or four years ago in acquiring an entirely new autonomous fleet. At that point, Cat and Komatsu were the only major OEMs offering these solutions and they were offering limited numbers of trucks models with no fleet integration possibilities.

“If you had a mixed fleet – which we do – then you were looking at a multi-hundred-million-dollar decision to change out your mining fleet. That is prohibitive for a business like ours.”

Ferrexpo personnel visited ASI Mining’s facility in Utah, USA, several times, hearing all about the parent company’s work with NASA on robotics. “We knew they had the technical capability to work in tough environments,” North remarked.

“We also saw work they had been doing with Ford and Toyota for a number of years on their unmanned vehicles, and we witnessed the object detect and collision avoidance solutions in action on a test track.”

Convinced by these demonstrations and with an eye to the future of its operations, Ferrexpo committed to an OEM-agnostic autonomous future.

“If we want to get to a fully autonomous fleet at some stage in the future, we will need to pick a provider that could turn any unit into an autonomous vehicle,” North said. It found that in ASI Mining’s Mobius platform.

Such due diligence is representative not only of the team’s thorough approach to this project, it also reflects the realities of deploying such a solution in Ukraine.

“It is all about building capability,” North said. “This is new technology in Ukraine – it’s not like you can go down the road and find somebody that has worked on this type of technology before. As a result, it’s all about training and building up the capacity in our workforce.”

After this expertise has been established, the automation rollout will inevitably accelerate.

“Once we have Yeristovo fully autonomous, we intend to move the autonomy program to Belanovo, which we started excavating a couple of years ago,” North said. “The last pit we would automate would be Poltava, purely due to complexity.”

Belanovo, which has a JORC Mineral Resource of 1,700 Mt, is currently mining overburden with 30-40 t ADTs shifting this material. While ASI Mining said it would be able to automate such machines, North decided the automation program will only begin when large fleet is deployed.

“When we deploy large fleet at Belanovo and start to move significant volumes, we intend for it to become a fully-autonomous operation,” he said.

Poltava, which is a single pit covering a 7 km long by 2 km wide area (pictured below), has a five-decade-long history and a more diverse mining fleet than Yeristovo. In this respect, it was always going to be harder to automate from a loading and haulage point of view.

“If you think about the fleet numbers deployed when Belanovo is running, we will probably have 50% of our fleet running autonomously,” North said. “The level of capability to run that level of technology would be high, so it makes sense to take on the more complex operation at Poltava at that point in time.”

Consolidation and decarbonisation

This autonomy transition has also given North and his team the chance to re-evaluate its fleet needs for now and in the future.

This is not as simple as it may sound to those thinking of a typical Pilbara AHS fleet deployment, with the Yeristovo and Poltava mines containing different ore types that require blending at the processing plant in order to sustain a cost-effective operation able to produce circa-12 Mt/y of high-grade (65%-plus Fe) iron ore pellets and concentrate.

“That limits our ability in terms of fleet size for ore mining because we want to match the capacity of the fleet to the different ore streams we feed into the plant,” North said.

This has seen the company standardise on circa-220 t trucks for ore movement and 300-320 t trucks for waste haulage.

On the latter, North explained: “That is about shovel utilisation, not necessarily about trucks. If you go much larger than that 320-t truck, you are talking about the need to use large rope shovels and we don’t have enough consistent stripping requirements for that. We think the 800 t-class electric hydraulic excavator is a suitable match for the circa-320 t truck.”

This standardisation process at Poltava has seen BELAZ 40 t trucks previously working in the pit re-assigned for auxiliary work, with the smallest in-pit Cat 777 trucks acting as fuel, water and lubrication service vehicles at Poltava.

“The Cat 785s are the smallest operating primary fleet we have at Poltava,” North said. “We also have the Hitachi EH3500s and Cat 789s and Cat 793s, tending to keep the bigger fleet towards Yeristovo and the smaller fleet at Poltava.”

In carrying out this evaluation, the company has also plotted its next electrification steps.

