THE NECESSITY FOR CHANGE IS UPON US
By CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship director Jonathan Law
TO combat declining productivity, miners, researchers and technology companies need to come together to develop technologies that allow real-time, whole-of-life management of our resources. It is clear that as we grapple with challenges relating to grade, quality, depth and safety we have reached, or are about to reach, the limits of traditional technologies deployed in the mining industry.
Australia's mining productivity is declining and the reasons for this are complex. However, one truth that we cannot escape is that many of the next generation of deposits are lower in grade, more complex and more challenging to mine than ever before.
Fortunately, there is a new wave of technologies born out of the global digital revolution that are bringing together the real and virtual worlds in ways that we have not seen before. These technologies will enable the mining industry to manage inputs and outputs in a much more structured way, as real-time information becomes available throughout the mining process via new sensing technologies, cheap and efficient computer systems and an ability to deal with interconnecting, complicated datasets.
This real-time data allows us to think about the flow of materials, from resource to product, in much the same way as manufacturers think about their process, from raw material to manufactured product.
The mining industry hasn't been able to make full use of these digital technologies because they, and the integration platforms, are only now being developed and commercialized. Those that already exist have to be adapted to be resilient enough to withstand the harsh mine environment and they also need to be better integrated, rather than be 'point solutions' for specific issues – this means shared data standards and control systems.
This will dramatically change the way we mine – in terms of optimizing performance of individual unit operations, but more importantly, for optimizing a whole system, from the ore body through to mining strategies, process control and environmental outcomes.
Miners will increasingly take a holistic view of the resource and the downstream implications. It will drive an iterative mine planning process that will assess the triple bottom line benefits to provide better productivity, better long-term outcomes and new opportunities to manage evolving risk profiles through the life of an operation.
Areas where these sensors will be most crucial are in process productivity, rapid resource characterization, and intelligent mining and ore management. Of course, these are all sequential parts of the value chain, but the real opportunity is integration across all three.
Once we have this whole-of-life, real-time view of a mine, then we can start questioning the fundamental technologies we currently use. This may mean a move towards new mining technologies, more sophisticated processing techniques or alternative sorting strategies that, in turn, allow different transport and waste strategies.
In the short term, a new 'forensic' approach to system optimization will have a positive impact on productivity. In the longer term, it could drive a whole new approach to mining that is lower in impact, more productive and, most importantly, allows us to mine resources that can't be mined today.
The momentum for change is unstoppable – all enabling pieces are there but they need to be brought together, focused and applied. To do this we need collaboration at every level. Necessity will compel the industry to work together in the development of technology, which they have traditionally done in competition.
Real competitiveness lies in the use of these technologies to drive optimal outcomes rather than in a multitude of protected, poorly integrated solutions.
One thing is certain, the necessity for change is here and Australia is well placed to lead the revolution.
- From CSIRO's resourceful magazine
RIO JOINS FORCES ON CAVE TRACKING SYSTEM
RIO Tinto has partnered with CRCMining, Newcrest Mining and Elexon Electronics in the development of a cutting-edge real-time cave flow tracking system of caved material within block caves. The ground-breaking cave tracking technology uses unique 3D position systems to enable real-time monitoring of sensors in the block cave, which move along with the ore, optimizing the flow of caved material and minimising ore dilution.
"The Cave Tracker system is a step-change technology that will deliver significant benefits to the mining industry. It will enable real-time mapping of cave material movement, which can be used to minimize dilution and maximize recovery from caves," says CRCMining's Hard Rock and Surface Mining Program leader Dihon Tadic. "Monitoring the material flow in block caves has not been possible previously, leading to poor control of block cave operations and sub-optimal outcomes.
"The technology will assist in development of improved caving models, which will enable miners to design better cave layouts, ultimately improving mine safety and productivity."
Rio Tinto's general manager of Geotechnical Engineering and Cave Management for the Copper Group, Andre van As, believes there is value for the caving industry and the mining industry as a whole. "We now have a way of remotely and wirelessly tracking rock mass movements in real-time, and preserve the integrity of the resource. It has application in every method."
He says, "The real value is in preserving the security and integrity of the resource. By monitoring the flow of material in real-time we can potentially minimize the dilution in recovering ore from the block cave, thereby improving performance. The technology will also significantly improve safety, and enable better management of the mine."
A NEW PARADIGM FOR MINING
By CRCMining CEO Professor Paul Lever
RISING energy, infrastructure and environmental costs are driving a new paradigm of precision mining. Mining is at the beginning of a period of transition for which the drivers are larger than our industry and reflective of the growing global economy and increasing needs to bring the burgeoning population to an acceptable standard of living.
In the last 10 years demand for minerals has steepened considerably over historical trends. In the future, companies will have to meet this increasing demand by more effectively mining lower-grade and more difficult deposits. The solution is to raise productivity and lower production costs.
The pursuit of productivity begins with increasing efficiency of mining operations. During the last decade of the mining boom we have seen increased capacity from increased investment, but little increase in efficiency. Some argue that we have lost focus on productivity, while pursuing volume through investment in larger machinery and mines.
The main productivity drivers vary internationally. In Australia they generally include labour, mining methods and work processes. The challenge in increasing short-term productivity is to drive mining processes, including equipment, towards achieving their theoretical optimal operating mode.
The long-term challenge is opening new mines using more productive processes and methods and, where applicable, transitioning older mines. In practice, this may mean adopting new paradigms, some of which feel like a return to the past. For example, in the 1800s it was not feasible to mine large quantities of waste to extract small high-value ore bodies. The 1900s saw a transition to massive mines where movement of waste became a larger component of the process.
Rising energy, infrastructure and environmental costs are driving a push towards a new paradigm of precision mining focusing on minimizing movement and processing of waste. Also, new mining methods will exploit a range of emerging technologies to mine, sort and select ore as close to the working face as possible.
Intelligent equipment and new methods will enable work to take place in mining environments considered unsafe for humans and challenging for current methods. Machines may work on walls too steep for humans to safely tackle. Remotely operated or automated equipment won't demand the same expensive luxuries such as fresh air, workplace amenities and alternative escape routes.
Ore bodies will be more accurately mapped and identified before mining. Information-transmitting sensors embedded in the ore will enable it to be tracked, sorted and processed in the most efficient way. In surface mines at depths below 400 metres and perhaps shallower, ultra-large trucks will be replaced by conveyor or hydraulic transport systems that will reduce the cost of moving materials from up to 80% of total mining cost down to 10-15%.
We already have much of the technology needed for the transition – CRCMining has delivered a number of step-change technologies like the universal dig and dump dragline, shovel load and assist program, cave tracking technology and Oscillating Disc Cutter. These and other innovative projects in the pipeline are indications of exciting times ahead as industry drives towards satisfying global market demand with new productivity levels.
- From the CSIRO's resourceful magazine
TURNING MINE WASTEWATER INTO RAINWATER
The new treatment in progress to remove a range of metal contaminants.
A NEW cost-effective technology to treat mining wastewater and reduce sludge by up to 90% has been used for the first time at a commercial mine. The Virtual Curtain technology was used to remove metal contaminants from wastewater at a Queensland mine and the equivalent of around 20 Olympic swimming pools of rainwater-quality water was discharged.
Sludge is a semi-solid by-product of wastewater treatment and reducing the amount produced has huge environmental and economic benefits.
"Our treatment produced a fraction of the sludge that a conventional lime-based method would have and allowed the mine water to be treated in a more environmentally sound way," says CSIRO scientist Dr Grant Douglas. "Reducing the amount is beneficial because the costly and timely steps involved to move and dispose it can be reduced."
Given the Australian mining industry is estimated to generate millions of tonnes of wastewater each year, the technology opens a significant opportunity for companies to improve water management practices and be more sustainable.
"The technology can produce a material high in metal value, which can be reprocessed to increase a miner's overall recovery rate and partially offset treatment costs," Dr Douglas says.
Virtual Curtain utilizes hydrotalcites, which are minerals sometimes found in stomach antacids, to simultaneously trap a variety of contaminants, including arsenic, cadmium and iron, in one step.
Dr Douglas and his team developed the technology after discovering hydrotalcites could be formed by adjusting the concentrations of common wastewater contaminants, aluminium and magnesium, to an ideal ratio and then increasing the pH.
