Fortescue begins expansion of autonomous fleet at Chichester Hub

Fortescue Metals Group introduced the first trucks from its autonomous haul fleet fitted with autonomous haulage technology (AHS) into operation at Christmas Creek in Australia’s Pilbara region.

Expansion of the company’s autonomous haul fleet is slated to involve the conversion of around 100 haul trucks at the Chichester Hub. The company aims to become the first iron ore operation in the world to possess a fully autonomous fleet via the initiative.

AHS trucks have moved over half a billion tonnes of material since the technology was first introduced at the Solomon hub in 2013, resulting in a productivity hike of more than 30% for the firm.

Introduction of technology is intended to allow the company to remain at the lowest end of the global cost curve.

Fortescue Metals Group CEO Elizabeth Gaines said: “Innovation and technology is fundamental to driving sustained productivity and efficiency improvements across the business, ensuring we continue to deliver returns for our shareholders and key stakeholders.

“Most importantly, the introduction of AHS technology is leading to improved safety outcomes by significantly reducing the risk to our team members.”

Fortescue also noted that a significant portion of the planning for the automation expansion project included the development of workforce skills.

“Training is at the heart of everything that we do, and our approach to autonomy is to ensure that no one at Fortescue is displaced as a result of this important initiative,” Gaines added.




Glencore calls off Rusal share swap with En+ in light of US sanctions

Swiss mining company Glencore announced it will not proceed with its plan to swap its stake in Russian aluminium producer Rusal with global depositary receipts (GDRs) in integrated energy firm En+ Group as a result of recent US sanctions against Russian nationals and entities.

The decision follows the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s designation of Russian business tycoon Oleg Deripaska and firms directly or indirectly owned or controlled by him as specially designated nationals (SDNs) last week, which included Rusal and En+ Group.

The sanctions require US nationals and entities to cease dealings with the SDNs.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “The Russian Government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.

“Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilising activities.”

Glencore currently has contracts with Rusal for the purchase of aluminium and alumina.

In a statement, Glencore said: “Glencore is committed to complying with all applicable sanctions in its business and is taking all necessary measures in order to mitigate any risks to Glencore’s business as result of the designation of Rusal and EN+ as SDNs, including in respect of secondary sanctions.”

Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg has stepped down from Rusal’s board of directors in response to the sanctions. Glencore originally agreed to swap its 8.75% shareholding in Rusal as part of a deal with En+ Group, which was announced in October last year.




Philippines President demands mining companies plant more trees

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte issued an ultimatum to mining firms, saying they must commit to reforestation or risk losing rights to practise open-pit mining next year.

The Philippines is a major global supplier of nickel ore as well as a prominent producer of copper and gold. Mining firms in the South East Asian country have previously come under intense scrutiny by the government due to their perceived environmental violations.

A moratorium has been in place since April last year on new open-pit mining operations, and Duterte has now warned that companies must conduct tree planting projects in places affected by mining activities.

Projects affected by the existing ban include the $5.9bn copper-gold Tampakan project in the southern region of Mindanao Island.

Duterte was quoted by media sources as saying: “I want trees as tall as me in six months. If there is none, consider your permit revoked.”

A total of 26 mines have either been suspended or shut down since last year due to environmental damages. A review of the suspensions is currently ongoing.

Department of Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin stated at a meeting held by the country’s interagency Mining Industry Coordinating Council last month that the first phase of the review will include legal, technical and environmental concerns and will be completed in three months.

The social and economic effects of the suspensions are set to be studied during a separate three-month review.




Erris Resources secures two gold exploration licences in Sweden

Via its wholly owned subsidiary, UK-based mineral exploration company Erris Resources secured two gold exploration permits in Värmlands, Sweden. The licences, Nordgruvan no.1 and Hornkullen no.2, do not fall under Erris’s existing joint venture (JV) with Canadian mining company Centerra Gold.

The two new permits cover a total area of 64.2km² and are said to host historical gold occurrences, with reported grades of up to 68g per tonne (g/t) of gold.

Erris Resources CEO Merlin Marr-Johnson said: “Sweden has several active base and precious metal mines, as well as a long history of base and precious mining in the Norrbotten, Skellefteå, and Bergslagen mining districts.

“The Nordgruvan project is in line with our stated objective to identify low-cost opportunities that have the potential to create shareholder value.

“The geological setting is prospective, the historic grades are exciting and the licences were available on application to the government.”

Erris is currently focusing on beginning the first phase reconnaissance programme of mapping and sampling activities. The company is expected to target gold mineralisation within major structures with related intrusions as part of the project.

Geological Survey of Sweden reports previously revealed that the host geology of the permit area includes early granitoid intrusions.

Hornkullen is located 6km south of Nordgruvan and is noted to host several historic lead-silver-gold workings. The company’s JV with Centerra’s subsidiary is located within the Skellefteå mining district.




Mineral Resources to acquire Atlas Iron for $215m

Australian mining and commodities firm Mineral Resources (MRL) signed a binding scheme implementation deed to acquire all of the shares in Atlas Iron for a sum of A$280m ($215m).