“Given we have got to the point where we know we want 220 t for ore and 300-320 t nominally for waste at Yeristovo, we have a very clear understanding of where we are going in our efforts to support our climate action,” North said.

Electrification of the company’s entire operation – both the power generation and pelletising segment, and the mobile fleet – forms a significant part of its carbon reduction plans.

A 5 MW solar farm is being built to trial the efficacy of photovoltaic generation in the region, while, in the pelletiser, the company is blending sunflower husks with natural gas to power the process. Fine tuning over the past few years has seen the company settle on a 30:70 sunflower husk:natural gas energy ratio, allowing the company to make the most of a waste product in plentiful supply in Ukraine.

On top of this, the company is recuperating heat from the pelletisation process where possible and reusing it for other processes.

With a significant amount of ‘blue’ (nuclear) or ‘green’ (renewable) power available through the grid and plans to incorporate renewables on site, Ferrexpo looks to have the input part of the decarbonisation equation covered.

In the pellet lines, North says green hydrogen is believed to be the partial or full displacement solution for gas firing, with the company keenly watching developments such as the HYBRIT project in Sweden.

On the diesel side of things, Ferrexpo is also charting its decarbonisation course. This will start with a move to electric drive haul trucks in the next few years.

Power infrastructure is already available in the pits energising most of its electric-hydraulic shovels and backhoes, and the intention is for these new electric drive trucks to go on trolley line infrastructure to eradicate some of the operation’s diesel use.

“Initially we would still need to rely on diesel engines at the end of ramps and the bottom of pits, but our intention is to utilise some alternative powerpack on these trucks as the technology becomes available,” North said.

He expects that alternative powerpack to be battery-based, but he and the company are keeping their options open during conversations with OEMs about the fleet replacement plans.

“We know we are going to have to buy a fleet in the next couple of years, but the problem is when you make that sort of purchase, you are committing to using those machines for the next 20 years,” North said. “During all our conversations with OEMs we are recognising that we will need to buy a fleet before they have probably finalised their ‘decarbonised’ solutions, so all the contracts are based on the OEM providing that fully carbon-free solution when it becomes available.”

With around 15% of the company’s carbon footprint tied to diesel use, this could have a big impact on Ferrexpo’s ‘green’ credentials, yet the transition to trolley assist makes sense even without this sustainability benefit.

“The advantages in terms of mining productivity are huge,” North said. “You go from 15 km/h on ramp to just under 30 km/h on ramp.”

This is not all North offered up on the company’s carbon reduction plans.

At both of Ferrexpo’s operations, the company moves a lot of ore internally with shuttle trains, some of which are powered by diesel engines. A more environmentally friendly alternative is being sought for these locomotives.

“We are working with rail consultants that are delivering solutions for others to ‘fast follow’ that sector,” North said referencing the project already underway with Vale at its operations in Brazil. “We are investigating at the moment how we could design and deploy the solution at our operations for a lithium-ion battery loco.”

Not all the company’s decarbonisation and energy-efficiency initiatives started as recently as the last few years.

When examining a plan to reach 12 Mt/y of iron ore pellet production, North and his team looked at the whole ‘mine to mill’ approach.

“The cheapest place to optimise your comminution of rock is within the mine itself,” North said. “If you can optimise your blasting and get better fragmentation in the pit, you are saving energy, wear on materials, etc and you are doing some of the job of the concentrator and comminution process in the mine.”

A transition to a full emulsion blasting product came out of this study, and a move from NONEL detonators to electronic detonators could follow in the forthcoming years.

“That also led us into thinking about the future crusher – where we want to put it, what materials to feed into the expanded plant in the future, and what blending ratio we want to have from the pits,” North said. “The problem with pit development in a business that is moving 150-200 Mt of material a year is the crusher location needs to change as the mining horizons change.”

It ended up becoming a tradeoff between placing a new crusher in the pit on an assigned bench or putting it on top of the bench and hauling ore to that location.

The favoured location looks like being within the pit, according to North.