"By using contaminants already present in wastewater we have avoided the need for expensive infrastructure and complicated chemistry to treat it," he says. "If required, the treated water can be purified more efficiently via reverse osmosis and released to the environment or recycled back into the plant. It has huge benefits for mining operators in arid regions such as Australia and Chile.
"It is a more efficient and economical way to treat wastewater and is enabling the mining industry to reduce its environmental footprint and extract wealth from waste."
SOLVING TOMORROW'S INDUSTRY CHALLENGES TODAY
The Distal Footprints project will focus on the challenge of uncovering mineral wealth in the unique Australian landscape.
AUSTRALIA faces increasing global demand for its resources during a time of rising exploration costs, diminishing success rates and increased processing costs. The challenge for industry, research bodies and government agencies is clear - the focus needs to move from domestic competition to domestic collaboration, so that Australia can become more competitive internationally.
Simply put, Australia needs to step up and be more innovative by bringing together the best scientists and world-class research infrastructure with industry and government to solve tomorrow's resources challenges today.
The National Resource Sciences Precinct, or NRSP, does exactly that. It is a CSIRO, Curtin University and UWA collaboration connecting the world's best researchers with industry and government to tackle some of the most complex challenges facing the resources industry. At a launch in April this year, the NRSP announced Transfield Services' CEO and managing director Graeme Hunt as its inaugural chair.
"There have been areas of collaboration between the three institutions before but there hasn't been an umbrella body that strives to make sure there is alignment and transparency about what each of them is trying to do," says Graeme Hunt. "Between its foundation partners, the NRSP hosts more than 400 FTE research staff all addressing the future needs of the global resources industries. It is supported by millions of dollars worth of advanced resources-oriented research infrastructure."
This pooling of expertise centred in Perth, Western Australia, capitalizes on the concentration of multinational resource companies located in this recognized mining hub, as well as leading research capabilities. The location is also well-situated for increased engagement with the growing Asian market.
The new collaborative approach of the NRSP will see an increase in large-scale infrastructure projects developed in Perth and around Australia while reducing duplication of funding and effort for resource science initiatives.
"The foundation partners, under the auspices of the NRSP, have already attracted more than $50 million in funding for research projects focused on the resources sector. The projects include an Advanced Resource Characterization Facility (ARCF) and a ground-breaking Distal Footprints project that aims to improve mineral exploration to discover mineral wealth in remote regions that have previously been difficult to search," Graeme Hunt says.
With the support of a $12.4 million grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), the NRSP is developing an unparalleled ARCF which will increase the quantity and quality of geoscientific information gained from drilling. This information will form the basis for higher ore deposit discovery rates, and earlier, more accurate resource definition in the minerals industry.
The ARCF will comprise three cutting-edge research tools not co-located anywhere else in the world - a new NanoSIMS at UWA under lead researcher Professor Matt Kilburn; a Geosciences Atom Probe at Curtin University under lead researcher Professor Steven Reddy; and a Maia Mapper developed by and housed at CSIRO under lead researcher Dr Robert Hough.
The new Nano-scale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (NanoSIMS) will enable researchers to understand large-scale phenomena, such as evidence of mineral deposits, through the chemical processes occurring at the nano-scale.
"The NanoSIMS is highly automated and versatile. It can be used for a broad range of applications, including mineral-fluid interactions and determining trace elements of ore deposits in rock," Graeme Hunt says.
Traditionally, mass spectrometry requires a large volume of material to be extracted from a sample but the NanoSIMS can examine smaller samples and map up to seven elements simultaneously.
The Atom Probe at Curtin University is the first machine of its kind to be dedicated to resource characterization in Australia.
The Geosciences Atom Probe provides high-resolution three-dimensional characterization of atom distribution in very small volumes of natural materials. The technology has previously been used in the fields of materials science and nanotechnology but the application to geosciences is in its infancy.
"In fact, this will be the first machine of its kind to be dedicated to resource characterization in Australia," Graeme Hunt says.
Recent technological advances have enabled it to be applied to geological materials, to examine changes in the composition over incredibly small (nanometre) distances.
The Maia Mapper, being developed by and housed at CSIRO, will be a landmark instrument that does not currently exist anywhere else.
The Maia Mapper is a high-throughput detector system which can be used to produce high-definition images with microscopic detail in real-time. Combining rapid analysis with high-resolution, it will be able to map elemental variations in geological samples.
"The NanoSIMS and Geoscience Atom Probe are expected to arrive in 2015 and the construction of Maia Mapper is expected to be completed by 2016," Graeme Hunt says. "The ARCF's concentration of advanced instruments and expertise will establish it as a global hub for 'metre-to-atomic scale' analyses."
Combined with four-dimensional data integration provided by the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, the ARCF will be a ground-breaking research facility that will provide a resource focus unmatched anywhere in the world. For industry this will mean more efficient mining and higher production yields.
The Distal Footprints project aims to revolutionize the way we search for resources in Australia with a team of the nation's best scientists charged with improving the diminishing success rates of minerals exploration. Focusing on the potentially lucrative Capricorn region of Western Australia, the $16 million project seeks to develop a new way of discovering mineral deposits in the area.
"The Distal Footprints project is about addressing the fundamental limitations to mineral discovery," Graeme Hunt says. "Although there are potentially huge mineral deposits under its thick surface, the Capricorn region is a poorly explored and poorly understood area. By bringing together some of the best scientists in Australia, the project will tackle some of the technical risks and help industry to unlock this vast potential resource.
"Searching for underground resources is complex and expensive. Australia in particular has a unique geological make-up with a blanket of cover built up over millions of years making it difficult to detect deposits and therefore develop new mine sites. The project will deliver new data, interpretations, understanding and technologies to help discover mineral wealth in regions that until now have been difficult to explore."
He says, "This ground-breaking approach to exploration aims to expand the search area used to identify the markers that point to large mineral deposits. We will be able to arm industry with the information they need to detect if resources are nearby, and in what direction and how deep they are.
"Distal Footprints are signatures we might expect to find around an ore deposit from distances of up to several tens of kilometres."
Using isotopic and trace element composition – at regional-scales on bulk samples and at micro-mscale in individual minerals – the project will determine the distal patterns and the minerals that host them, through advanced micro- to nano-scale analyses using NRSP's advanced infrastructure.
The new capability will increase exploration certainty in Australia making it an attractive destination for investment, ensuring that the resources sector remains globally competitive.
The project is supported by funding awarded under the SIEF, as well as contributions from the WA Government's Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia, industry, the Geological Survey of Western Australia and the NRSP foundation research partners.
"Ensuring that Australia's resources sector can compete internationally is of paramount importance to the industry and the economy," Graeme Hunt says.
By supporting new research and technology development as well as ensuring that ongoing research priorities are based on real and current industry challenges, the NRSP is helping to tip the scales in the right direction. To find out more about how to get involved, please email [email protected]
The new NanoSIMS, at UWA, will significantly improve the capacity to determine mineral ore deposits and increase processing productivity.
ABOUT GRAEME HUNT
Graeme Hunt has almost 40 years' experience in the metals, mining and bulk transport sectors, including years with BHP Billiton where he held positions including president iron ore, president aluminium and president uranium. He was also managing director and CEO of Lihir Gold.
He has been president of the Australian Uranium Association, The Australian Mining and Metals Association and the International Manganese Institute. He has served as deputy chair of the Minerals Council of Australia and as a director of the International Aluminium Institute and the World Energy Council Australia. He is currently a director of AGL Energy.
ABOUT TURN FOR THE MINING INDUSTRY
THE Australian Turntable Company is a family-owned business based in Bendigo, Victoria. It has grown from small beginnings to become a national and international supplier of custom-designed turntables for the transport industry, and is now targeting the mining industry.
The business was founded by Paul Chapman in 1987 and has a long history of successful projects in Australia and internationally - from revolving restaurants in Dubai, Qatar and the world's largest revolving restaurant in Iran to exhibition and showroom turntables for many of the major motor car manufacturers including Ford, Toyota, BMW and Rolls Royce.
The company uses the latest 3D software and laser cutting technology to custom design and manufacture turntable solutions for anything from small to large trucks. The company focuses on productivity and safety.