The agreement will be carried out via a scheme of arrangement and is slated to result in the merger of the two companies. MRL is set to offer Atlas shareholders one new share for every 571 Atlas shares currently held under the latest deal.

MRL managing director Chris Ellison said: “The acquisition of Atlas, including its portfolio of iron ore assets and its export capacity allocation at Utah Point, is on strategy for MRL.

“The amalgamation of MRL’s existing Pilbara iron ore assets with those of Atlas will enable us to exploit greater synergies and economies of scale, which will drive down costs to ensure the consolidated iron ore business is sustainable in the new environment of lower global prices for low-grade iron ore.

“The increase of our iron ore production in the region is also a key part of our strategy to ensure our 50 million tonnes per annum Pilbara infrastructure initiatives are fully utilised and in turn forming a key pillar of the MRL business over the next 20 to 30 years.”

In addition, the companies have also reached an alliance agreement to explore the possibility of joint operations in the Pilbara region. The working capital for the partnership will be provided by MRL under the arrangement.

Altas directors recommended that the company’s shareholders vote in favour of the scheme, provided there is no better proposal. The transaction is subject to court and Atlas shareholder approval and is currently expected to be completed by August.




Six workers killed in accident at Newmont Mining’s project in Ghana

Six miners were killed following the collapse of the roof of a tunnel at Newmont Mining’s Ahafo Mill Expansion (AME) project in Ghana. The accident occurred as an eight-person contractor crew was working inside the reclaim tunnel of the project.

Two of the eight workers also suffered minor injuries as a result of the incident, Newmont Mining noted. Emergency response teams were rushed to the site following the accident.

The company stated that it is cooperating with the investigation agencies that are currently looking into the situation.

Newmont Mining president and CEO Gary Goldberg said: “On behalf of the entire Newmont family I would like to express our deepest sorrow and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the victims.

“Our priorities right now are to support the families of those who lost loved ones in this terrible accident, and to cooperate with authorities to investigate its causes.”

The company has now terminated both its operations at the Ahafo mine and the mill expansion project, which are to be resumed only after the necessary conditions are in place to ensure the safety of workers at the site.

The mine is located in the Brong Ahafo region along the Sefwi Volcanic Belt in western Ghana. It had a production rate of 349,000 ounces of gold per year as of December 2017. The mine first commenced production in 2006 and currently features around 2,500 employees and contractors.




Sun River Gold to start drilling on Mexico Mines tailings deposit

Sun River Gold (SRG) is to commence a drilling programme on the Mexico Mines tailings deposit in El Oro in order to further test grade continuity at depth, as well as provide additional material to optimise ongoing metallurgical works.

Mobilisation of the drill from the US to El Oro, Mexico, is already underway, and SRG is expected to begin drilling once the company receives the relevant approvals from Mexican authorities.

An auger drill is slated to be used to drill dry holes to a maximum depth of 18m-20m under the initiative. SRG will also employ a 3in auger to retrieve a sample of approximately 6.5kg-7kg per metre.

The company is planning to drill a total of 12 holes on the Mexico Mine tails with depths ranging from 9m to a maximum of 20m, totalling roughly 180m.

In addition, SRG, along with Candente Gold, will seek permission to drill some of the other three known tailings deposits in El Oro, where both companies hold a first right of refusal to re-process.

Candente Gold currently operates its flagship asset in El Oro, which is a district-scale gold project that features a good, prolific, high-grade gold dominant silver epithermal vein system. The project features 20 veins with past production and more than 57 veins in total, including two that have reportedly produced around 6.4 million ounces of gold and 74 million ounces of silver.

Candente Gold previously signed an agreement in March 2016 to grant the right and option to SRG to earn a 51% interest in the company’s tailings project in El Oro.




Malachite produces first gold from Lorena Gold Mine

Malachite Resources produced first gold from the Lorena Gold Mine, situated 15km east of Cloncurry in north-west Queensland, Australia.

The majority of the gold pour was obtained from lower grade ore that had been processed in the first place as the plant processes and recoveries were being optimised in order to achieve steady state production.

Malachite Resources chairman Terry Cuthbertson said: “We are delighted to have achieved this significant step in the development of the Lorena gold project and to have also achieved ‘Gold Producer Status’ for the first time since listing on the ASX.”

Malachite has also started processing of higher grade ore through the processing plant and expects to produce gold on a regular basis. The company is also carrying out mining during the ongoing processing of additional ore that was previously delivered to the ROM pad.

It further aims to improve the supply of ore to the processing plant in the short to medium term with the recent removal of waste ore from the open-cut operation. The mining of ore is also set to ensure full commissioning of the processing plant.

In February, Malachite started a 2,400m reverse circulation (RC) drilling programme to identify additional gold resources near the surface and below the existing pit of the Lorena gold mine to extend the existing open-cut operation.

An analysis of the drilling, which has now been completed, is yet to be revealed. The Lorena gold project, in which Malachite has a 55% joint venture interest, is estimated to produce between 30,000oz and 35,000oz of recovered gold in the 18 months of production from an open-cut operation.

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