“It will be a substantial distance away from where our existing facility at Poltava is and we will convey the material into the plant,” he said. “We did the tradeoff study between hauling with trains/trucks, or conveying and, particularly for Belanovo, we need to take that ore to the crusher from the train network we already have in place.”

These internal ‘green’ initiatives are representative of the products Ferrexpo is supplying the steel industry.

Having shifted away from lower grade pellets to a higher-grade product in the past five years and started to introduce direct reduced iron pellet products to the market with trial shipments, Ferrexpo is looking to be a major player in the ‘green steel’ value chain.

North says as much.

“We are getting very close to understanding our path forward and our journey to carbon neutrality.”

Epiroc surprises with positive Q3 financials and automation, electrification advances

It is fair to say Epiroc’s September quarter results surprised on the upside.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, orders received held up, dropping just 2% to SEK9.37 billion ($1.07 billion) compared with orders in the September quarter of 2019. In fact, on an “organic basis”, orders received were up 10% year-on-year.

At the same time, operating profit remained stable, only decreasing by a little over 5% year-on-year to SEK1.82 billion.

The Epiroc management team took the view that this performance was no exception, issuing a plan to propose a second dividend of SEK1.20/share at the Extraordinary General Meeting on November 27.

Investors viewed these numbers positively: its Stockholm-listed shares closed 8% higher.

While the revenue numbers were dominated by the company’s aftermarket business, which generated 69% of the SEK8.7 billion, it was on the equipment side where some very interesting developments were observed.

The company recorded a 25% year-on-year organic increase in equipment orders in the period, reinforced by a few large orders such as those from Norilsk Nickel. The majority of orders were small- to medium-sized contracts of, say, one or two pieces of equipment, according to Helena Hedblom, President and CEO.

“More customers have taken the decision to invest,” she told IM, adding that this development followed two quarters where mining companies were hesitant to commit.

Within these new orders were several automation agreements, the company said, alongside new battery-electric equipment and digital bookings.

Epiroc has continually committed to advancing technology related to digitalisation, automation and electrification, and it appears the fallout from COVID-19 and the sector’s sustainability drive are strengthening demand for these products.

“I see clearly the interest and demand for automation and tele-remote solutions is increasing in light of the pandemic,” Hedblom said of how COVID-19 had impacted the company’s product focus.

“The key to success for us is we have built up these regional application centres that have given us the capability to deploy automation and teleremote systems without international travel.”

Still on the topic of automation, Epiroc revealed even more today.

The first snippet of news, which Hedblom snuck in during the webcast, was that the company had secured an order for an autonomous fleet of surface drill rigs from an unnamed customer in southern Africa.

The second, which she teed up in the official results release, built on in the webcast, and expanded on for IM, was the successful deployment of “unique solutions” for OEM-mixed fleet automation.

In surface mining, the company, in tandem with ASI Mining, has retrofitted automation on Caterpillar haul trucks running at Ferrexpo’s Yeristovo iron ore mine, in Ukraine. The market had already been told about this.

Solutions for OEM-mixed fleet automation underground was very much representative of ‘news’.

“For underground, we have deployed very advance traffic management solutions for mixed fleet automation where we have automated our loaders and then machines from another OEM,” she said. “That is a breakthrough.”

While Hedblom was not able to say too much more about the project, she did acknowledge the solution was a few years in the making and had been advanced with an existing customer.

“The traffic management solution is based on the partnership we have with Combitech,” she explained. “It is a traffic management system being used in airports and subways in the big cities of the world, so is a highly advanced solution.”

Such a partnership dates back to 2017 when Atlas Copco (the Epiroc predecessor) signed an agreement with the Saab subsidiary to advance its digitalisation and automation initiatives.

There was also some news on the battery-electric front, too.

Back in November 2018 at the company’s Power Change Days event in Örebro, Sweden, Erik Svedlund, Global Marketing Manager – Electrification, mentioned the potential for retrofitting battery-electric technology on Epiroc diesel equipment. He said there was also the potential for such a solution being employed on other OEMs’ machines.

IM asked Hedblom about this.