For the trucking and logistics industry, productivity is improved by minimizing the space required at a loading dock. Turntables reduce the need for trucks to reverse. For many loading docks installing a turntable can free up valuable space that can be used for commercial purposes. Safety is improved because trucks enjoy forward entry and exit to loading docks. This vastly improves public safety in highly congested areas like supermarket car parks.
Some large organizations have a policy of no trucks reversing on their premises because of safety concerns. With supermarkets generally located in populated areas, eliminating loud, beeping, reversing noise is a significant benefit of installing a turntable.
On a trade mission to Chile, company chairman Paul Chapman visited a mine and watched mining trucks manoeuvre precariously as they reversed and tried to align with the crusher. Truck drivers at the site confirmed that the most stressful part of their day was reversing these massive trucks without clear line of sight. This highlighted an opportunity for the Australian Turntable Company to introduce its product to the mining industry.
The company is ISO accredited, which is mandatory to supply to the mining industry. Through its cutting-edge design capability it produces high quality animations to show potential customers the clear benefits of installing a turntable. Through clearly articulating the benefits to mining and trading on its reputation for being innovative and customer driven, the Australian Turntable Company has already broken into the mining industry but has only just scratched the surface.
Its first mining job came when it won a stringent tender process for design, engineer, manufacture, test and freight of a six-metre 100-tonne turntable for a major company at a mine site in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Paul Chapman says this turntable has helped the company save millions of dollars in lost time manoeuvring machines on their way to and from maintenance facilities.
The Australian Turntable Company is working to build its export business in Monte Carlo, Paris, Chile, Peru and New Zealand. With its commitment to innovation and its ability to demonstrate the proven ability of its product to improve safety and productivity, the company is poised for continued growth and success.
DOCUMENTING CONSTRUCTION IN THE CLOUD
Collaboration, communication and document management for the Antapaccay operation in Peru was handled online using the Aconex platform, developed in Melbourne
THE $1.47 billion Antapaccay Copper Project is a long-life, low-cost expansion to Xstrata's Tintaya copper mine in southern Peru. Located about 10km from the original open-pit mine, the Antapaccay deposit will increase annual copper-in-concentrate production from Tintaya by 60% to an average of 160,000 tonnes for the first six years. It will transform the mine into a 20-year business.
And all the collaboration, communication and document management for this huge construction project was handled online using the Aconex platform, developed in Melbourne.
"One of the key things we liked about Aconex was the fact that it only took two weeks to set up the project. We had Aconex running and in place within that time ... and it was pretty easy to get around. By giving basic instruction to people, they can get into the system and start working," says Xstrata project administration Superintendent Pablo Diaz.
He says one of the key challenges for a project of this size was the need to deliver two gigabytes of information to Australia, United States, Argentina, Peru and Chile. "We uploaded it to Aconex, and finished the review with no delays.
"The confidence of downloading the document and knowing it's the latest version reduces risk. So when we have our engineers print the document and do a revision, we know, if they downloaded it from Aconex, they have the latest version," Pablo Diaz adds.
Commenting on the unique Aconex commercial model that offers unlimited use pricing, document controller and information manager Tomas Perez says, "From the beginning, it's been a very easy tool [with which] to give information to our contractors. In relation to costs, I'm speechless. The fact that Aconex is free [for them] to use is a major saving."
REGIONAL MILL SHELLS FORGING NEW GROUND
Hofmann Engineering focuses on the production of grinding mill shells.
IN 1969 two brothers from Germany set up a small toolmaking shop in a backyard in Perth. Today their manufacturing business, Hofmann Engineering, employs 150 people in engineering works in Melbourne, Bendigo and Perth. It also has sales offices in North America, South America and India. More than half the products the company produces are exported to the Americas, Europe and Asia.
Hofmann focuses on the development and production of grinding mill shells. A mill shell is a large cylinder made of steel or stainless plate and is used to process ore.
Hofmann can manufacture large diameter grinding mill heads and shells for mineral processing. In 2012 they dispatched their first mega-unit - a mill shell and heads - for the first of three grinding mills at Barrick Gold's Pascua Lama gold-silver mine on the border of Chile and Argentina.
The mill shell is manufactured in three cylindrical cans, each split longitudinally into semicircles for transport. Three even larger mill shells are now on order for another client; and will go to iron ore and copper projects in South America.
"When completed these will become some of the largest grinding mills in service" says Hofmann's product manager Geoff Kinniburgh.
Hofmann has also developed forged steel, rather than cast, large diameter girth gears. The company has been able to do this in part because it has one of the largest heavy fabrication, heat-treatment and machining facilities in Australia. Big mine sites prefer forged steel gears with fine-grained, high-integrity microstructure, as opposed to castings with imperfections.
"We know we've got some of the best engineers and tradespersons in the country working for us," Geoff Kinniburgh says. "We put it down to our focus on training apprentices and retaining our staff."
Hofmann Engineering's Bendigo site, for instance, now employs nine apprentices, all of whom were recruited from regional areas.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR UNDERGROUND
Micro Fresh Filters help provide fresh air in underground mining situations and filters have been fitted to a wide range of equipment used underground.
CANARIES are no longer found in coal mines but humans who work there still need to breathe. It is, therefore, essential to keep air pollution as low as possible, especially from potentially cancer-causing diesel fumes.
Micro Fresh Filters developed its disposable diesel exhaust filters for underground mines in conjunction with the 3M Company and BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal. Micro Fresh fitted its first filter to a scoop loader at the Tower Colliery in 1995.
These filters use advanced polymers that also help to reduce the risk of fires, by being less flammable than paper or fibreglass and by being able to function with mandatory wet scrubber exhaust coolers. Using these filters removes up to 90% of carcinogenic particles in diesel fumes.
Having conquered Australian underground coal mines, Micro Fresh Filters is moving on to other technologies, like diesel particulate catalysts suitable for all large equipment and open cut mines and to markets in countries such as South Africa, the United States and Canada. They are also targeting other dangerous pollutants like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and acrolein.
Micro Fresh particulate catalysts are being used by a variety of major mining companies operating in Australia's largest underground mining regions - Mt Isa and Kalgoorlie. In addition to production equipment, catalysts are being evaluated on Toyota Landcruisers which, like in most metalliferous mines around the world, are used as underground transport.
To help these international operations, Micro Fresh has formed a joint venture with German company Freudenberg Filtration Technologies (FTT). "This is an exciting development for Micro Fresh with the prospect of us being able to access FFT's considerable product range together with their internationally recognized technology and solutions for our customers," says Micro Fresh Filters' founder Raymond de Jersey.
GEKKO TAKES GOLD PANNING UNDERGROUND
Gekko Systems' Python modular plant is used to process ore underground.
DURING the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, thousands of miners hoped to strike it rich by panning for nuggets in the streams around Ballarat. Today, Gekko Systems is reviving that legacy by using the same principles to cleanly and efficiently extract minerals on-site within underground mines.
Gekko's Python modular processing plant was first installed in 2008 at the Central Rand Gold Mine in South Africa. By processing the ore underground, only the valuable minerals – about 10% of the volume – have to be hauled to the surface.
Python's snake-like chain of components, each about the size of a Toyota Landcruiser, first crushes the ore and then uses gravity separation and flotation to remove the minerals. The process is fully automated and able to run on its own recycled water.
This not only saves cost, but brings huge environmental benefits through avoiding the need for chemicals, using relatively clean tailings for backfill and requiring much less power per tonne treated.
"By lowering the environmental cost and the overall life-of-mine costs, Python helps mines achieve the highest return-on-investment," says Gekko Systems' CEO and managing director Elizabeth Lewis-Gray.
Although Python was designed primarily for extracting gold and sulphides, its component technology has been used on other minerals such as copper, silver, tin, tantalum, garnet and diamonds.
This versatility and devotion to research and development has seen Gekko Systems expand from its beginnings in Ballarat to offices in South Africa, Chile and Canada, serving as bases for installations worldwide.
Gekko specializes in the design, development and distribution of innovative mineral processing equipment and systems. Gekko's world-leading technical and service teams complement its unique and proven technologies. The company seeks low cost, quality solutions to metallurgical problems. Improving environmental outcomes from mineral processing is a focus. Gekko comprises a multinational team of industry experts committed to successful installations.
Gekko Systems will be an exhibitor at IMARC, the International Mining and Resources Conference, in Melbourne from September 22 to 26 and will showcase its mining technology.
KEECH TAKES AUSTRALIA TO THE WORLD STAGE
KEECH Australia, which is based in Bendigo, Victoria, has been designing and manufacturing high integrity steel castings for nearly 80 years for leading companies domestically and globally.
What began as a small family-based business 80 years ago has evolved into an internationally competitive organization that has invested significantly in research and development, IT and world-class engineering talent. Keech now exports to Japan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Canada, the US, Chile, Indonesia, UK and Papua New Guinea.
The company's foundries offer development, design, moulding, heat treatment and steel finishing, SG castings and high alloy castings for the demanding requirements of the mining industry.
The impact of the Global Financial Crisis has led Keech to invest and diversify its operations to insure against future international economic uncertainty. It saw the opportunity to take its business from operating within its existing niche markets to the world stage.
In making this decision it recognized it needed to incorporate innovation into every aspect of its business. Five years ago, workers relied on skill and experience to make a product. Now the workshop floors include multiple kiosks where workers can look up exactly how to make any part or product. Automation technology has streamlined operations and improved productivity and safety.
The company recognized that to be taken seriously on the global stage it needed to give credibility to its philosophy of developing products with the best quality, produced in the safest way without affecting the environment. Keech has invested heavily in gaining ISO 9001 and AS4801 accreditation.
With the appointment of a new CEO, Herbert Hemens, Keech has also invested heavily in R&D where it currently spends 7% of its revenue. Keech has a team of six world-class engineers dedicated to new product development and improving existing products. The company invested $3.5 million on improving technology for one of its foundries and will spend up to $15 million on its other foundry over the next two years to incorporate clean technology into its production.
Keech accepts that as an Australian company it's not possible to be the cheapest foundry in the world but it is certainly one of the most innovative. Keech's strategy is to think and plan big. It believes Chile has the potential to rival Australia's mining boom and now has an office in Santiago, Chile.
Today about 20% of Keech's business is international and it expects exports to continue to grow. With this kind of commitment and investment it's not hard to see why BRW magazine voted Keech one of Australia's most innovative businesses.
Keech will be an exhibitor at IMARC, the International Mining and Resources Conference, in Melbourne from September 22 to 26 and will showcase its technology for the mining industry.
LIGHT AT BOTH ENDS OF THE TUNNEL
Hella Australia has designed lighting products specifically for the mining industry.
CONDITIONS in mines are exceptionally harsh, both for humans and the equipment they use. Safety is paramount, as lighting manufacturer Hella Australia discovered when they established their Mining Centre of Excellence in Melbourne in 2001.
Light at both ends of the tunnelThe German-based company, best known for its automotive lights, wanted to find out how well its products performed in the mining industry. They chose to base their research centre in Melbourne due to its flourishing mining services industry and stringent safety requirements.
Hella soon found that extremes of shock, vibration and temperature were major factors in the mining environment, often exceeding the range of their custom-built sensors. They also encountered surprisingly high levels of humidity and corrosion, with groundwater having 10 times the salinity of seawater.
These findings fed into greater longevity and more reliable designs for LED and gas work lights, emergency beacons and signal lamps.
An example of Hella Australia's success is found at the Rosebel gold mine in Suriname, South America, where a safety inspection revealed that the area around the drills was dangerously dusty.
The solution was to mount two high-intensity xenon lights on the drill, improving visibility and reducing the risk of accidents.
In 2013, Hella Australia's released the Victorian designed and manufactured HypaLUME, the first, high output, LED floodlight designed specifically for mining.
Hella Mining Target Group's manager Lachlan Scott says, "The research is still ongoing and Hella strives to ensure it keeps the business, and its clients, ahead of any changes discovered to ensure our products hold up in the worst circumstances."
Hella Australia has designed lighting products specifically for the mining industry.
MILITARY DRILLS IN MINE COMMUNICATION
Exelis C4i technology can help improve productivity in the mining industry.
RUNNING an efficient mining operation is comparable to a military campaign, so it makes sense to use similar methods of coordination. In military parlance, C4I stands for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, and that's a good summary of what Melbourne company Exelis-C4i has been providing since 1989 to clients like the US Army, Navy and Air Force.
At the heart of their technology is internet protocol, or IP, where voice or data are sent over a network in digital packets – similar to the way an online computer can serve up applications like web pages, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds and Skype phone calls.
This does away with the need for dedicated phone lines, allowing real-time updates between all remote sites and head office, as well as integration of radio, closed circuit television, public address and other communication systems.
"In essence, it's not that dissimilar to what defence or public safety requires - the business practices are different but the underlying requirements and technology are quite similar," says Exelis-C4i's managing director Peter Harrison.
The technology has multi-industry applications, and allows organizations in the mining and the oil & gas sectors to greatly improve productivity.
Exelis C4i has systems in operation in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Americas and Australia.
Their resources sector applications are currently limited to Australia, with systems used in an operation centre in Queensland and in ports and harbour control sites which have been revamped to support the increased shipping traffic as a direct result of the mining boom.
MANCALA OFFERS END-TO-END CAPABILITY
Australian-based Mancala Group has proven expertise in constructing vertical and lateral mines and in provision of mine services.
THE Mancala Group is an Australian-based group of companies providing specialized mining services with a commitment to safety, quality, innovation and operational efficiency. With more than 22 years of operational history, Mancala has proven expertise in constructing vertical and lateral mines and is also adept at efficient mine production and ancillary activities as a contractor and mine owner/operator.
Proven safe work practices and procedures, combined with fit for purpose equipment and highly experienced personnel have made Mancala a leader in the provision of mine services in the Australasian market.
Mancala has diversified into Asia to ensure it is well-positioned for the changing trends associated with mining and resource cycles. The company has adapted to the mining boom and bust cycles by modifying its business model to ensure it remains competitive and well positioned in the market place.
Mancala has decided to operate a diversified business which has held it in good stead in leaner times. While many competitors may be able to service one part of a client's requirements, Mancala has and will continue to provide a genuine end-to-end service capability.
Mancala engineers, develops, rehabilitates and installs the required infrastructure and services for mine construction and provides all of the required equipment, maintenance, labour and management support services.
The company has experienced and capable people who can work across all divisions, maximizing labour capability with multi-skilled personnel. The company has taken a strategic approach to recruiting the right people and has invested in its staff through training and development to provide employees with a wide-range of skills and expertise.
Mancala has committed to investing in new product development with up to 10% of its business devoted to R&D and this is expected to increase into the future. New product development is geared towards making operations safer, smarter and faster for its clients.
Mancala is vigilant in reviewing and adjusting its business strategy to ensure its services remain aligned to the Australian and global market and remain in step with its customers.
Mancala's ongoing investment in R&D, commitment to extended duration offshore mining contracts and plans to aggressively grow the offshore component of the business, should ensure Mancala's ongoing success.
EXPLOSION-PROOF LASERS FOR STRAIGHT TUNNELS
MCE Lasers provide alignment and levelling capabilities for every application, including mining.
WHEN the first laser was built in 1960 it captured the imagination of the public and science fiction fans in particular. Today lasers are all around us and have many potential applications in the mining industry despite the fact that lasers often involve pulses of high voltage electricity, which is not a good fit with potentially explosive gas or dust mixtures underground.
Melbourne-based engineer Zoran Crvenkovic saw a solution. Already servicing laser systems used for precision measurement, he realized that industry demand was growing which led him to establish Monochromatic Engineering Pty Ltd, to design and build Australian lasers.
Now known as MCE Lasers, his company specializes in the manufacture and design of lasers for alignment and levelling. The full range is rugged and entirely made from materials such as stainless steel, anodized aluminium and brass.
Lasers work by pumping energy into a material that then releases it as light and using mirrors to feed the light back on itself to produce a powerful, narrow beam. MCE Lasers use semi-conductor diodes to generate light at low voltages, meaning they're intrinsically safe, and can never get too hot or produce a spark that could ignite hazardous material. They can be powered by anything from D cells to LR44 cell batteries, depending on the customer's ideal operating time and physical size requirements.
"While I've heard the familiar refrain 'lasers are a solution looking for a problem', the success of MCE Lasers has been built on the close relationship with our clients to determine their whole project alignment needs," says Zoran Crvenkovic.
The company's range of lasers is being used by Rio Tinto, Newcrest, Xstrata Coal and BHP Billiton in countries such as Colombia, Croatia, Canada, China, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand.