“We have developed the first retrofit kit for a ST1030,” she replied, explaining that the company was “coming close” to releasing such a solution to the market.

While the company has electrified its Scooptram ST7 and its Scooptram ST14, the 10 t payload LHD has been, to this point, only available in diesel-powered form.

She added: “We have also partnered up with a couple of other OEMs that will use our battery system.”

This could be similar to how Railcare, a Swedish manufacturer of machines that keep railways safe and clean, will use Epiroc’s modular and scalable battery-electric technology platform (including batteries supplied by Northvolt) to power its Multi-Purpose Vehicle for rail maintenance applications.

“It goes very much hand-in-hand with the OEM-agnostic approach that we strongly believe in,” Hedblom said.

Those words are backed up by some substantial actions.

Epiroc trusting its 6th Sense on mine automation, electrification, digitalisation developments

During an enlightening Capital Markets Day, in Stockholm, Sweden, Epiroc backed up its credentials as a leader in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification spaces, outlining its progress to date and its medium- and long-term plans to capture more market share.

A few weeks after putting on the investor showcase – but before Helena Hedblom was announced as the incoming President and CEOIM spoke with President and CEO, Per Lindberg, and Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Mattias Olsson, to get some detail behind the presentation slides.

IM: Automation featured very widely in the capital markets day (CMD) presentations earlier this month: In general, how would you characterise the mining industry appetite for this new technology? Where is the average customer on your automation scale?

PL: First of all, the appetite is very large; most customers are looking at automation in one way or another.

It is hard to do a mathematical average when it comes to where the industry currently is, but the average miner is probably down on the left-hand side of that scale (pictured below) – somewhere in between tele-remote and single machine automation.

IM: Over the next five years, where do you see most potential growth for autonomous solutions in terms of underground or open-pit mining? What market dynamics are accelerating this uptake?

PL: Most likely it will happen in both surface and underground. The potential for productivity and safety improvements is probably greater in underground, though.

This trend is clearly driven by productivity, cost efficiency and safety. Those would be the key drivers for automation. It is about taking people out of the line of fire, as well as having close to 24/7 production.

IM: Following the 34% stake acquisition of ASI Mining last year, would you say the project Epiroc and ASI are working on at Ferrexpo’s Yeristovo mine is representative of how you envisage doing business together in the future?

PL: That is the reason that we initially acquired the 34% stake in ASI Mining; we wanted to go in that direction. In that respect, I think the Ferrexpo example is representative of how we will cooperate with ASI.

Of course, ASI can also offer a standalone solution without Epiroc being present on the automation side, so we are also promoting their offering too.

IM: How does Epiroc, as an OEM, balance its machine building and maintenance service offering? Does the ability to keep machines working longer through sophisticated monitoring systems and better manufacturing somewhat inhibit your ability to sell new machinery?

PL: To a certain extent, we are probably cannibalising our new machine sales with increased service intensity and improved servicing products. That is most likely the consequence. On the other hand, we also feel that it is only right to offer this type of aftercare and servicing.

Yet, you cannot continue to prolong the life of a piece of equipment forever. It needs to be replaced at some point.

Overall, the servicing offering works well for us and, we think, it is good for our customers in terms of increasing the life of their equipment.

IM: Factoring this in, what percentage of revenue is your aftermarket business likely to represent in the next 10 years (from 65% today)?

PL: It’s difficult to say if it is going to be higher, or not, but it is likely that the volume of service will increase. That is based on what we are talking about – the intensified servicing we are offering, the products we have developed and the fact that we are increasing the market share within our own fleet.

Whether it continues to be 65% of the overall business depends on activity in the rest of the group.

IM: Along these lines, how long does the company anticipate its new battery-electric loading fleets lasting compared with, say, the diesel-powered fleets you were selling 10 years ago?

PL: The wear and tear of the actual machine will be the same – that is not going to change because of the drivetrain.

But, having an electric drivetrain is different from diesel; we have to see what the long-term maintenance needs are compared with diesel. The life of the drivetrain also depends very much on the utilisation of the machine.