DETECTING SMOKE BEFORE THE FLAMES
A fire growth chart indicating the early detection capabilities of an Xtralis Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus.
WHERE there's smoke, there's fire, but when it's only smouldering it can be hard to detect. A Melbourne technology company is monitoring mines around the world for the earliest signs of fire. Xtralis's Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus, or VESDA, can save lives and property.
The concept behind VESDA started in the 1970s when the CSIRO was asked to evaluate fire detectors for telephone exchanges. None of the equipment performed as well as their own test instrument which was previously used to monitor bushfires.
The device they built from it was so sensitive that industry was initially reluctant to get involved, due to a fear of false alarms. But eventually IEI Pty Ltd – later to become Xtralis – succeeded in making a small, cheap detector that was quickly adopted in Victoria.
VESDA is an Air-Sampling Smoke Detector (ASD) and works by actively breathing in air, rather than waiting for smoke to waft up to it. Larger dust molecules are then filtered out and a laser is used to detect the smoke particles.
Variable alarm levels mean that it can be set to warn of a fire that is merely smouldering, long before it bursts into flame, thus buying time for early verification and response.
As the pioneer of this technology, Xtralis is now one of the world's leading manufacturers of ASD systems, with global offices and a branch still based in Victoria.
Their VESDA Laser Industrial and ECO gas detector products are specially designed for harsh environments and are used in mines in Australia, South Africa and Noumea while in Alberta, Canada, Suncor Energy uses VESDA to prevent fires at its huge, open-cut oil-sand mines.
Dr Peter Meikle from Xtralis says, "We've combined our technological expertise and 25-plus years of industrial field experience to provide very early warning smoke detection for the most challenging environments."
PROBLEMS OF EXCEEDING PLANT CAPACITY
AUSTRALIA'S mining and quarrying regions are an indicator for the industry on a global level, where pressures to achieve greater resources processing rates have unearthed a hidden risk for company owners and managers. Situations are occurring where a processing plant is pushed to maximum capacity for the first time, and these are unchartered waters for site owners that have never tested their technologies at that high level or beyond the plant' nameplate capacity.
Engineering and design company Soto Consulting, which is at the forefront of plant analysis and capacity evaluation, says the digital simulation environment is the ideal test platform for plant owners and managers to foresee any complications.
"The fastest and most accurate approach is to review operational limitations of their plant using digital simulation means – not just old plants but also new ones which are constructed with conflicting performance requirements to that originally planned during the design specification phase for the plant," says managing director Frank Soto.
"As a rather common example, mine processing plant owners are aiming for a demanding a 14,000 tonnes/hour of their conveyor systems, which is a very fast rate and will almost certainly lead to new operational and maintenance issues that will impact on the operating cost of the plant.
"Pressures to increase rates are also taking existing plants into extra periods between shutdowns in operations, which extends the time frames between scheduled repair sessions. But perhaps the biggest cause for concern is that many plants are being tested under actual operating conditions with a high level of trial and error, taking guesses as to which parts may or may not work under the untested, increased workload.
"Our reasoning is that it is best to review a plant and assess it properly in the digital simulation environment before exposing it to a potentially crippling risk by taking chances 'on the fly'. We have proven digital testing and prototyping methods and we can work out if we will get the additional uptime, throughput and capacity they are chasing."
Soto Consulting believes this approach is a form of operational expenditure which optimizes a mine's capital expenditure. Using rapid prototyping and simulations, it enables identification of areas where modifications to an existing plant can increase throughput, reliability and maintainability.
"Sometimes this approach even unearths safety issues which should have been embedded in design but generally aren't, therefore improving access and safety for employees," Frank Soto says.
"As many plants reach their maximum operating capacity and now start to go beyond the original specifications the risk is that plants start to fail and breakdown prematurely. The peak performance and throughput may be negated due to extended breakdowns and outages that reduces overall plant throughput and increases operational expenditure."
MINE RECONNAISSANCE FROM SPACE
AUSTRALIA'S Sandpit Innovation has partnered with global defence service provider Lockheed Martin to develop an advanced reconciliation service called mineRECON. The subscription service leverages space-based satellite imagery and advanced analytics to accurately perform material reconciliations throughout complex mining operations. The service is contiguous, competitive, accurate and reliable against other reconciliation methods.
Leveraging Lockheed Martin's 20 years of experience in complex data processing and geospatial imagery, mineRECON has the tools and techniques currently used in defence applications to automatically process various types of satellite imagery and produces rapid reconciliation reports. This is providing a new level of speed and cost-effectiveness for organizations.
While the application of satellite imagery is new to mining, the technology is well-proven, low risk and continues to rapidly evolve. Currently, nine commercial satellites send back high-resolution imagery to the earth. By the end of 2015, the number of high-resolution imagery satellites is projected to exceed 40 and by 2017, that number is projected to exceed 75.
"A significant difference in mineRECON, outside of measuring material from space, is the fact we provide full custom reconciliation reports, including volume reports based on operational requirements, change detection mapping and filtration, 3D modelling as well as the Digital Elevation Modelling data. We are not simply providing the image data. More to the point we do all of this at a cost comparable to image capture only services," says Sandpit Innovation director Aaron Carter.
"Satellite imagery is collected in under 10 minutes and clearly this occurs without any interaction on site. Unlike other methods it is non-intrusive and eliminates all HSE risks. Advanced processing techniques then allow accurate and repeatable elevation data to be extracted along with change detection and image filtration to produce superior volume calculations."
THE EXTRA STEP FOR HAND PROTECTION
G-Flex gloves provide superior protection to both the top and the palm of the hand without compromising dexterity or glove function.
INJURIES to the hand and wrist are among the most common work-related injuries sustained in Australia. According to Safe Work Australia, in the 2012-13 financial year there were 116,665 serious claims pertaining to such injuries. In the Australian mining industry alone the second most commonly reported lost time injuries are related to hand and wrist injuries, even though safety gloves were worn.
Safety gear specialist Elliotts has developed the G-Flex range of gloves – the first ever safety gloves of their type to be certified to the standard 'AS/NZS2161.3:2005 Occupational protective gloves'.
"On most sites in Australia, you cannot wear safety glasses, hard hats, boots or respiratory equipment that are not certified to Australian/New Zealand Standards," says Elliotts' managing director Anthony Elliott. "So why not gloves? This is what led us to developing and certifying the new G-Flex range of gloves. We are all about quality safety gear and are very focused on industry standards, whether Australian or international standards.
"Our company will always go the extra step and get our product certified, ensuring that our customers know they are receiving the best product and the best protection possible. We are excited about the new range but also excited to be the first in the world to certify these types of gloves to Australian/New Zealand standards."
After a 12-month research and development period to ensure the gloves were manufactured to the highest possible standards, the G-Flex range of gloves is now available to the Australasian market.
Anthony Elliott says G-Flex gloves will become invaluable across numerous applications within the construction, mining, manufacturing, oil and gas industries, and will be instrumental in cutting down the incidence of hand injuries. "It's a glove no one in the industry should be without – their hands, and their livelihood could depend upon it."
With more than 40 years' experience, Elliotts is an Australian-based designer, manufacturer and distributor of quality safety gear. Elliotts take care to only supply quality protective clothing and equipment that protect people from harm on a daily basis. Products include specialist safety apparel, welding & workshop protection, gloves & hand protection, safety work wear & PPE for workers across many industries.
INTRODUCING TECHNOLOGY TO CHUTE SYSTEMS
Dennis Pomfret, Gary Telford and Tom Woods bring practical hands-on experience as well as technological expertise to their designs
A NEW generation of coal and ore materials handling technology is being introduced to the mining industry by a group that engineers chutes and complementary systems to permit faster conveyor belt speeds, greater throughputs, fewer breakdowns and enhanced safety.
Chute Technology engineering group targets problems common to many coal and ore plants and loading systems by addressing them with a combination of three skill sets - advanced engineering analysis of flow, upscaleable 3D Discrete Element Method design processes and custom manufacturing to individual plant needs.
The combined technologies are applicable to existing and new projects, and are complemented by the practical experience of each of Chute's three principal partners, who have combined experience of more than 80 years in a variety of resource industries across Australia, USA, South America and South Africa.
Major benefits of the chute design technologies have been demonstrated by a Western Australian iron ore producer which increased production 50%. Several Hunter Valley coal mines are also benefitting from less wear and fewer breakdowns because of practical individualized designs produced by one of the partners, long-established Hunter Valley mining industry supplier TW Woods.
Chute Technology combines the manufacturing experience of TW Woods, represented by director Tom Woods, with the similarly broad engineering and technology experience of engineering consultant Dennis Pomfret of Dennis Pomfret Engineering, and design engineer Gary Telford of McKajj Services, which contributes extensive project management, engineering and drafting experience. All are Newcastle based.
"We believe Chute Technology brings together a combination of skills unique in the marketplace - proven skill sets vital to solving typical mineral processing issues," says Tom Woods. These include reducing wear, removing bottlenecks caused by clogging, minimizing damaging impacts on belts, and optimizing operational safety and efficiency by curbing breakdowns and clean-ups.
"Existing designs have fundamentally been stuck in the past, because few companies have seen the need to take advantage of innovations now available with advancing technology and knowledge. As producers aim to double and treble outputs, the underlying problems are becoming starkly apparent through breakdowns, downtime, problems with sticky material throughput and spillage, creating clean-up and safety issues.
"Supervisors on sites or loading facilities are often painfully aware that they have got the problem but the issues have become so prevalent that they sometimes think of it as inevitable. It's not inevitable, just inefficient and a matter of rectifying the problem with focused design and smarter manufacturing," says Tom Woods.
Through a specialist company focused on design, manufacture and optimization of materials handling systems, the partners aim to deliver benefits by applying rigorous design skills and practical know-how gained by experience in mines, ports and industrial plants.
"In addition to a proven capability to design new chutes, the new organization will specialize in retrofitting existing plants. A principal aim will be to eliminate reliability problems and production obstacles to bring handling systems up to their full potential," says Dennis Pomfret.
"The three parties involved in Chute Technology have worked together on transfer chutes and have identified an opportunity to combine resources to form a company that focuses on chutes. We are focusing our capabilities to provide a superior service and product that can be delivered to customers by dedicated effort rather than a generalized engineering approach," he says.
NEW ACOUSTIC DENSITY INTERFACE TRANSMITTER
FLOLEVEL Technologies, an innovator of level measurement products, has launched a new self-cleaning acoustic density interface transmitter for mining and applications that suffer from build-up issues. This new technology accurately measures most liquid/slurry solutions where an interface of up to two densities exists and that need to be monitored continuously.
The level interface transmitter tracks liquid to liquid interface, liquid to paste interface and liquid to granular interface. It is a hi-powered ultrasonic self-cleaning transmitter that is not affected by changes in the conductivity and dielectric of the solution.
The pulse amplitude is great enough to cause a phenomenon called 'rarefaction', which causes cavitation to be produced from the array transducer diaphragms as they pulse. The cavitation bubbles oscillate in front of the diaphragm, which cause implosions that generate high energy levels, removing scale and other build-up problems.
"With more than 30 years of experience from many different applications in the mining industry, we have developed a density interface transmitter that will significantly improve automation control in very difficult interface applications and significantly cut costs for the mining industry", says FloLevel Technologies' owner and inventor Robert Stirling.
The FloLevel system is easy to install from the top of the tank and is easy to calibrate. It comes with adjustable 316SS bracket, with flange mounting options and a colour display controller mounted in a stainless steel enclosure. They can measure the density interface, with a maximum control range of 6400mm and resolution accuracy options available are 15mm and 25mm.
Various output capability options are available, like 3 x 4-20Ma, Modbus, ProfiBus, Foundation FieldBus, DeviceNet and Ethernet. The FloLevel Array is suitable for all mineral slurry applications.
FloLevel Technologies develops and manufactures level density and flow analysers for Flotation Cells. The FloLevel products optimize the mineral recovery process in flotation cells and significantly cut costs for the mining industry.
NEW OPTIMIZED DUMP TRUCK BODY
The Westech Optima was launched recently at Austin Engineering's Perth facility.
THE Westech Optima, a new high performance off-highway dump truck body design, was launched recently by mining product engineer and manufacturer Austin Engineering. The first body to be manufactured was on display at the official launch at Austin Engineering's Perth facility.
Austin Engineering Perth operations manager Mark Richards said, "It was great to see such a high level of interest at the recent launch as we feel that many mine sites can benefit from the Optima's ability to enhance haul truck performance."
"The Westech Optima body is optimized to provide greater productivity by maximizing payload. Because we design each body to suit mine specific operating conditions, the Optima is a low maintenance body."
Analysed with the latest FEA and load simulation software, the Westech Optima body is compatible with all OEM chassis and is available through Austin Engineering Australia-wide.
Austin also recently added the Hitachi EX8000-6 excavator bucket (backhoe configuration) to its excavator product range. The design model has been verified by FEA analysis in keeping with Austin's practice of testing and verifying engineering theory. The in-depth engineering process provides results in productivity improvements and maintenance cost controls.
The bucket is designed within the OEM recommended maximum envelope including correct boom stick geometry, boom and stick clearance, cab and deck structure clearance, and maximum suspended load. End users can be assured that there will be no warranty implications with their machine.
Austin custom engineer each mining bucket taking into consideration application specific requirements such as loading practices, material density and abrasiveness, potential for hang up, and dump height clearances.
Austin Engineering is a leading designer and manufacturer of customized dump truck bodies, buckets and ancillary products used in the mining industry. It is also a complete service provider, offering on and off-site repair and maintenance and heavy equipment lifting services to customers including miners, mining contractors and original equipment manufacturers.
ADVANCING TOWARDS AN ELECTRIC MINE
CRCMINING is developing wireless energy transfer systems that will be key enablers for the all-electric underground mine of the future. This approach will facilitate reduced carcinogenic pollutants, energy consumption and downtime, with increased energy efficiency and productivity.
In the future mines will be significantly different. There will be a greater array of generation sources and greater diversity of loads and associated technologies. This will present miners with challenges as well as opportunities to reduce mining's carbon footprint and energy costs.
Due to the need to eliminate carcinogenic pollution as well as the drive to increase energy efficiency, mines will continue to focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels via an increase in the application of electric powered machines.
Electric machines have much higher energy efficiency relative to their diesel counterparts and reliability is also higher which will result in lower maintenance costs. But most importantly, electrical machines do not emit carcinogenic pollutants. A reduction in these particulate emissions will reduce the ventilation requirements which account for up to 40% of an underground mine's energy use and are a significant component of a mine's infrastructure.
Traditionally electrically driven machines in mining operations have had significant constraints around their operation, by requiring trailing cables or battery change out systems. There are distinct disadvantages with each of these approaches. Trailing cables are range limited by cable length and are often damaged during operation and require vigilant maintenance. Battery-based systems are limited by their relatively low energy density and require regular battery interchange which reduces the machine's productivity. The electric mine requires solutions that provide operational flexibility.
Wireless energy transfer systems are a rapidly evolving technology which efficiently transfers large amounts of energy across an air gap. Commercial systems are being used to charge trams and buses in different cities around the world. Pilot projects are also scheduled to extend the technology to cars and high speed trains. This technology has reached a tipping point where its adoption into a mining environment has potential to provide significant operational and economic benefits.
CRCMining is developing an innovative modular energy transfer system that will wirelessly charge the batteries of electrically enabled underground mining vehicles whilst in both static and dynamic operation. The approach will eliminate the range limitations and maintenance issues associated with cables and productivity losses due to the battery interchange. A wireless system has the potential to work continuously.
The centre's current project also aims at developing a framework for an open systems approach, in which wireless charging is compatible between multiple platforms, machines and manufacturers, providing a common charging interface. This project is being carried out in conjunction with leading mining stakeholders.
ON-BELT ANALYSIS FOR MINERALS INDUSTRY
Commissioning a Scantech Geoscan and moisture monitor.
REAL-TIME analysis technologies for conveyed bulk materials have been used in the coal industry since the early 1980s. In the last 10 years Scantech, an Australian company specializing in on-conveyor analysers, has introduced this analysis to the minerals industry.
The key to process control using on-belt analysis is that results are available every two to five minutes, permitting real-time process control.
Dual Energy Transmission (DUET) is the most commonly used on-belt ash measurement technique for coal and Scantech's Coalscan 2100 makes use of this. New developments in DUET technology permit coal depths up to 400mm to be measured.