IM: Of the recent innovations the company has launched (or is about to launch) – 6th Sense, a semi-automated explosives delivery system (with Orica), Scooptram Automation Total, Powerbit, etc – which has the strongest business case in mining?

PL: I think 6th Sense is really a packaging of all of our different offerings within automation. In that regard, it is has the highest potential. Which components of 6th Sense have the highest potential? We’ll have to wait and see.

The semi-automated explosives delivery system with Orica is a very specific innovation, but we very much believe in automating this mining process because of the safety and productivity benefits it brings. But we are only just starting this development compared with 6th Sense, which has already launched.

Powerbit is, again, very specific, but…allows us to deliver a complete offering both in terms of machine and consumables that will enable higher productivity and automation. That should have a high potential in the market.

IM: What does the Epiroc mining roadmap look like for the next 10-30 years? I imagine wider adoption of hard-rock cutting, automation, electrification and digitalisation are in there, but what other technology evolutions are being planned for?

PL: We have to continue to work with all of those three – automation, electrification and digitalisation – as they will deliver significant benefits for the industry. That is where we need to focus over that 10-year timeframe.

These three also have the potential to further integrate the value chain in mining within the future digitalisation space. We need to both continue to work with these technologies and our customers to ensure we have greater market penetration in all these areas.

IM: And, hard-rock cutting? Is this as important as these three?

PL: For specific applications, mechanical cutting and the Mobile Miners have their relevance and work well. But we believe for the foreseeable future, the majority of hard-rock excavation will be carried out by drilling and blasting in the mining and tunnelling sectors.

IM: During the CMD there was mention of “cost per measure” contracts under the digitalisation heading. Could you go into some detail about how the company is offering these and if they are tied in with financing agreements for your equipment?

PL: In terms of cost per measure, one example would be cost per metre contracts in consumables and rock drilling tools.

MO: We also provide finance for equipment and it could be that the equipment is financed and we have a cost per metre contract in place. Those two are not connected or tied, though.

It could be that there is more of this ‘pay-for-performance’ type of contract in the future – where you charge per tonne of ore excavated, for example – but, if it does come, I don’t think it will happen quickly.

IM: Similarly Epiroc talked about “new business models” in 2020 for underground equipment at the CMD. What might these new business models be? What is the need for them?

PL: It could be revenue streams into software, to information management, to advanced service agreements, to Batteries as a Service for battery vehicles.

The reasons for establishing these models is the continuous development of software, new updates for machines, etc that require different models.

When it comes to Batteries as a Service, it is a different model again looking to transfer the energy cost of the battery from capex to opex in order to facilitate the timely decisions for customers and reduce the cost of operation for our customers.

These new models are all based on development of technologies.

Ferrexpo brings autonomous drilling to Yeristovo iron ore operation

Ferrexpo says it has started using autonomous drilling as part of a push to increase mining and production efficiencies at its FYM iron ore operation in Ukraine.

Among $32 million of investment at the Ferrexpo Yeristovo Mining (FYM) operation in 2018 was a project to commence drill automation, the company confirmed in its delayed 2018 results today.

This investment is part of the company’s plan to hit its medium-term production target of 12 Mt/y, up from 10.6 Mt produced in 2018. Ferrexpo’s longer-term intention is to move to annual output of 20 Mt/y.

Outside of the automation development, Ferrexpo said: “The group has several projects under way which contribute to cost savings, efficiency improvements and enhanced health and safety standards.”

These include efficiency gains in shovel and dragline dig rates as well as a transition to 100% liquid emulsion blasting media. On the latter, the company said: “The transition to emulsion blasting media has resulted in increased rock fragmentation. This has improved excavator and shovel dig rates and reduces equipment wear and tear. It also yields power savings and reduced maintenance costs in the crushing plant.

“Other efficiency projects include the use of automatic pit drills, drones for surveys of the pit area and the commencement of the creation of a centralised mining control hub for all mining operations.”

The centralisation effort follows the consolidation of FPM and FYM’s maintenance centre for mobile equipment, Ferrexpo said.