Scantech's on-conveyor coal elemental analysers, known as Coalscan 9500X, analyse the entire stream, avoiding not only the operating and capital costs of sampling, but also the sensitivity of older technologies to variation in ash mineralogy. This technology is no longer sensitive to variations in bed depth or layering of different coal types. As well as measuring ash, this technology measures ash oxides, total sulphur and many other parameters useful for efficient plant control.
In minerals industries the technology is used in the Geoscan analyser with successful installations used to measure grades of iron ore, phosphate, copper, manganese and lead-zinc. There have been four Geoscan generations with the latest requiring minimal maintenance, having very low levels of external radiation and providing drift-free analysis.
A South East Asian copper-gold operation identified the need for plant feed analysis in real-time to improve control of copper metal units entering its processing plant due to a limited leach circuit capacity for dissolved copper metal. The mining operations recovered ore from several open pits where grade varied between less than 1% and greater than 8%. Mine planning information was used to determine the expected average copper grade for each blast, which was then hauled to the designated ROM stockpile and blended with ore from other stockpiles into a crusher and conveyed to a mill. The plant was unable to utilize a slurry analyser on the milled ore as acidic solution added to the mill resulted in copper being taken into solution. Slurry analysis would not have been suitable to measure the copper in solution thereby ruling out this option.
A Geoscan analyser was commissioned in early 2008 on the crushed ore conveyor. The copper content in the feed is controlled by adjusting the blend from the ROM stockpiles about every 30 minutes as needed.
Stockpiles often contain zones of low and high grade material resulting in large variations in average feed grade which can result in times where copper metal content exceeds the leach plant capacity. When this occurs excess copper is not recovered, while at other times a lower than expected copper metal throughput results in the leach circuit being under-utilized. The economics of these extremes and likelihood of their occurrence resulted in the need for improved process control of plant feed quality. It was estimated by metallurgical staff that the analyser payback would be in the order of eight weeks if these situations could be prevented.
Through experience with the analyser the site also found benefits in knowing the sulphur and iron content of the ore as pyrite was a requirement for leach process performance. Pyritic ore was able to be added when iron and sulphur levels were below the desired target range. The Geoscan proved reliable and effective and continues to be an integral part of plant operation.
These technologies can be combined with the microwave moisture monitor, so that a complete analysis of the material is available in real time. Scantech produces standalone moisture monitors.
The TBM 210 was developed about 20 years ago and is installed at many sites and in different applications monitoring moisture levels in shipments, optimizing washery performance and maintaining appropriate levels for dust suppression. Moisture monitors are widely used in iron ore installations in South Africa and Australia. The TBM 230 has recently been introduced for denser materials and deeper bed depths up to about 600mm.
On-belt analysis allows more efficient use of the resource, more effective process control and more cost effective methods of mining, processing, utilizing and disposal. On-belt analysis should be viewed not simply as an alternative to laboratory analysis. Scantech, working with local agents, has found that the most beneficial on-belt analyser installations are generally those where the user realizes the advantages real-time analysis can bring.
AUSASIA-MINTECH SHOWCASES TECHNOLOGY
THE inaugural AusAsia-MinTech conference held in Perth, Western Australia, in late August showcased technology and extolled the benefits it brings to the mining industry. The event was organized by Mining IQ and The ASIA Miner.
Associate event partner was Dassault Systèmes and other partners were BuyBigTires.com, Optus and DiverseIT. Exclusive networking drinks reception host was Ezifix Mining Materials and spotlight partner was Modular Mining Systems. Exhibitors were One Key Resources (www.onekeyresources.com.au), Delta-V Experts (www.dvexperts.net), Granite Power (www.granitepwr.com), QinetiQ Australia (www.QinetiQ.com.au), Guardian Security 24/7 formerly Eye Security Services (www.guardiansecurity.com.au), Centron Energy Australia (www.centron.com.au), Bluefield (www.bluefield.com.au), Cadre (www.cadre.com.au) and Platinum Oils (www.ixloil.com.au).
Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE Company, enables business and people within virtual universes to utilize sustainable innovations. Its world-leading 3D design software, 3D Digital Mock-Up and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions transform the way products are designed, produced, and supported.
GEOVIA, known as Gemcom Software prior to its acquisition in 2012, is part of Dassault Systèmes. GEOVIA's focus is currently on the mining industry and its objective is to model and simulate our planet, improving predictability, efficiency, safety and sustainability throughout the natural resources sector.
When mining companies seek to increase productivity, they turn to GEOVIA for technology and services. It is home to world renowned and award winning mining solutions and to industry thought leaders who are pushing the boundaries of what's possible in mining. GEOVIA delivers comprehensive solutions in all major mining centres in more than 130 countries at over 4000 sites. Visit www.3ds.com
BuyBigTires.com boasts one of the largest supplier networks in the OTR tyre industry, spanning six continents. The company's specialty is finding the tyres that no one else can at the cheapest cost.
BuyBigTires looks at the end user's needs and develops a comprehensive strategy to save customers money. The company handles all the grunt work and logistics to become a single point of contact, making OTR tyre procurement needs easy and efficient.
BuyBigTires provides first-class consulting services to mining firms throughout the world. Extensive knowledge ensures clients get the best OTR tyres for their application, not only ensuring that the tyres last long and work efficiently but also showing clients what is needed and how to save money. BuyBigTires can set up a procurement schedule allowing a client to buy at low prices based on past trends within the market and the company's needs. Visit www.BuyBigTires.com
Optus, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singtel, is an Australian leader in integrated communications. Incorporating optical fibre, wireless and satellite technologies into a single network, its fully digitized infrastructure means customers have access to a complete suite of communication services which provide coverage across Australia.
Optus has been providing premium satellite services for almost 30 years and is the only telecommunications company to own and operate satellites in Australia.
Optus understands that businesses in remote areas rely on satellite communications to stay in touch. With Optus Satellite solutions, mines can have access to the largest satellite network in Australia. Benefiting exploration, construction and operations within the mining segment, Optus Satellite can help maximize communication needs, with a suitable solution for each stage of mining operations. Visit www.optus.com.au
Since 2000, Diverse IT has been providing Australian mining companies with premium information & communication technology solutions and services. Areas of expertise include wireless networks, next generation communications, data and network security, IT support & managed services, communications infrastructure and Cloud solutions.
Diverse IT's technology gurus have extensive experience servicing the resources sector and possess a thorough understanding of the demands and challenges of operating in remote locations. This understanding feeds into its product development and service delivery, which results in leading solutions that help mining companies achieve operational goals, maintain business continuity and maximize efficiency.
Diverse IT works with clients to understand their business and objectives in order to recommend the most suitable solutions. Visit www.diverseit.com.au
Ezifix Mining Materials
Ezifix Mining Materials provides next generation innovative technology in materials handling thus helping mining companies to future proof their bottom line while also eliminating hazardous work practices.
Ezifix is the only system offering capability to fully automate conveyor belt idler maintenance. With frequent failure of rollers at every mine site/port, regardless of the quality of carry and return rollers, unscheduled stoppages are a major headache for production crews. At most large port operations typical unscheduled roller breakdowns cause stoppages of 22 to 38 hours per month.
The Ezifix System guarantees to reduce stoppages by up to 90% depending on the products chosen, or 100% if the full system is utilized and rollers maintained safely from walkways while the belt is operational.
The Ezifix System monitors the condition of individual rollers via a patented, specially designed microchip, sending regular signal remotely, to a central command centre on site or at head office.
The roller that needs 'retirement' can be isolated and arranged to be changed at the push of a button remotely. Visit www.ezifixms.com
Modular Mining Systems
Modular Mining Systems maintains a long history of industry-standard productivity optimization, maintenance management, machine guidance and safety solutions in surface and underground mining. The IntelliMine® product suite, including the world-renowned DISPATCH® fleet management system, is the solution of choice for mining operations worldwide, with more than 200 installations since the company was founded in 1979. Modular technology is supported by more than 550 dedicated employees in 12 offices around the globe.
As the mining industry moves forward, Modular continues to lead the way with fully-integrated, best-of-breed technology solutions allowing customers to mine smarter and giving them the competitive advantage for years to come. Visit www.modularmining.com
TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT A KEY DIFFERENTIATOR
An interview with Tenova Mining & Minerals' chief technology officer John Riordan, who is based in Perth, Western Australia
The first copper cathode produced in laboratory test work in Perth, Western Australia, to confirm in principle the process flowsheet for a major copper project in Russia.
How does Tenova Mining & Minerals serve the global mining industry out of the Australian offices in terms of technology?
Tenova Mining & Minerals' capability to draw on the world-class technological expertise across its global organization is one of its key differentiators in being able to deliver a solution that fully satisfies the client's needs.
In Australia, the group's presence includes Tenova TAKRAF, suppliers of open cast mining and underground solutions and bulk materials handling equipment; Tenova Delkor, the group's solid/liquid separation specialist; and mineral processing specialist, Tenova Bateman Technologies. In addition, there is a solid core of process engineers who support the group's global EPCM service offering (Tenova Bateman) with test work, flowsheet design, prefeasibility and feasibility studies, etc.
For example, Tenova Mining and Minerals in Australia, in conjunction with the South African minerals research organization, Mintek, carried out prefeasibility and definitive feasibility studies for the on-site refining of nickel concentrates into a mixed nickel cobalt hydroxide product (MHP) at Mondo Minerals' existing Vuonos Talc Concentrator Plant at Talkkitie in Finland. Tenova Bateman Sub-Saharan Africa was awarded the front end engineering design (FEED), following the successful studies.
Two recent Tenova Bateman CIS projects in Russia also drew on Tenova Mining & Minerals' process capability in Australia.
In the first project, set to mine Russian's largest untapped copper resource, co-ordination of the laboratory test work and pilot plant was carried out by Tenova Mining & Minerals' Australian operation, with the aim to produce copper cathodes from the ore and confirm in principle the process flowsheet developed for the project. Subsequent to this successful test work, Tenova Bateman CIS was appointed Russian General Designer
Tenova Bateman Australia designed the process flowsheet for the second project, for which Tenova Bateman CIS was appointed General Designer for the basic engineering design phase. The process plant will be a world first, as it will extract platinum group metals (PGMs), copper (Cu) and nickel (Ni) from the ore using a unique impregnated Cu-Ni platinum ore concentration method.
Combined gravity and flotation will be employed, allowing for more than 80% PGM recovery into bulk concentrate, which will be the world's highest recovery for this ore type. While these are proven unit processes, they have not been implemented in combination before in a single PGM recovery project, either in Russia or abroad.
The mining industry is constantly changing which means Tenova Mining & Minerals (TMM) must constantly be developing new technologies to better equip the industry for these changes. What changes are impacting the mining industry at present and, therefore, driving technology development?
Worldwide consensus is that significant productivity and efficiency improvements are top of the 'must-do' list for the mining industry, as climbing costs coincide with a downturn in cyclical commodity prices and a decline in productivity over the past decade, which has resulted from the industry's pursuit of volume growth during the recent supercycle. For continued sustainability, simply cutting costs is not an option, with the industry needing to both regain lost productivity and at the same gain new productivity improvements. EY in its Business risks facing mining and metals 2014–2015 quotes, as an example, the fact that "labour productivity in Australia has declined by roughly 50% since 2001 and in the US coal sector, labour productivity has declined by nearly 30% from 2009 to 2012."
At the same time, the easy-to-mine deposits are being exhausted and mining companies are faced with the need to enter more remote regions, go to greater mining depths and mine the lower ore grades.
Innovation is the key to meeting these challenges with worldwide developments towards more efficient, more powerful and easier to transport and erect machines. As a result we are increasingly seeing a move towards greater automation and the development of larger, more powerful and longer lasting equipment, while logistics and erection challenges in remote sites are hastening the trend towards modularization.
In the flotation industry, as an example, Tenova Delkor has increased the top size of its BQR range of cells to 150 cubic metres and development is under way towards even larger flotation cells to meet the increasing demand in the minerals processing industry. Tenova Delkor is also seeing the next evolutionary stage in flotation technology in the market place, with fully automated flotation cells becoming more common, aided by smart control, online analysis and advances in software.
Access to power and water is becoming ever more problematic as costs increase and resources are diminished, particularly in developing countries where mining companies compete with governments and communities for scarce resources. The pressure is therefore intensifying for recycling and reuse of water wherever possible, as well as for more efficient use of energy and/or the application of other alternative power generation methods. For example, mines are increasingly turning away from the energy intensive mills to the use of high pressure grinding rolls in their crushing circuits. Developments such as the multiple preheater technology from Tenova Mining & Minerals furnace specialist, Tenova Pyromet, are also finding increasing application. This technology uses furnace offgas to heat the raw material feed for ferroalloy furnaces, which means efficiencies are improved and the power needed to produce each ton of product is reduced.
With increasing environmental pressure and a shift towards low-carbon operations, Tenova Pyromet's recent contract award from United Silicon for a silicon metal furnace is notable not only for the fact that it is the first silicon metal furnace to be established in Iceland; but by combining Iceland's clean energy approach to power generation and Tenova Pyromet's advanced technologies, the silicon metal plant will have one of lowest carbon footprints in the world too.
Can you provide some examples of the technological developments coming out of TMM's Australian offices now and what they will mean for mining in the future?
As a global group, technology development is carried out across the globe, with Tenova Delkor probably being the most active in Australia in this regard of the Tenova Mining & Minerals businesses. For example, enhancements to the Tenova Delkor thickener technology include developments such auto dilution, a sheer thinning device for the underflow and a unique feedwell design, which allows for high dilution volumes and efficient mixing and stilling, as well as incorporating a scum recovery system. This feedwell design has a proven track record of reduced flocculant consumption.
For the screening industry, Tenova Delkor in Australia has enhanced and improved on a technology originally developed in South Africa. The novel belt linear screen (BLS) flood detection device detects when a waste (trash) removal screen is overloaded and sends a signal for corrective action to be taken. As flooding of screens is a common problem, the device has the potential to significantly improve productivity on a wide variety of processing operations.
Other enhancements to the Tenova Delkor Belt Linear Screen include a 40 square metre belt linear screen and the majority of its designs are now containerized to reduce freight to mines in remote locations.
While Tenova Bateman Technologies in Israel is responsible for solvent extraction (SX) technology developments, interestingly, a major focus for its future process development in the lithium industry, the LiSX technology, was in response to the need of an Australian client. The LiSX process will revolutionize the way lithium is produced and is the most attractive alternative to the expensive traditional method, which requires high energy costs, a dramatically bigger footprint and high residence time. It also allows versatility in lithium salt production, in an industry where the battery composition is constantly changing. LiSX, based on SX, and combined with membrane technology (LiP) for the pre-treatment of the initial brine, is a viable process for any type of lithium feed stream, whether originating from hard-rock, from salars, from lithium batteries or even waste solution containing 100ppm lithium or less. Once running, LiSX can be adjusted at most, within hours, to produce any required lithium salt.
What factors have led to Australian technology being so important for the global mining industry?
Australia has a strong track record of developing innovative technology solutions to the challenges facing the local mining industry. Some of these challenges may be specific to Australia but many are not and the solutions therefore often enjoy a wider application than was the initial intent.
Australia punches above its weight when it comes to the number and quality of technologies it has developed and continues to develop for mining. These cover the full spectrum of the industry from sophisticated exploration and mapping techniques, through to advanced mining, processing and metal production technologies that bring safety, environmental, productivity and energy efficiencies to the industry. Australia is well-endowed with mineral resources that have given rise to a strong mining tradition, which in turn has generated substantial wealth.
An important part of that tradition is the commitment of the mining industry, supported by state and federal governments, to re-invest part of the revenue in research and development. Revenues from mining have funded organizations like the CSIRO, ANSTO, AMIRA, various universities and company owned R&D and innovation centres. Generally, the collaborative nature of the R&D efforts made sure that money was well-spent and the results shared, rather than hoarded, for the common good of the industry.
Tenova Mining & Minerals attributes technological innovation to be the foundation of its competitiveness. Have there been any recent developments in fostering a culture of innovation within the company?
An annual Tenova Innovation Award was launched across the Tenova group in May 2014, with the aim of further fostering and promoting a culture of innovation within the group. A number of exciting ideas and proposals have been received and are being evaluated against criteria such as internal and external benefits, innovative content, added value to the Tenova group and probability of success.